Cleanse for the Ends

Defending against evil can take a turn for the worst

It’s about that time of the year where you might initiate the October season by drinking pumpkin-spiced coffee and breaking out the scary movies. Indeed, one movie that could send chills down your spine is “The Purge”… okay, to be real, this movie didn’t have the best reviews. I’ll stray from the subject just to inform you that I did enjoy this movie. If you saw it and didn’t flinch once, then congrats. Whether you liked it or not, you have to admit… the idea of a purge is quite eerie, yes? Imagine, in the comfort of your home and security in the U.S. nation, that your safety is put on hold for a twelve hour period. Now, how could this truly benefit anyone?

All right, I’m going to give you a brief low-down for those of you who actually check Rotten Tomatoes before spending a hefty $8 on a movie stub. A suburban family of four prepares their high-tech home-security system for the annual “purge”. Meanwhile, the police, Special Forces, and doctors are inaccessible during this period, where crimes may go unpunished. And we couldn’t have a scary movie without a creepy, masked killer, right? A twisted group of masked strangers approach the family’s door, led by the demented antagonist, Edwin. The group wants one thing from the family… the surrender of a runaway man who has sneaked into the seemingly protected house. Check out the trailer here.

Demonstrating himself as a family-oriented man, President Obama is a true politician who values ethical responsibility. How has he shown this in the context of Weber (in the political realm)?

While The Purge is structured similarly to both Machiavelli and Weber’s theories, the movie does not directly fit either of the two ideals. For instance, Machiavelli interprets how the ends can justify the means as a use to justify power within an institution. In The Prince, he stresses that immoral means can justify survival and prosperity in a state of reign; however, the family in the movie is not trying to gain a state of higher existence. Indeed, they are merely trying to survive through a night so that they can continue to live their harmonious lives. This is their ending goal, so they fight against the Purgers in defense of their existence. On the other hand, Weber conveys through his reading of Politics as a Vocation that politicians can justify the ends with ethical responsibility. Ethan Hawke might play the role of the patriarch, but he certainly doesn’t possess the duties of a politician. Instead, he believes that his choices are ethically justified because he has a moral duty to protect his loved ones at all costs . He realizes that he will have to stoop low, in order fulfill his duty as a husband and father. His family is a team, and they need to win this game.

The idea that “the ends justifies the means” is not only applicable to the main characters, but to the idea of the Purge, in general. It’s a socially acceptable event that the government once created to lessen the crime rates, strengthen the economy, and manage overpopulation. While these are benefits that any country would like to gain, a system can’t attain these ends without a cost. However, the initial terror would be reap country-wide benefits, and the citizens could do all of the work in a short amount of time. Why waste time debating solutions when they can just cut to the chase? …literally.

After a cat and mouse chase inside of the home, the family finally catches the man in hiding. They can sacrifice the man to the “purgers” in order to save their own lives- or they can do what’s morally correct. After brutalizing the man in hopes for cooperation, the parents come to a realization… they’re just as morally indecent as the purgers, themselves. Under what circumstances do the ends truly justify the means? The parents naturally embrace a relentless determination to save their children. Indeed, many parents would inherently do anything for the good of their children. So, is it easier to justify the means when it benefits a greater community than just oneself? The realization strikes a chord when they no longer recognize who they’ve become. They’ve thrown away their values in a race to win everything on the line… life itself.

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2 comments

  1. mcpatton2014 · October 14, 2014

    Taking the Purge and relating it to a different topic, Thucydides claimed that violence is a result of fear, honor, or interest. Based on this rationale, why would the characters participate in the Purge? It certainly isn’t fear, because they are the ones who are creating the fear, not responding to it. It isn’t honor either, because there is nothing honorable in “purging”. And it really couldn’t be interest, because what is there to gain? No power, money, resources, or anything. This violence is purely for the “enjoyment” or “cleansing”, and has no basis to Thucydides’s reasoning for why people fight or become violent.

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  2. mcarozza · October 17, 2014

    In regards to comparing the Purge to Thucydides stance on violence, I do think that fear is a factor. As more and more people start participating in the Purge, people will probably adopt a – better to be a hunter than the hunted – attitude. Thus one might join the Purge out of fear of being the only one who isn’t on the offensive.

    I also found the comparison of Machiavelli’s and Weber’s theories of politicians achieving their goals was very interesting. I think you brought up a very important problem with the whole “end justify the means” idea, and that is that of morals. At what point do the means become to gruesome? As you discussed, the family in the movie realized that their means were too immoral, and I wonder whether Machiavelli and Weber would have agreed or disagreed with the families realization. My only complaint is that I would have been interested to read more about how when one’s own life is at risk, how your morals might change. You touched on this a bit towards the end, but I feel that you could have elaborated on this point. Overall this was a great blog to read, and a unique way of analyzing “The Purge.”

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