Almost eight months have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Many people around the world are desperately hoping to stop, at all costs, this situation, in which many precious lives are lost and all kinds of atrocities are committed repeatedly as a result of aggression.
Meanwhile, within Russia, courageous people who oppose this war have been arrested or repressed, and their personal safety continues to be threatened.
In countries under dictatorships, people are deprived of their freedom of choice.
If they are forced to make a choice for evil against their will, do they have no choice but to accept that choice?
The historical drama film 'A Hidden Life', written and directed by Terrence Malick and released in 2019, provides an opportunity to consider such questions in more depth.
This is the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant who refused both allegiance to the Nazis and military service during World War II, based on actual events.
By nature, definitions of ‘good and evil’ and ‘right and wrong’ are universal and immutable.
However, in human society, everyone has their own definition of ‘good and evil’ or ‘right and wrong’, and especially in the world of politics, law and religion, those in positions of authority use their power to force others to accept their own definition in order to subjugate and control them.
And this film demonstrates that it is extremely easy to do so.
So today I would like to share with you some dialogues from scenes that I particularly identify with and that inspired me from a metaphysical point of view.
<Scene in which Franz tells the priest that he refuses to serve in the army>
Father, if they call me up, I can't serve.
We're killing innocent people.
Raiding other countries, preying on the weak.
Now, the priests call them heroes, even saints, the soldiers that do this.
It might be that the other ones are the heroes.
The ones who defend their homes against the enemy.
Priest: Have you spoken with anyone else? Your wife? Family?
Don't you think you ought to consider the consequences of your actions “for them”?
You would almost surely be shot.
Your sacrifice would benefit no one.
...I'll speak with the bishop about your case.
A wiser man than I.
<Scene where Franz meets the bishop>
If God gives us free will, we're responsible for what we do, what we fail to do, aren't we?
If our leaders are not good, if they are evil, what does one do?
I want to save my life, but not through lies.
You have a duty to the Fatherland.
The Church tells you so.
<Scene between Franz and the priest when the summons arrives>
Does a man have the right to let himself be put to death "for the truth"?
Could it possibly please God?
He wants us to have peace, happiness. Not to bring suffering on ourselves.
Franz: We have to stand up to evil.
<Scene in which Franz and the judge talk in a private room>
Judge: Do you imagine that anything you do will change the course of this war?
That anyone outside this court will ever hear of you?
No one will be changed.
The world will go on as before.
Judge: Do you judge me?
I don't judge you.
I'm not saying, “he is wicked, I am right”.
I don't know everything.
A man may do wrong. And he can't get out of it to make his life clear.
Maybe, he'd like to go back, but he can't.
But..., I have this feeling inside me..., that I can't do what I believe is wrong.
<Scene from a letter written by Franz to his wife while in prison>
When you give up the idea of surviving at any price, a new light floods in.
Once, you were in a rush, always short of time.
Now you have all you need.
Once, you never forgave anyone.
Judged people without mercy.
Now you see your own weakness, so you can understand the weakness of others.
_ From 'A Hidden Life' ( 2019 film)
The film's title, A Hidden Life, is taken from George Eliot's novel ' Middlemarch', and the following text, which includes this passage, appears at the end of the film.
“...for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts;
and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been,
is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life,
and rest in unvisited tombs.”
_ George Eliot
Questions such as why we humans wage war, why we allow dictatorships, why we give in to peer pressure, why we cannot say 'No' to evil deeds, why we interpret things to favour ourselves, why we commit sins and mistakes, etc., suggest that we humans have challenges to confront and overcome.
And as long as we try to live by conventional values alone, without trying to understand the mechanisms underlying these challenges as well as the universal, immutable definitions of `good and evil' and `right and wrong', it will become increasingly difficult for us to survive in the years to come.
When it comes to understanding them, 'metaphysics', the inheritance of ancient wisdom, will transcend the boundaries of politics, law and religion, and will become indispensable for all people living hereafter.
And gradually the world will come to realise that the most important thing each of us can do to build the peaceful, war-free world we desire cannot be discussed without a metaphysical perspective.
What is Metaphysics?