Earlier this month, I watched a show on Netflix called The Society. It’s about a group of teenagers who leave for a school trip that they never arrive to. Instead, the bus drivers return them to the school parking lot. None of their parents are there to pick them up. Their cell phones work, but only the people with them answer.
The next day, a few guys bike to the outskirts of town only to discover that it’s all woods. They don’t know if something happened to the rest of the world or if they are in a parallel world.
Even for an adult, this would be scary. Luckily, one of the older girls knows they need order to survive. She has inventory taken of the food and a work schedule rotation. She also has people move into the larger houses so they can use less electricity. These are all smart choices. However, those with the most privilege are tired of giving up their freedom, personal space, and belongings.
This leads to the murder of the one person vital to their survival. Eventually, one of the privileged confesses who the murderer is to the new leader. She and those on her council must decide what to do with the criminal. They don’t have the means to keep him incarnated, nor is there a path to reformation that won’t endanger the community.
These are the kind of stakes and decisions that capture my attention. They make me question what I would do or what the characters in my book would do. There can often be multiple paths of logic. None are perfect. Ultimately, it comes down to which decision has a fixed outcome. To kill or not to kill?
If you kill the bad guy, there is zero risk of them attacking again. Problem solved. If you let them live or hold them captive, there is a risk of escape or further crime. Plus, they now have motive to kill you. Would you rather sleep with one eye open the rest of your life or take a persons life?
The logical answer is to kill the villain. But knowing what to do isn’t the same as doing it. Even if there are no external consequences, like the murder’s friends retaliating, there are internal consequences. How do you see yourself after taking a life? If you are the one sentencing them to death, should you be the one to carry out the punishment? Do you share the burden with others?
Shows like The Society give the viewer a safe place to contemplate these questions and watch them play out. In some ways, this would comfort to those who have made similar choices, like a soldier killing a child so they don’t warn a village and the village kill their squad. They made a movie about this happening where all of them know the only safe answer is to kill the teenage boy, but one soldier allows the boy’s age to play with his emotions and it gets almost all of them killed.
In other ways, watching these types of scenarios desensitizes us. We see ourselves as capable because the characters are capable. It can lead us to believe that fear should always dictate our choices.
Living around violence (from family or community) can make taking lives seem like legitimate choices. So many young people have become victims to violence and then victims to the judicial system because they felt they had no option than to meet violence with more violence.
That being said, shows like The Society and The 100 could be used as tools to understand these youth and adults and use them to have conversations about the differences between decision-making in lawless or life or death situations and ones where you should rely on the police to get justice. It’s tricky because no one uses the same set of rules in society. Not everyone trusts the system to do it’s job.
It’s a double edged sword to give your power to another. It could be your downfall if you do and it could be if you don’t.
The kicker is, maybe our lives are more similar to the kids in The Society than we’d like to believe. The less privileged you are, the more hopelessness and desperation will play into your decisions. Until the privileged come to understand the mentality that makes good people murder, there’s not much hope for make these environments safe enough to where no one has to.
I definitely did not mean to get all reflective on our society, but now I’m curious about your thoughts.Is your life and safety more important than the enemy’s?
What would you do if you had to make the decision to kill or not to kill?