Relatos salvajes Good and evil are like cliffs, morality stops barbarism

Savage Tales” is a collection of six stories revolving around the theme of revenge alone, filled with indifference, resentment, contempt, repression, narrow-mindedness and bigotry. If there is any admonition to be drawn from these stories, it is the opening line of the display, which is nothing more than a mantra-like moral of removing evil and promoting good. That admonition gives some kind of hint – or presupposes it – that there is a clear distinction between good and evil, and that if one can be purely intentional about good, then one can gain the awareness of abandoning evil. A three-year-old child is too innocent to believe such arguments.

It would be wishful thinking and foolishness to obtain any moral precepts from these stories. The objective presentation of the “Savage Tales” is a wiser mockery or sincere entertainment: the commandments give way to watching and laughing. The good and the evil are not just two separate things, but paradoxically entwined. The title of the film itself is a kind of irony: the so-called “barbaric” story does not actually belong to the wilderness, but takes place in the midst of society, with its bloodstains. This irony is not to denigrate humanity, but to convey that which is too human, that which is too evil and too good. The roots of all good and all evil are appreciated through this irony placed in the dualism of nature (wilderness) and society (civilization).

[The many faces of good and evil]

The six stories in “Savage Tales” are tragic comedies labeled as “black humor”. They are tragic because they are haunted by hatred, but they are comic because the motives for their occurrence are so trivial. The causes of the hatred that led to each of these tragedies could have been avoided through pious moral considerations – but they were not.

In the first story – “Pasternak” – the man named Pasternak manages to trick all the people he hates into getting on the same plane and carrying them to crash into his hated parents and die with them. According to the moral point of view, this man is a vindictive villain. But we can also see the indifference of others in what happened to him; his parents’ indifference to him created the flawed man he is, while others sabotaged his life’s trajectory and plunged him into despair. When a person is caught up in desperate hatred, no moral sense of blame will help. On the other hand, people as watchers are also indifferent, because the shock of this story to the audience is not in sympathy for Pasternak’s personal tragedy, but in the precision or perfection of his revenge plan – he kills almost everyone who treats him with direct hatred in one action. It is difficult to achieve such an unhurried revenge – in contrast to the immorality of revenge, which constitutes the essential aspect of the black humor of hatred.

In the second story – “The Rat” – some waitress is instigated to poison the middle-aged man who broke up her family with rat poison, but it inevitably leads to what she did not expect It’s hard to avoid what she didn’t expect to happen. In the face of the hateful man, the waitress in this story shows a strong contrast with the vengeful one in the first story. This is mainly because the waitress is caught up in the so-called moral considerations or legal concerns. The resulting contrast in revenge is the pleasure of revenge in the first story and the clumsiness of revenge in the second story. It is probably the slave-like morality that makes revenge lacking in power, and revenge lacking in power will be delineated as ridiculous resentment. But here, if moral admonition hinders revenge, does it add to the glory of morality? Would it add to the justice of the law? Certainly not! If revenge did not happen here, then it would only make morality seem more despicable. For not only does morality not punish the wicked man, it does not even prevent the wicked man from continuing his evil deeds. In fact, in this darkly humorous story, it is not the person who is ridiculous, but the morality or the law of goodness.

In the third story – “The Road to Hell” – a city man and a country man meet in a car on the road and rudely vent their anger at each other until the hatred escalates and the two men die together. If either of these two men had been able to remember the morality of humility that a three-year-old knows, this ridiculous tragedy probably wouldn’t have happened. The revenge in this story is the result of a short-lived excitement, which in turn points to the bias of people between different levels of civilization – urban and rural. Rural societies are often considered less civilized than urban ones, the former lacking the kind of strict moral rules of the latter. According to this prejudice, rural societies are closer to barbaric societies, while urban societies conform to standard civilized societies. In the light of what this story shows, the differences between urban and rural areas established by that prejudice are superficial and presumptuous. The barbarism of human society is not so distinct from civilization: the moral standards set by urban society are merely hypocrisy for self-protection, which is deeply wrapped in essential barbarism; once the people in it no longer have the need for hypocrisy, then the people in it may be more barbaric than barbaric.

The fourth story – “The Little Bomb” – a certain blasting engineer, dissatisfied with the brutal towing fines of the city’s vehicle management department, after protesting in vain, orchestrates a vehicle management department of the explosion. In this story, revenge is no longer directed at the individual, but at some kind of inappropriate social management. For many citizens, if they encounter such ridiculous social management, they would probably either put up with it after protesting or just put up with it. Maintaining social stability while giving up one’s superfluous needs is what civilized morality requires of citizens. After all, “individual madness is perversity, while collective or national madness is the rule” (The Other Side of Good and Evil 156). So-called civilized societies often whitewash the rules of barbarism on the grounds of the collective good, when, of course, they have become the rules of civilization. Revenge, in this story, becomes an impulse to try to blow up the rules of society – for the administrators of society, this act is “obviously revenge against society” = evil; for the people who are widely repressed by that kind of social administration, it is an opportunity for liberation = good. Faced with this contradiction, I wonder how a three-year-old child should judge good or evil from it.

The fifth story – “Money” – a rich man uses money to help his son escape from the law. The story turns to the opposite of revenge: the avoidance of revenge – the revenge of the law that is the justice of the law. It is the law that suffers the black humor here, trying to restrain evil through vengeance and thus balance, but there are always powers that try to escape the vengeance of the law. While the law smugly thinks that it has accomplished its revenge, the powerful people are secretly laughing at it.

In the sixth story – “Till Death Do Us Part” – a certain bride finds her groom cheating on her behind her back during the wedding ceremony and becomes wildly promiscuous, declaring a lasting to death revenge program against her new husband The groom, after a brief moment of panic, becomes callous and seems determined to start a revenge race with his new wife. It is said that “an unhappy marriage is not due to a lack of love, but to a lack of friendship”. Couples who hate each other become stuck together as enemies. Revenge in this case loses its smoothness and becomes paradoxically self-inflicted. (Note: Some people disagree with the understanding of this story as a result of love, and perhaps the director was also trying to use this story to express a kind of reconciliation of revenge. Perhaps because my understanding of love is too conceptual, I will not adopt such a realistic understanding of the intersection of love and hate discernment. Even if the story is really a reconciliation, what we see is not a mere reconciliation, but still a contradictory self-harm. (That is why this essay leaves the ending in suspense, using only vague expressions to ignore it.)

After analyzing the six stories of “Savage Tales,” we can see that they are not so fragmented around the theme of revenge, but can form an interrelated sequence. In the first story, revenge is so smooth and amazing; in the second story, revenge is not so amazing but still quite smooth; in the third and fourth stories, revenge seems depressing, in which good and evil are not so clear; in the fifth and sixth stories, the dark humor of revenge is pushed to a more elusive situation. In the sequence formed by these six stories, revenge shifts from clarity to ambiguity, while good and evil become more and more entangled.

[Three Years Old Knowing Virtue: The Source of Good and Evil]

The sequence of six tales of revenge in The Savage Tales constitutes a counter-example to what is usually called morality. The separation of good and evil implied by the phrase “Do not do evil, but do good to all” in its own context – “Those who overcome themselves become medicine and stones when they touch things, while those who are superior become spears when they move their thoughts. The separation of good and evil, as implied by the context – “He who restrains himself becomes a medicine and a stone; he who moves his thoughts becomes a spear and a spear” – is not valid, because good and evil are often entangled with each other, as shown in the “Savage Tales”, rather than being separated. Restraining oneself from grudges may be able to solve the situation in Tales III and IV of the Savage Tales, but it is difficult to achieve a suitable moral result for the situation in several other tales. Those moral rules that promote good and suppress evil are not difficult to understand – a three-year-old child would know them – they are just not as satisfactory as they could be. A society created entirely according to the so-called moral rules may not be a heaven on earth, but a purgatory on earth. This civilized society invented goodness, but defined it with human evil.

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