In the 2005 film The Constant Gardener, Ralph Fiennes plays a "diplomatic" British diplomat in Africa and Rachel Weisz his "un-diplomatic" activist wife. At one point, seeing the misery around them, she's determined to help a couple of kids she knows. Feinnes rejects the idea, under the logic that if they go out of the way for some of the suffering people, they'll create even more problems. Weisz disagrees. Later on, as events unfold, Feinnes wants to exercise similar compassion on another child, using Weisz's reasoning that "We can't save everyone, but we can save this one, now." [paraphrase]
The problem is, if you go out of the way to help one or two, you will soon encounter dozens more just as deserving, whom you can't help. Government bureaucracies are established to help people, but budgets are limited, so this "help" must be streamlined into systems and procedures that can't afford to make exceptions. As a result, schoolchildren who don't "fit in," non-violent "criminals," and others with hard-to-categorize problems are often consigned to places that do even more harm to them than if nothing was done to "help" them at all.
But these bureaucracies are justified by supposedly serving the "greater good." Sure, your daughter may be scarred for life for being called "stupid" throughout her public school years, but our high school band was invited to the Tournament of Roses, which wouldn't have happened without government! And now, the music program will be endangered unless we raise property taxes!
The benefits to the many outweigh the needs of the few.
I'm not saying that taxes should be raised so that the government can cater to every imaginable human problem or need. Quite the opposite: it is beyond our capacity as human beings to prevent or heal every conceivable harm some of us may do to ourselves or to others.
To ask a human being to save the world is to ask for far too much.
All that can be justly asked of a human being is that he or she not deliberately harm another.
Some weeks ago, I watched the 1999 film End of Days, directed by Peter Hyams and starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Robin Tunney.
It got relatively negative reviews when it came out and, while not a flop, it wasn't one of Arnold's big sucesses. The main problem may be that the plot was both too earnest and too far-fetched. But I'm glad i saw it. I doubt that even Arnold - four years before becoming the Governator - realized how powerful the message of the film was.
(I decided to watch it not because of Arnold, but because of Tunney, current co-star of The Mentalist and queen of all things synchromystic.)
Arnold plays an ex-cop who lost his faith in God and quit the NYPD after his wife and child were murdered. He drinks, contemplates suicide, and takes on private security jobs.
One person he's hired to protect turns out to be a Wall Street banker possessed by Satan. Satan has come to father a child with a 20-year-old played by Tunney. After some twists and turns, Arnold meets Tunney and saves her life. A priest explains to them the Biblical prophesies, in which Satan's child will be conceived on December 31, 1999, with Tunney the unwilling mother. Arnold doesn't believe this, but he does know that people are coming after the girl, and he's determined to protect her.
He's not alone. Some priests of the Catholic Church will also protect her. Others, rogue Vatican knights, are more pragmatic.
You see, if Satan's child is born, all hell would break loose -- literally. Keeping Tunney in hiding would be nice, but killing her before the consummation/rape could take place would be better. She's innocent; she deserves last rites and all that, but it's better that she be sacrificed for the greater good: Tunney was Satan's only chance, and after December 31 he'd have to wait another thousand years to try again. So from one perspective, the "logical" thing to do is sacrifice Tunney before Satan could ever reach her. Acting "pre-emptively" would prevent a lot of terror and suffering later on. And so Arnold must battle both Satan and these rogue priests to protect Tunney. (The Pope, as I recall, is for protecting the girl, not killing her.)
Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, End of Days doesn't pretend to be Biblically accurate. Some elements are made up for the purpose of the plot, and I have no problem with that.
The story is about Arnold's determination prevent Tunney from a) being kidnapped and raped by one group (Satan and his followers) and b) being murdered or "sacrificed for the greater good" by another group of seemingly "well-intentioned" people.
And Arnold goes to great lengths, suffering physical and psychological torment along the way. Although Tunney is very pretty, Arnold is much older and there's no romantic interest. Arnold protects her because he is at heart a cop in the best sense, committed to protecting the innocent from aggression. This helps him see through the illusions and temptations Satan presents him with.
Arnold doesn't try to save the world. Indeed, "the world" would be more certainly "saved" from Satan's offspring if he pulls out his gun and kills the trusting Tunney himself. But a world that must be "saved" through the sacrifice of the unknowing innocent is already a world already lost. It's a world where evil has already triumphed, even if Satan himself must wait another thousand years. Better to protect Tunney and fight to the very end.
The whole structure of politics is based on fears similar to those of the rogue Vatican knights, only worse. After all, these Knights would kill just one innocent girl to save the world from Satan. That's more rational than slaughtering thousands of innocent children to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, who wasn't a serious threat to any country, especially the United States. In Afghanistan, we've sacrificed countless women and girls in order to save them from having to wear burqas, only to find out that the people would prefer life with burqas to getting killed.
It is not our place to pick and choose whether a foreign people will live under a brutal tyranny or not. It is not our place to tax and regulate honest, productive people into bankruptcy in order to "pre-emptively" prevent dishonest greedy people from doing damage. (Which never works anyway; regulations don't deter dishonest lawbreakers, they only add costs to the law-abiding.) It is not our place to prevent a sick person from using marijuana for healing, in order to cut down on the number of healthy people who use it to get high. It is not our place to imprison an unhappy child in a "school" where nothing is learned seven hours a day.
If we are to have politics and elections at all, they should be employed to protect the innocent, not to harm them. If you believe a candidate would, if elected, actually protect the innocent and the rights of all, it is appropriate to vote for him or her.
But if you do not believe any candidate will do so, you are under no obligation to support the system. If our political, cultural, and economic life really depends on some people getting screwed for the benefit of the rest, then the it is not worth our loyalty, our honor, or our vote.
It is better to stand for justice and freedom in your behavior and relationships than to vote for injustice in the booth.