Seeing all the cruelty in the world led Walter to become a vigilante seeking justice where he saw it was needed. He was not always moral in his methodology, but the end result is the same: Justice. Walter Covacs was a man who, like the majority of people, existed in a world of moral absolutes. For example, let's take the moral stance that is almost universal, murder is wrong. Walter adheres to this ideology for the beginning of his transformation. Consider the criminals he leaves tied up, for example. The transformation is slow throughout his life, but the horrors he encountered brought him to the realization that there are no gods and no moral absolutes. Morality and justice are man made. They are what we determine. What we impose. This is particularly highlighted by his telling of the story of the little girl who got fed to the dogs.
"Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach. Does that answer your questions, Doctor?"
|What do you see?|
It is at this point that Rorschach is born. He has realized that there isn't a god who hands down morality. The most horrific part about that realization, perhaps, is the implication that must follow. There is no devil. All evil, even something as grotesque as chopping up a child and feeding it to dogs, is of human origin. We are solely responsible for what we choose to do, regardless of how honorable or awful it may be. The cruel and predatory use violence to impose their moral reality on the rest of the world, even on innocent little children; why shouldn't Rorschach use violence to impose his morality on the criminal?
From that point on, Rorschach has completely abandoned the social contract which built the idea that justice should be handed down from a higher authority. Why shouldn't he take justice into his own hands, particularly when justice doesn't appear to come from anywhere else? He uses his observations and the child killer in particular as justification of this. People may have ethical disagreements with vigilantism, but Rorschach has clear reasoning and sound justification for believing as he does. His choices are not irrational, they aren't psychotic. They're calculated. The fact that Rorschach's behavior cannot simply be dismissed as mental illness appears to have dealt a serious blow to the psychologist who tried to study Rorschach. Rorschach grew up in a world where there was little to no justice for victims of evil. That sets his world apart from ours.
But why bring it up? I bring Rorschach up, because his character highlights something important. He is correct. Humans kill each other. Humans rob each other. Humans set up our own system of morality. I bring it up because when a little girl who needs a guide dog to function gets kicked out of a Christian school, we humans bear the responsibility to call that school out on being absurd. Was it not Christ who helped those who needed it? When people base their morality on an assertion of authority, rather than an understanding of reality, those people might beat their child to death for not reading a book that explicitly orders them to beat disobedient children (while simultaneously saying to kill the children in other parts of that book).
These are just two recent examples of people who do not use reason as a moral guide. We need to stop letting people get away with doing evil just because they claim it was ordained by a higher authority. There's not a higher authority. We are guilty of letting those children suffer, too.
Of course, people might point to Stalin as an example of rationality gone too far. I'll be happy to tackle that one in a later post.