Re: RARA-AVIS: Sidekicks

Date: 14 Nov 2001


Re your comments below:

> What you're missing here is that Spenser didn't
> decide
> the murder was immoral. He decided it was immoral
> for
> HIM to commit it. Spenser's code is a personal
> one--part of it, I would argue, is that he doesn't
> impose his code on others.

Oh come on! Spenser's whole professional life, first as a cop, then as a PI, has been imposing a code on others. Arguably he left official law enforcement and went private just so he could impose HIS code, rather than society's, on the criminal element.

> It does not follow [that an obligation to refrain
from an act carries with it an obligation to prevent others from doing it]. A moral obligation is often
> personal. An example that jumps to mind is that
> orthodox Jews are morally prevented from eating
> pork,
> but not morally obligated to prevent anyone else
> from
> eating it. Living in the south, I know many
> fundamental Christians who would never read Spenser
> in
> the first place, simply because they believe the
> subject matter to be immoral. But I don't know
> anyone
> who would attempt to prevent me from doing so.
> (Although I'm sure they're out there, of course--no
> offense to anyone's personal beliefs intended.)

There's a major difference between the ecclesiastical obligations of a particular religious faith, and the obligation not to commit murder. The first stems from the greatest commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind." The second stems from the second greatest commandment, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Loving God can take many different forms, because there are many different ways of approaching one's relationship to God. For some it's keeping Kosher. For others it's abstaining from meat on Fridays. For others, it's avoiding books or music that is regarded by their church elders as irreligious or immoral.

But loving one's neighbor is a lot simpler. And, to the extent that one recognizes that, in accordance with loving one's neighbor, one should avoid murdering him, than one is also recognizing that this prohibition against murder is universal. Spenser, in making the decision not to kill the thug himself, is recognizing this universal obligation. In not preventing the murder, he is, in practically the same moment, forsaking it for the sake of . . . I don't know. . . friendship I suppose.

> In one paragraph you state that Spenser has become
> an
> accomplice to murder, and in the next that he is
> avoiding consequence. I would argue that those are
> contradictory statements. He's willing to accept
> the
> consequences of being an accomplice, obviously.
> He's
> willing to be an accomplice to murder, because
> backing
> up Hawk is part of his code as much as not murdering
> the guy in the first place.

I think it's clear that Parker wants the reader to absolve Spenser of any responsibility for the murder, while at the same time tying off a loose end. Having decided that it's necessary to eliminate this character, he assigns the duty to Hawk, this keeping his hero's hands clean. Thus, the reader feels(at least Parker hopes) relief both that the potential danger has been eradicated and that the honorable hero bears no responsibility for the act.

My point was that it was nothing more than a sleigh-of-hand. Though, in the heat of the moment, the reader might be carried along into the belief that Spenser is innocent, in fact he bears equal responsibility, morally, ethically, and, certainly, legally for a killing that he's already decided is morally and ethically unjustified.

And if Spenser's code obligates him to back up Hawk even if Hawk is doing something that Spenser believes is morally unacceptable, where does it end? "I'm personally against rape, but I'm obliged to back up Hawk, so I'll do nothing while he forces himself on this unwilling victim." Or "I'm personally opposed to selling heroin to grammar school kids, but I've got to back up Hawk, so I'll stand watch while he conducts this drug deal in the schoolyard." Or "I've never regarded child pornography as anything but a blight on society, but Hawk thinks he can make a bundle on it, so I'll go along with it."

Okay, everybody knows there are things one will stand for from a friend, but not from anyone else, but murder's way beyond the pale. And if you'll sit still for your friend's committing a murder, I would argue that there's very little you won't sit still for your friend doing.
> I'm not trying to say that his code makes much sense
> in any practical way--just that it exists, and that
> Hawk serves to illustrate it, not to allow him to
> violate it with impunity.

Maybe Parker THINKS that's Hawk's purpose. Maybe when they were still respectful adversaries, that WAS Hawk's purpose. But in the example you gave, allowing Spenser to violate his code while appearing not to was EXACTLY what Hawk was there to do.


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