Jack Bauer Ethics

Please forgive a moderately outdated pop-culture reference.  I know the TV show 24 was cancelled a few years ago.  But hopefully after nine seasons, the show and its main protagonist still remain enough in our collective consciousness to warrant their use.

To be honest, I was never a huge 24 fan.  The first time I saw it, I loved it.  Eventually though, the premise gets a little too predictable or tired. Not everything fits neatly into 24 hour-long episodes.  One thing I always admired, though, was the consistent moral position of Jack Bauer.  No, I am not looking to discuss the “enhanced interrogation techniques” which Jack was always willing to use to get information from suspects.  Rather, this relates to my previous post about  the Greek myth of Scylla and Charybdis.  I mentioned that most of us would rather choose Scylla because, though we lose 6 people, we actually avoid the greater calamity of losing the entire ship.  We give in to fear and commit (or allow) terrible things rather than summoning up the courage to face the danger and risk Charybdis.

This is precisely the choice Jack Bauer is given, if not every episode then at least several times a season.  Jack Bauer frequently finds himself in situations where he must allow some minor act of evil in order to allow him the possibility of preventing a greater atrocity from occurring.  One incident stands out in my mind:  Jack is undercover in a terror cell.  They are going to release toxic gas in a shopping mall, killing roughly 1,000 people. Jack is told by his superiors to allow this event to happen so that his cover won’t be blown and he can follow them back to their lair.  The goal is to save a million lives…1,000 is an acceptable loss.   Jack, however, doesn’t allow a small evil, which he can prevent, in the hopes of possibly being able to prevent a larger evil.  He stops the small evil, then he tries to prevent the big evil.

How much wrong do we tolerate or allow because we believe that doing so puts us in a better position to do a greater good in the future.  We need to  realize that the world is full of people looking the other way at small evil because they are worried about the big evil.  One wonders how different our world would be if we all employed Jack Bauer Ethics.  I suspect a biblical principle is at play. He who has been faithful with little, will also be faithful with much.  Maybe Jack gets to save the world, because he first saved the mall.

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