Voices: ethical dilemma

The movie Voices is about a schizophrenic young man trying to live a normal life in a small town. He seems like a nice, naive, sweet and child-like kind of guy who has two pets: a dog and a cat. He is in love with the office darling and doesn’t have friends. His life seems boring or rutinary, until his dog and cat start talking to him.

Psychiatrist: Do you ever hear voices?
Jerry: Mm, voices? No. I mean… when someone’s talking to me.
Psychiatrist: You hesitated a little bit there.
Jerry: It just makes me think of my mother.
Psychiatrist: Angels was what she called her voices.
Jerry: Yeah.
Psychiatrist: Angels were her coping strategy.
Jerry: The voices were real to her.
Psychiatrist: Angels were a reasonable attempt to craft a logical explanation.
Jerry: I know. I know that.

What come to our mind is he is crazy. Yes he is, but is being crazy a bad thing? or does it mean that doing bad things is crazy? When we see the movie we can understand how the criminal mind might work. Sometimes we want to do good things but we can’t, like Jerry, or we want to do good and we do it. Nobody wants bad things for them; we all want to be happy, as Aristotle puts it. So if we want to be happy we need to do good, but what happens when we can’t? Our concience is one of the voices we hear when we are about to act, it is the intellectual part that realizes who we are and what we are doing, and if it is good or bad.

There are things that makes us happy and others that don’t. But to act according to our pleasure or our feelings will turn us into beasts, always waiting for more sensations, more feelings, instead of seeing the whole picture. Imagine that we eat according to our pleasure; we get fat and risk our life. Obesity takes us to death. But if we see that eating let us fulfil our lives by doing trascendental things, good things, we will be free from the need to eat.

Dog: But he did mean to do it.
Jerry: No.
Cat: Not the deer. That was an accident. I’m talking about the girl. – You wanted to kill her.
Jerry: – Never.
Cat: Why’d you take the knife, then?
Jerry: Oh, my God. – I’m evil.
Dog: No, you’re not.
Cat: I’ve killed things on purpose, Jerry. There’s no shame in it. It’s instinct. The only time I felt truly alive is when I’m killing.
Jerry: The only time I’ve ever felt truly alive.
Cat: You see what I mean?

The line between good and bad depends on our actions. We decide to do good or bad, and we know it before we act, during our action and at the end. Good or bad is not an opinion; it is clear: to act accordingly depens on our freedom. We may have influences to do things for pleasure or because it fulfills our basic needs. But after all those options are presented by our intelligence, our Will chooses the best option there is. To hear animals is just a way to personify the voices as real, instead of taking them for what they are: imaginary. That is the problem with Jerry; he can’t distinguish reality from fantasy.

Cat: Are you gonna kill someone else?
Jerry: Me? No. Of course not.
Dog: Sick, disturbed cat.
Cat: Why not, Jer? – We both know you want to.
Jerry: – No.
Dog: You killed by accident.
Cat: That felt good. Now do it on purpose, Jerry. Just once. – See what it’s like.
Dog: – Shut up.
Jerry: I don’t have to listen to you. You’re just a cat.
Cat: Well, a cat that can talk and reason. That’s a miracle for the ages.
Jerry: So what?
Cat: But a guy who talks to his cat… well, that’s one step away from the loony bin. Find someone else, kill them, and you’ll discover what it feels like to be truly alive.
Jerry: – By killing?
Cat: – It’s better than sex.
Dog: He is wrong. We’re not like the pussy, Jerry. We have morals.
Jerry: – That’s a good boy.
Dog: – Did you hear that? I earned the right to be called a good boy.

In the exchange of thoughts our ethics stand out with knowing what is good and what is bad. The morality we live in tells us to act accordingly. Our happiness is the final act in our lives, we search for it everywhere and everytime. We aren’t good nor bad, we act right or wrong because we choose to.

Cat: Let’s talk about it.
Jerry: What if I am? – Serial killer?
Cat: – Yeah.
Fiona: Well, is it something that you are… like being brown-eyed or right-handed… or is it something that you choose, like being an accountant?
Jerry: I wish I knew.
Dog: You can still make the choice, Jerry. You’re still a good man.
Jerry: Well, I try to be a good man. I wanna be a good man. – Then there’s the cat.
Cat: – Fuck you, blaming it on me.
Jerry: Hold… hold… hold on a second. Look, I know what is good. I know. I- I wanna lead
a righteous and just life. I wanna be an upstanding member of the community. But, I mean, you know, Mr. Whiskers, he makes me do bad things.
Fiona: The cat was nowhere near when you killed me, Jerry.
Cat: See? See? Thank you, lady-head.
Jerry: Okay, first of all, not true. Second of all, I know right from wrong, okay? I know it. I try to be good. But then certain… horrible things happen and I’m filled with… with terror and dread, standing outside of myself. Even though I know what I’ve done, I also feel like… like it wasn’t me.
Dog: Pretty complicated inside the human mind, huh?
Fiona: It was you that killed me, Jerry. – You.
Jerry: – Okay, that’s true, but in a certain sense, it wasn’t me. It was, uh…
Cat: – You gonna say it was me?
Jerry: – No, I wasn’t gonna say that.
Cat: – Oh, oh, all right.
Jerry: – Devil’s ad-vo-cat.
Cat: Let’s say it was me… but, you know that I’m a talking cat. There’s no such thing. Everything I say is really you.
Dog: It’s true, buddy. It’s all you.
Jerry: – What?
Fiona: – Come on, Jer. You know that. Your pets are spot-on, Jerry.

Jerry: I kind of suspected that. But if there’s me, the regular me, standing here, the me who’s talking now, and… and… and I wanna be good… then there’s you, you, and you trying to make me be something else. Am I good?
Fiona: No. You’re bad.
Dog: She’s wrong.
Jerry: You’re a good boy.
Cat: They’re both wrong. You are what you are. That’s it. I am…

As we can see, good or bad doesn’t influence in our actions. It is our need for happiness that drives us to do good or bad. No matter what we hear from our desires or we think of what our moral dictates, we are free to fulfill our happiness by acting right, not beacue the law says so, but because we are complete by doing so.

Jerry: Do you believe in God?
Psychiatrist: – Mm.
Jerry: – Me, too. And I totally think that He has it out for me. He gives… cuts everyone else slack and then totally craps all over me, and I wanna know why. Why would He put a little boy in a home with a father like that, make my mother lose herself so completely that she’d rather die than be with me? But if He is all-knowing, then God must be okay with me killing people.
Psychiatrist: Mm-mm.
Jerry: Ah, a shrink who wants to talk.
Psychiatrist: Mmm.
Jerry: But if I untape you, we’re gonna get on the fast road to mental health, okay? Hey, you start doing the silent shrink thing, and I can’t predict what I’ll do.
Psychiatrist: – Uh…
Jerry: – Now… why do I hear voices?
Psychiatrist: Oh, a lot of people hear voices. Or thoughts they can’t stop.
Jerry: A lot of people?
Psychiatrist: Yeah. It might be a voice telling them they’re worthless or stupid or… or it could tell them to indulge every desire… drink that drink, take that drug, follow every sexual impulse. Or it could be a cynical voice telling them nothing matters, that their efforts are insignificant.
Jerry: You hear stuff like that?
Psychiatrist: Yeah. I have thoughts. Not exactly the same as you, but similar. They tell me that I’m fat or psychotherapy is… is not a worthwhile exercise, that… that it’s not real, that I should’ve aimed higher than a government job, that my potential is being squandered, that I’m unworthy of love. But none of that’s true.
Jerry: So what do you do about it?
Psychiatrist: Well, I can’t shut them off entirely… nor would I want to… but I can argue against them. Just because you have thoughts doesn’t mean you have to act on them.
Jerry: You don’t have to act on them?
Psychiatrist: No. Being alone in the world is the root of all suffering. But, Jerry, you’re not alone.
Jerry: Whoa. See, that’s like 10 years of therapy in 10 seconds.

As the psychiatrist says, there is no need to indulge every desire, but those that can make us a better person. Those desires free us from our pain. If we pursue whatever we desire we become prisoners of our senses. Imagine always reacting to everything that happens to the world, it is exhausting. We are intelligent beings capable of knowing what is worth for our fulfilment. We have a rational nature, and it is not animal; it is more than that. We are also spiritual beings that need to be fulfilled too.

Dog: Jerry, you’re almost home.
Fiona, Lisa, Allison: Come home, Jerry. Come, come with us. We’re all waiting for you. Come. You’ll never be alone anymore. Come home, come. You’ll never be alone anymore. Jerry, come with us.

Cat: As in you’re gonna be charbroiled, Jerry. – You run.
Dog: – No. You stay. You’re no good to yourself or anybody else. You let the fire put you to sleep.
Cat: Isn’t that what they say right before they kill you?
Dog: Jerry knows that. He can end the suffering tonight.
Cat: – Unless you want to be – Jerry The Human Torch, get the hell out.
Dog: Stand your ground, buddy. There’s nothing left for you in this life.
Cat: We could’ve filled 10 more refrigerators, Jerry.

Dog: Shush, pussy. If he survives, he’ll only cause more suffering, pain, and death. It’s over. Jerry’s going home.

The spirtual fulfillnes is the need to believe that there is more than this life. That there is reward for our lives. That this is not the end, but a stage in our existance. That is what religion fulfils in the human nature. As we see we are body and spirit, and we need to be happy fulfilling them both and not only one. Life is not about a struggle but to find what is worth fighting for.

The movie shows us a different facade of the criminal mind. I may be the lack of Will to stop our basic instinct that drives us to do bad. To use the things for what they are not. Instead to do good is to respect nature, the Being of all there is. To do bad is to attempt against the Being, like killing, lying, cheating, etc.



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