When Bill Ayers, noted terrorist of the Weather Underground came to speak at Pitzer College, he recommended a book and a movie to us that we all ought to see, Blindness. Here's the trailer.
At the time, I didn't think much of it. I should have thought more. After all, Ayers was giving us a window into his politics. For what a man likes in art will often tell you about the depth of his soul. It was altogether revealing. And Ayers, ruined the ending. (Don't worry, I won't repeat it.)
In the course of the two hour film, nearly the entire planet goes blind quickly, civilization (or at least New York) crumbles, and the worst elements of human nature rises to the forefront. Women are raped, food is rationed, and violence becomes the norm. The only woman who can see is the opthomologist's wife. She quickly become the leader of the few, blind, good people that remain. They take up Ward 1 where they have been quarantined.
On the one hand, this kind of dystopian vision appeals to the conservative who doubts that civilization has really perfected us. The view of man as wicked and depraved is something fundamental about human nature. But on the other hand, the characters seem to jump into violence, suggesting that there is little real morality when the chips are down.
But Ayers's moral relativism is on display in one scene where the armed, violent men force the denizens of Ward 1 to give up their women in exchange for food. Armed with only a gun with seemingly infinite ammo, the people of Ward 3 control the distribution of food and the people of Ward 1 and 2 capitulate to their every demand.
A few men offer protestations, but none stood up and said that they wouldn't stand for it. They let their women go off to be sodomized and violated by men no more powerful than themselves.
It's this moment that most fits what the 1960's anti-war movement, which Ayers led, was all about. Its aims weren't peace, but power and violence directed towards political, nihilistic ends. After watching Blindness, we're supposed to think that we would tolerate any behavior when we were blind. But then again, some of us wouldn't. Some of us would rather die making sure that good won out over bad. Sound simplistic? Maybe it is, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Many, many men went to their deaths in the Vietnam War and Ayers was at home lighting off bombs that would have maimed and killed many of them, if it weren't that he failed so spectacularly. Ayers was blinded by an ideology so perverse it crippled him and unlike the characters in the movies, he has never realized his blindness.