Cool Hand Luke

Rick Giles's picture
Submitted by Rick Giles on Sun, 2010-11-07 05:11

"What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men."

Cool Hand Luke, 1967, starring Paul Newman. And only $9.99 for sale at the Warehouse, so I bought it as a gift. I give it ten out of ten and it does form half of the rationale behind why my son's middle name is Luke. Just gone three years ago since I first saw the film when I dusted it off from a friend's movie shelf in Indiannapolis. For years I'd known the above quote as a soundbyte at the start of the fantastic Gunners song "Civil War" without ever realising where it came from!

It comes from the words of The Captain, the prison boss in which Luke is intured. I'd like to explain it and the film in the context of a theory of the human soul. Aggressive authority is prevalent in our society, especially in the state sector such as in schools and prisons. Also in our parenting actually, so it's a universal theme I think we can all relate to. When a child or a student or a prisoner or taxpayer is faced with aggressive, abusive, authority we have a couple of options.

Firstly, we can say to the tax-collector that they are abusive and unjust. That is to say, reject them and refuse to obey their use of force. But of course this escallates the violence already being employed, especially in environments where there is no oversight. Queensland Police, Catholic Priests, and Florida prisons like the one in this film bring the empiricism to testify to that. Although, our own personal experience about what happened to us every time we pointed out the irrationality and cruelty of those with political power over us should be convincing enough.

Door number two then, is to reject oneself instead. The violence stops, no escallation takes place, and what we depend upon from our captors has a secure supply. Parents can take your food away, prison guards can beat you up, the taxman can ruin you. So, you take away their reason to have to by keeping your head down and becomming a convert to selflessness in order to live. This involves us saying and feeling in our souls that the aggressive, abusive, authority is goodness itself. The abuser becomes good, the abused becomes bad. This is the lesson everyone confronted with abuse must learn, it is the equlibrium position. The alternative, confronting the abusive power, gets you killed or harmed until you switch to this dominent survival strategy. It is here where most of us live: disowned-selves and state-worshippers.

Cool Hand Luke, then. What a strange thing it is in that context for a fully grown man to be taking door number two at his age! Hasn't he had the Basic Training beat the individuality out of him by now that he needs it done again in jail? Not once either, but time and time again. That's what happens in the film, exactly.

So runs the quote I started out with, at a time where The Captain is using escallated force to dominate Luke again. For some reason we might do well to understand, Luke resists this operant conditioning over and over, unable to stick to door number two, because he's "not made that way." He has a libertarian soul and cannot reject his self even if he wanted to. They beat him, they break him, they domesticate him. He escapes, he rebels, he inspires, he jokes and pranks, he re-escapes. It's an exciting adventure with plenty of chase and action. More than this though, everyone can relate to that tension between him flitting between rejecting abuse or rejecting himself. It must be unbarable for a statist to watch this film but it is very moving to the sympatetic liberty-lovers who live an examined life.


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Fixed.What's his

Rick Giles's picture

Fixed that for you.

Have you seen the movie too?

What's his predicament??

Troll Giles

gregster's picture

It's "rationale" not "rational" and I empathise with your son's predicament.

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