By Natasha Rawat
What if you could come across an ability to kill without anyone ever knowing? One always believes that they will kill for the greater good of humanity. Killings that will wipe the earth clean of the evil. A utopia where there are no crimes.However, what have you metamorphosed into, are you a murderer or a savior?
The Japanese manga and anime Death Note addresses this very exact philosophical dilemma. A high-school student, Light Yagami, comes across a Death Note-a notebook that can kill anyone whose face and name are known to the user. Therefore, he sets out to create a utopian society by killing all the high-profile Japanese criminals. He is soon known by the pseudonym “Kira”, given to him by the media who perceives him to be a god-like figure responsible for the killings.Hell breaks loose when he vows to kill anyone who will expose his identity and threaten his idea of justice.
The predicament that arises is whether we can provide justice without abiding to the law. Laws may not always provide justice in the true sense but they provide order. Moreover, what about the moral and ethical laws that govern all of us ?There may be disparities between everyone’s morals and sense of justice but we must agree that combating evil with evil is not the solution. As Light’s father himself states: “Anything obtained by killing people can never bring true happiness.”
On the contrary, we have Kira, who exclaims: “I am the God of the new world!”. His philosophy drives from the fact that regardless of how the act is done, as long as it profits the majority of humanity, it is acceptable. Therefore, as ‘God’ , it is his moral duty to rinse off this world from criminals. Since, “The world is rotten. The rotten should die.” and that it would be a neglect of his moral duty if he forgoes the Death Note.
Lord Acton has said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When the power is concentrated in the hands of a single person, it contaminates the scruples of their minds too. As is evident in the Death Note, power obscures the rationality that Light once possessed. What started off as a mission for the protection of humanity soon ends withthe desire to rule as the most powerful man in the world.
Can immense power benefit us or is it already doomed to begin with? There are always two sides of a coin. You are free to choose any but in all this debate, we must remember that there are always consequences to our actions. When one does not heed to them, then chaos is bound to happen.
Natasha Rawat studies English Literature at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Delhi University.