There is a scene in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer that is
considered by many the master scene. It’s after the atomic bomb has been used
and Oppenheimer delivers a victory speech to the cheers of a crowd. In the
scene, we can see his mind start to wander, to silence, to a recognition of
what he has done with the murder of over 200,000 people. That moment is his
awakening, the introduction of guilt, and for that reason, that he grew a
conscience, Oppenheimer was viewed as a hero. After all, this guilt meant that
he was human.
But Oppenheimer is a true western hero. He is someone that
is fighting his guilt after the atrocity committed, not during, not before.
After they were all dead there is a sense of guilt. Yet in that movie there is
no humanization of those he killed, just the guilt at the forefront and the
celebration that such humane thoughts have seeped into his soul.
That afterthought, that guilt is the true mark of western
society. The protagonist is always them, it’s always how they feel, how they
process what they’ve done, it’s never about those they have hurt. That’s why we
can see the parallels in today’s world. Genocide first, and then perhaps when a
great many Palestinians have died, suffered and have been displaced, the
ancestors of western societies, or perhaps even their current leaders might be
again the true heroes when they feel a little guilt. Maybe invading Iraq was
wrong, maybe too many innocent people have been killed. Yet still Iraqis are
never human, Palestinians are never human. Humanity is reserved for the killers
and the compassion they might feel or even remorse after they’ve committed and
supported a genocide.