Newman’s Nook: Self-Sacrifice and Machiavellian Thought

Ghost in the Shell: Arise - Ghost Tears asks provocative questions about self-sacrifice, what it means to be human, and the ends justifying the means.

WARNING – This series discussed has some nudity, violence, and other graphical content which may not be suitable for younger viewers.

The Ghost in the Shell: Arise movies and TV series are a re-imagined prequel to the Ghost in the Shell (GITS) movie universe. The third GITS: Arise film, Ghost Tears, crafts a fascinating storyline where our main character, Motoko Kusanagi, is in a personal romantic relationship with a man, Akira Hose, who works on prosthetics/cybernetic body parts. Hose ends up being intricately linked to the current case Kusanagi is investigating, a case which involves terrorists bombing a regional dam.

SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW

In this film, Hose is directly coordinating with continued villain characters Colonel Hozumi and Qhardi weapon’s smuggler, Dr. Zhinzhee Thied. They had been working with a virus which has infected cyber-brains called Fire-Starter and were actively involved in the terrorist attack. Using a programmed cyber-brain they are calling Scylla, they are able to control and force rigged cybernetic body parts to explode upon command. Hose was working with the enemies to try to save people while simultaneously falling in love with Kusanagi. This leads to a climactic point in the film where Hose has been infected with Scylla and has all the control over the rigged cybernetic body parts. As Kusanagi approaches him knowing she needs to stop him, he ends up killing himself to prevent the rigged body parts from begin triggered – including Kusanagi’s own leg. He kills himself and, in turn, the Scylla program to save countless others. There is a lot more to the plot than this individual component, but I want to focus here on Hose and his sacrificial death.

When you first meet Hose, he’s in Kusanagi’s bed. He’s charming, he’s handsome, and he’s the longest relationship Kusanagi has been involved in. He has a lofty goal to make cyborgs more accepted worldwide as people. He’s trying to bring more advanced cybernetic body parts to the third world. Yet, he also has secrets. He has been secretly working with the overall GiTS: Arise villains, giving them what they want (carefully placed potential explosives in cybernetic limbs) as they help him with his idealistic goal. He’s doing the wrong thing for what he feels is the right reason. His sacrificial death at the end is the culmination of his realization that the ends did not justify the means. This brings us to two important points.

First, is does doing the wrong thing for the “right reasons” okay? We ask ourselves this question on a regular basis. This is a classic philosophical debate, but one that often lands in Machiavellian logic. In The Prince, Machiavelli implies in Chapter 18 that whatever the Prince does for his own reasons is right and honest. No matter what the leader does, it should be viewed as right if the outcome is right. Hose takes this mentality as he assists in terrorist attacks to secretly be helping out his third world endeavors and freeing of captured Qhardi people. The problem, however, is that this mentality is absolutely not okay.

The mentality of doing wrong things for the “right reasons” means that every law or definition of right/wrong is relative. There is no definitive right or wrong because if the ends are justified, then the means do not matter. A person using this mindset can justify all manner of atrocities in the name of a safe and better future. In their mind, that makes it okay. They are wrong. As a Christian I have to first ask myself if there is a defined right and defined wrong. From a Christian perspective, that answer is always “yes.” God defines that which is right and that which is wrong through His revealed Word in the Bible. Murder, lying, theft, and aiding in terrorism are not righteous in the eyes of the Lord. They are always fundamentally wrong. We are called to show love to one another, period. Helping in the murder of others and assisting weapons smugglers so you can eventually help some third world people by providing them prosthetics isn’t showing love to the people who you are allowing to be murdered. Sure, you are loving on these third world people, but at what cost? In Mark 8:36, Jesus asked what good was it for a person to gain the whole world, but lose their soul. When we are murdering innocent civilians out of some belief we will be able to raise money to do something righteous, we have lost our own soul.

Second, Hose in the end displays some Christ-like love by killing himself. His suicide saved thousands of lives, allowing the Scylla controls to die with him. In John 15:13, Christ said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Here we have Hose laying his life down not only for friends, but for countless people he does not even know. While an imperfect comparison, Christ gave up His life for the salvation of mankind. He allowed Himself to be brutally beaten and murdered to save us from our own sinful nature. Hose’s willingness to save others through his own death is Christ-like in that respect. His willingness earlier in the film to work with terrorists to try to help others, however, was not. But, I digress.

We are given example after example in anime of people giving up their lives for the sake of others. In Hi-sCoool! Seha Girls, the girls end up discovering they were not people, but video game consoles the whole time. They then willingly sacrifice their lives to become a toy for children. Jibanyan does the same when given the option to come back to life in Yo-Kai Watch (you can read my previous article on that topic here). Hose ends up in the same category as these characters, but he gets there after a long period of self-righteous attitude where he viewed himself as the hero.

When Hose finally sheds the view that his evil actions made him a hero, he became free and everything became clearer. When we rid ourselves of the shackles of sin and evil in our lives, things become clearer for us as well. The Lord brings things to our attention we may have missed before. In Hose’s case, it was the love standing right in front of him and the thousands of people who’s lives he had placed in jeopardy. For us, it could be any number of things.

Drive the evil from yourself as best as you can. Believing yourself to be righteous because you find an end goal to be good is wrong on all levels. Good goals do not justify illicit or evil means.

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Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Tears can be streamed legally on Netflix or purchased as physical media on Amazon

Matthew Newman is an environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He's also a husband, beard aficionado, Dad of four beautiful children, blogger, and all around geeky guy from Baltimore County. When he's not chasing his kids or working, he's probably asleep.
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