Paths of Injustice


This week, my ongoing efforts to be better cultured landed Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 film Paths of Glory on my television.

The generals in the French army order a regiment to take a German fortification during the First World War.  It’s an impossible command, and the attack fails, with large segments of the force pinned down such that to charge is to die instantly.  The general in immediate command demands a show trial and execution of three randomly chosen soldiers as an example to the others, and their colonel asks to represent them as their defense.

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The officers conducting the court martial hearing give Colonel Dax no chance.  They treat one soldier’s medals and proven bravery as no defense against the charge of cowardice in this case.  Another soldier’s testimony that he didn’t charge because he had been knocked unconscious by, and pinned under, a falling dead body is insufficient to overcome rank speculation that he could be lying and could have inflicted a serious head injury on himself after the fact.

Kubrick subtly interweaves the very human tendency of the generals to rationalize their acceptance of injustice because they had conflated their own interests with the good of the  military and the country.  In his closing argument, Colonel Dax expresses shame at being a member of the human race:  “The case made against these men is a mockery of all human justice.”

Watching that scene, I wondered how it is that we have not all been acculturated against such behavior.  (Unfairness in state and local politics were in my thoughts.)  But then my mind separated the themes of the movie and its imagery.  The court martial consisted of a group of white men in military costumes before a national flag in a large room at Schleissheim Palace.  One can’t deny that our society has been well trained to see injustice in such settings and with such characters as that.

We too easily lose sight of the reality that the particular cause in whose name human beings treat each other unjustly is not ideological or demographic.  Not only traditional authority types are wicked or prone to rationalizing harm to others.  Any one of us can fall into the same role.

Insisting in the name of identity politics or intersectionality that only certain types of people can be inhumane is a dangerous mistake that our civilization seems at risk of making.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Justin, I am ashamed of you for noticing that a group of French officers are “White men”. You expected Moroccan “pied noir” (black feet)? One must always be cautious about facts, and attitudes, as presented in military movies. Consider “Glory” which focuses on an attack by the 54th Massachusetts (Black) against a strongly held Confederate position in South Carolina. The movie focuses on the courage of the men (which it very well should, although many realized the position they had been put in and ran away) but ignores the fact that they were sent in as cannon fodder in a diversionary attack, without hope of success. Consider the “Dreyfus Affair”, always presented as an example of anti-Semitism. When I took history, it was understood that he got in trouble for resisting homosexual advances.

    • ShannonEntropy

      I think Justin’s point in noticing the whiteness of the officers is that due to the constant barrage of the PC SJW’s and the MSM we have come to automatically equate white men with racism / injustice. And the officious setting just reinforces that perception

      You can’t have all-white jury anymore if the defendant is black… but there wasn’t a single white male on OJ’s jury and nobody raised a peep

      Like I always say: people are sheeple, and it’s getting worse every day

  • Merle The Monster

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Justin proves the point of that saying with his bizarre movie review. The movie was made in 1957 in the US and is considered one the best anti war movies of all time. The absurdity of a military decision to execute their own soldiers in the middle of a war of attrition in order to save face for the generals stands in for the absurdity of war in general but Katz prefers to think of “unfairness in state and local politics”. With the same small mindedness he then wades into identity politics about the films imagery. This film was made in 1957 and Stanley Kubrick is known for his unique imagery but Katz apparently cannot escape his biases and political and social obsessions long enough to enjoy a truly memorable movie. You may also not see or enjoy the movie Breaker Morant which has a similar theme.