One of the world’s most famous baddies, Alan Rickman, died this week. In this post, the counter-revolutionary message of Die Hard, the movie that propelled Rickman to stardom, is presented. Such an analysis is especially important in these days of revolutionary fervour.
By definition, counter-revolutionaries ‘die hard.’ Their ‘dying’ is self-imposed. They do not want to be ‘born again’ into a world where the values they cherish & have internalized are trampled upon and converted into museum pieces for the future generations to ponder strangely over. The succour of the counter-revolutionary is his ‘hardness;’ everyone else is weak, to the point of effeminacy, easily bargaining and trading away their heritage. Even if he is broken and despised, the counter-revolutionary has made his ‘stand’ and the stand is what counts not the victory.
In Die Hard, Hans superficially appears to oppose the class enemy. The Japanese executive is ordered to turn his ill-gotten gains over to ‘representatives of the people;’ he refuses and is summarily executed. It is a violent end but the revolutionary has a higher moral purpose … at least to the outside world. We are invited by the revolutionary to ask questions concerning the executive. How did he acquire his wealth? Did he gain it through corruption? Or child labour? Or merely from profiting from an unfair advantage? DId he subvert democratic institutions?: these are the questions the revolutionary poses us to us. We argue about these matters and in doing so we have entered the mind of the revolutionary.
Of course, revolution is merely a subterfuge for personal aggrandizement. The counter-revolutionary knows that. He knows that it is better for a private individual, many private individuals, to amass wealth than for that wealth to concentrate in the hands of a ‘worker’s representative.’ And it is logic to suppose that deep down the revolutionary is merely jealous of the executive. He wants the wealth and power of the executive without the hard work.
Forces of law and order arrive on the scene to confront Hans and his crew. Superficially they are like the counter-revolutionary John McClane. They desire to ‘take out’ the German-led terrorists. But they are weak because they lack conviction in their inherited values. Once an attack is repulsed they resort to compromise. While they speak the language of defiance, deep down the forces of law and order have succumbed to a political of economic rationalism and that emerges once the need for drastic action arrives. They are content to ‘live soft.’
Economic rationalism becomes even more apparent when a businessman tries to negotiate with Hans in the audio presence of McClane. The businessman knows a little about dialectical materialism which he understands merely to be a form of compromise. In reality, the businessman is a necessary step to the dictatorship of the proletariat for the political Hans. The entrepreneur is useful for a time but doomed by history to perish and the act of ‘disappearing’ the businessman performs without much of a whimper.
On the other hand, Hans & McClane are unable to communicate. Hans has been raised in the spirit of liberalism but wants to accelerate the outcomes of liberalism in a revolutionary, as opposed to an incremental, manner. McClane is perplexing to Hans: he has the same uncompromising drive as Hans but why isn’t he ‘one of them;’ one of the moderate technicians?
The revolutionary becomes increasingly powerful but it is a power that is a product of liberal weakness. On the outside the police condemn the counter-revolutionary and a journalist puts McClane in a bind by exposing his family life. Whether for reasons of strategy or ambition, the liberal-technical corps of the modern state enable the revolutionaries to gain the upper hand. Following of procedural rules to deal with a revolutionary merely compounds the errors of the administrative polity. By contrast, the counter-revolutionary respects law and order but he is aware that revolutionaries place us in a bind whereby our obedience of our own rules sows our downfall.
Nonetheless, Powell begins to be drawn into the counter-revolutionary rationale. Such ‘drawing’ surfaces for Powell first as a ‘feeling’ for McClane. Later Powell stirs into outright defiance of the liberal-technical order. This is normal for progress of the counter-revolution. Counter-revolutionaries gain support only slowly. The course of events proves the earlier actions of the counter-revolutionary to be correct but only to a few who lack stubborn pride. The fact that only a few understand his message solidifies the nerve of the counter-revolutionary; he knows that it is often too soon for most people to hear the awfulness of the picture he paints.
At the end there is a victory but the counter-revolutionary leaves unanswered questions. People have died because of the counter-revolutionary action. Could these have been prevented? Could Hans have been reformed and brought into the economic-technical process? Should the journalist have the right to speak freely even at the expense of the counter-revolution? Should Powell have broken ranks and what implications does an imperfection of the command structure hold for a positivistic jurisprudence? Will Hans attain martyrdom and so induce an even more determined assault on the Rechsstaat?
Those are moral questions the counter-revolutionary relishes and the revolutionary threatens us to avoid.