In the movie Do the Right Thing
In the movie Do the Right Thing, a series of events leads up to a violent outbreak in front of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. The buildup of events ends with Mookie, the pizza delivery boy, throwing a trash can through the front window of the restaurant. Today I will be explaining why I do not believe that Mookie’s actions of throwing the trash can were justified. I will explain my reasoning in the following paragraphs by providing support to my claim, giving objections to my views, and responding to those objections.
Personally, I believe that if everyone resorted to violence when they felt frustrated or restricted by something, then we would be left with overwhelming destruction and minimal solutions. Kant’s universal law formulation states that an action is only deemed right if everyone could consistently act the same way to make it a general rule. When Mookie threw the trash can, he chose to let hate win and that is not a general rule to allow everyone to follow because that doesn’t lead to a plausible solution. This was proven when everyone stormed into the restaurant right after the window shattered and completely destroyed the pizzeria, even setting in on fire. Mookie’s actions only escalated the situation. There were many other things Mookie could’ve done that would’ve shown that he was taking a stand. For example, he could’ve quit his job to make a statement against Sal which is a more acceptable use of Kant’s universal law formation because everyone could use this as a general rule. He also could’ve tried talking to Sal calmly to explain how the community feelings about the wall of fame and ask politely to work on finding a solution together.
A possible objection to my thesis is that without violence, some issues would never be taken seriously enough to change the outcome. The community had become fed up with being treated poorly. The cops had even killed a man of color right in front of everyone where a witness declared “It’s as plain as day, they didn’t have to kill the boy!” and another shouted “He died because he had a radio!” If Mookie hadn’t started the uproar, things in the community may have never changed and in that case, the situation would require violence to make a difference. To this point, I would refer to rule consequentialism which states that the rightness of an action is based on whether it is obligatory, acceptable, or prohibited for a rule whose consequences are most favorable. Because Mookie’s action would then be required in order for the community to acknowledge the poor treatment of black people, Mookie’s actions would then be justified.
In response to this objection, we are not given a clear picture on whether Radio Raheem’s death was enough to spark a change in the community or not. We are given a hint that Sal starts to understand as he is standing in front of the pizzeria, looking at the community members as the cops drive Radio Raheem’s body away because he says to the crowd: “Do what you got to do.” In my opinion this shows me that Sal is starting to understand his role in the situation and take ownership, which in turn would mean that according to rule consequentialism, Mookie’s actions wouldn’t have been necessary to change the distasteful treatment of the black community.
In conclusion, I believe that Mookie’s actions are not justifiable. According to Kant’s universal law formulation, it isn’t acceptable to use violence as a general fix to every situation, therefore it is not right for Mookie to use violence. Supporting evidence from the movie also suggests that the death of Radio Raheem was enough to spark a change in the community which shows us that according to rule consequentialism, Mookie’s actions are also not defensible. If Mookie wanted to show that he was taking a stand, he could’ve publicly quit his job or even politely started a conversation with Sal to find a better solution to the wall of fame issue. For these reasons, Mookie’s actions are not justified from my perspective.
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