“It’s not what you did, son, that angers me so. It’s who you did it to.”
“Who? The f****** nobody?”
“That ‘f****** nobody’… is John Wick.”
– Viggo Tarasov & Iosef Tarasov, John Wick
I have not actually seen this movie, but I am familiar with the story and I have seen this iconic scene enough times on YouTube that I could probably recite the entire exchange by heart. For those who do not know, John was formerly an assassin of particular skill, forged of, as Viggo puts it, focus, commitment, and sheer will. He has done things that Viggo still recalls, things he thought were impossible. Put bluntly, he fears John, because the man has proven unstoppable in the past. And now his young, arrogant, entitled son has ignorantly trespassed against this, the most dangerous of men, in a most terrible and grievous fashion. In short: they’re hosed, and Viggo knows it.
It is interesting to me how Viggo, a crime lord and businessman, has no qualms with whatever crime his son committed, nor whatever harm he has done. Neither does he have any lingering love or loyalty towards John, as such concepts are largely foreign to men such as he. No, he doesn’t care what has been done, and he doesn’t care who it was done to… except that this particular “who” can actually hurt them back.
Look at nature, at the wild beasts within, both predator and prey. What do they care about? Does a pack of hyenas care for whatever a mother rhino might feel when they go after her baby? Does a spider care about the panic of the insects caught in her web, or feel any loyalty to the male spiders she mates with? Does the cannibalistic preying mantis care that what it eats might be the same species? Do baby sharks in the womb care about their kin as they eat each other? Do alligators care for the desperate need which drives the zebra to come close enough to the water to prey upon? Do lions care whether their prey is a baby elephant or a sick, elderly antelope?
Nope. Not one bit, any of them.
But every beast in the world cares when their “prey” can hurt them back.
It’s why lions run from angry elephants and hippos, why wolves are wary of a stag’s antlers, why herds of all sorts gather their young within ranks of large, formidable adults: because predators thrive only so long as they can avoid reprisals.
It’s hilarious to me how Viggo calls John, trying to talk him out the reprisal which Viggo knows is coming, by saying, “Let us not resort to our baser instincts and resolve this like civilized men.” Would those be “baser instincts” like his son displayed when he invaded a man’s home, attacked him, hurt him, and took what was his? Yeah, sure, now he cares about civilized behavior, instead of beastly behavior, when he’s the one on the receiving end.
Personally, I think one can make a very compelling argument that simply destroying such beasts in human skin may be one of the most civilized things we can do: erase the proven danger to good, innocent people, to their children and their pets. If it is savagery to attack and take what they want just because they want it, then what can it be, besides noble and civilized, to stop such savagery by the only means which will actually, truly, permanently stop them?
Of course, even that comes with a danger of savagery, if one permits cruelty or cold malice to make residence within one’s heart, no matter how justified it may be. It does not do well to become a monster like unto the enemy.
And yet the rest of the unrelenting truth remains. Some people, beasts in human skin, will not be stopped by laws or other rules, or by compassion of any kind, including loyalty. Such can only be met with force, because only force will stop them. Only fear for their own well-being will stop them, knowing that they are facing something at least as dangerous as themselves. Only chains and prison walls will stop them.
And sometimes only death will stop them.