Last night I watched Wonder Woman for the first time. It is a great movie–probably my favorite superhero movie since the Dark Knight–and a true hero’s tale that is refreshing among the sea of dark and turbulent hero’s that have lead movies over the past decade.
There are lots of great insights you can pull from Wonder Woman (Is ‘Wonder Woman’ War Propaganda by Dan Sanchez; 9 Reasons Wonder Woman is the Best Super-Hero by James Walpole), but I want to talk about a small but powerful scene that you could have easily missed.
Around the halfway point of the movie, Wonder Woman (Diana) and her fellowship are in Belgium approaching the front lines of the war. They have just met up with The Cheif, a smuggler who will join their band and lead them to the front. Diana learns that The Cheif travels back and forth between the two sides, smuggling goods.
British tea from the Germans…
…German beer for the British.
And Edgar Rice Brurroughs
novels for both.
The Cheif explains that he has no side in this fight and that instead, he is here because he can use his skillset to make a large profit.
– So, who do you fight for in this war?
– I don’t fight.
– You’re here for profits then?
– No better place to be.
– Nowhere better to be than in a
war where you don’t take a side.
– I have no where else.
The last war took
everything from my people.
We have nothing left.
At least here…
– Who took that from your people?
– His people.
In Diana’s (and most peoples) view this is not right. This is a battle between good and evil and to enrich yourself personally in this situation is wrong. But the opposite is true. The Cheif is one of the most virtuous people in the area and it is exactly his profit motive that drives him as a force for good.
In the midst of this hell on earth, where thousands are dying and being mutilated, you have someone who is risking his safety to improve the lives of the people around him. While the governments and leaders of armies on either side are engaged in the act of destruction, there still exists entrepreneurship and selfish profiteers looking to improve their own lives, and lives of others. They are still brewing beer, writing books, and working to make life better.
It is a stunning reminder of how commerce facilitates cooperation even in the extremes of antagonism.
The English soldiers may fight German soldiers all day, but they still want to drink German beer at night. There is no denying the quality.
The German soldiers may fight the English all day, but they still want to drink English tea in the morning. There is no denying the quality.
It is heartening, but profoundly saddening at the same time.
It reminds you of what could have been if the state and the leaders in charge at the time didn’t create this conflict, normal people could have experienced this beautiful cooperation. You wouldn’t need renegades on horseback to smuggle goods across the trenches, you could a fleet of ships and planes transporting beer, tea, and books instead of bombs, soldiers, and coffins.
Most of us live in places where we are enriched by the entrepreneurs and craftsmen in other countries. We can drink German beer, eat Mexican avocados, use Korean electronics, and most other things we want from most countries. But there are still places where the flow of goods is a dark and dangerous trade. Where renegades like the Cheif travel in the dark to bring goods that brighten the lives of normal people.