“In what did I not doubt? With respect to crime and virtue I was in doubt; I doubted that the one was blamable and the other praiseworthy. Are not all things subjected to the law of necessity?”
Here is the chapter from George Borrow’s Lavengro that the two doomed men in that scene quote. The title of this post likewise comes from that chapter.
I have a few further thoughts on The Proposition. In an earlier post I implied that I approved of Captain Stanley’s “proposition,” but that’s not quite right. For one, Stanley himself tells Charlie Burns not only that his older brother Arthur must be “stopped” but that the reason he wants Charlie to kill Arthur, rather than let bounty hunters “stop” him, is to “hurt” Arthur, to show him that he is a “man like other men.” For another, there is an interesting and surely intentional juxtaposition between two scenes in which two very different men remind Stanley that he is not the “judge and jury.” The first man to tell him this is Charlie, after Stanley tells him he intends to have his younger brother Mikey hanged on Christmas Day, unless Charlie kills Arthur. The second man to tell him this is Stanley’s superior, after Stanley tells him that he doesn’t believe Mikey is responsible for the monstrous crimes of his brother Arthur. For a third, Stanley is determined to defend Mikey by any means necessary from the townspeople who intend to flog him, until his own wife joins the townspeople and asks him what if the pregnant woman Arthur had raped and murdered had been her. Then he caves, and permits the fatal flogging to go forward. (Notably, the brief “argument” against the flogging he makes to his wife is not based on Mikey’s innocence but on his prescient apprehension that the flogging will be their “death sentence.”)
There is no room in a just society for “rewarding” a defendant for “accepting responsibility” for his “crimes” at the point of a gun, whether that “acceptance of responsibility” manifests itself by an expression of remorse / coerced “confession” at a guilty plea hearing or by snitching on / betraying one’s partners in “crime.”
Obviously, we do not live in a just society.
The scene from The Proposition I’ve linked to above suggests Charlie should have “stopped” Arthur long before the events portrayed in the movie began. If he had done so, Mikey wouldn’t have been flogged to death. At the end of the movie, Charlie accepts responsibility.