Friday, 12 April 2013

Ossi's Eleven (3 Stars)

"The love of money is the root of all evil" (1. Timothy 6:10)

Normally I'm fast to accept the wisdom of the Bible, but this verse has always seemed suspicious to me. There are other types of evil, such as killing someone who has slept with your wife, which have nothing to do with money. It wasn't till years later that I was informed by one of the translators of the 2003 revision of the Elberfelder Bible (the most accurate German translation, and probably more accurate than any current English translations) that the correct translation is "The love of money is a root of all evil". This sounds clumsy, both in English and German, but it makes more sense.

So if the love of money is only one root, what are the others? I was once told that 99% of all crimes are committed because of money or sex. Ah ha. Now we're getting closer. I can relate to this, even though I would replace the word "crimes" with "sins". Many things that were considered crimes in the past, such as homosexuality, are now considered normal in most countries. Going back a few centuries it used to be illegal in Europe to sleep with another man's wife. Under Islamic sharia law women can still be executed for infidelity, although the man involved isn't punished. The line between crime and sin is blurred, and it would be more accurate to call them "legal misdeeds" and "moral misdeeds". Laws and morals both change over time, though not at the same speeds. It's not illegal to sleep with another man's wife, but most people consider it to be "wrong". Other punishable crimes can result from marital infidelity, such as my example in the first paragraph. This is backed up by statistics in America. Although Americans claim that they buy guns for home defence, in 85% of cases where guns are used in the home the victim is the marriage partner or his/her lover when caught in the act. (Curiously, when a wife is unfaithful the husband usually shoots the lover, but when a husband is unfaithful the wife shoots the husband).

So now we have money and sex. What are the other causes of "evil", using the word in the widest possible terms?

Religion is a big reason for doing evil. The 9/11 attack wasn't carried out for monetary gain, it was an act of evil carried out in the name of a false religion. In past centuries Christianity committed evil in the name of God, but Islam undisputedly carries the banner of evil in today's religious world.

Politics and/or nationality are another reason for doing evil. I would like to lump them together, even though I can't think of a single word that adequately encompasses both. Politics cause evil deeds within a country, whereas nationality issues cause evil externally, such as war with a neighbouring country. Racism also falls into this category.

The Roman Catholic Church has a traditional list that it calls the "seven deadly sins", its own compilation of sins without any support from the Bible, so I won't quote them all here. I'll just mention greed and pride. They belong together as opposites. Greed is when I desire something that others have, whereas pride is a rejoicing that I have something that others don't have. I won't include greed in my list, because it's usually a consequence of another sin, such as the love of money or sex. Pride is a different case. In many cases it can be a result of other sins, but in some special cases it can stand in its own right. For instance, I can be proud of my honesty, which is arguably a "sin", though not a crime. Pride is never a crime in itself, though it is often questionable. Consider a person saying he is proud of his wife, proud that he's a man, proud of his nationality or proud of his skin colour. Any of these could lead to good, depending on the circumstances. Any of these could be considered bad, depending on the viewpoint of the person judging. I'll list pride as a cause of evil, even though it's only a potential cause.

That completes my list of causes of evil.
  1. The love of money
  2. Sex
  3. Religion
  4. Politics/Nationality
  5. Pride
How they divide in percentages is a matter of opinion. It also varies whether we mean the number of evils, or the number of victims of evils. One single act of religiously motivated evil can lead to hundreds of deaths. If I restrict myself to the number of evils I'd guess at money 70%, sex 20%, religion 5%, politics 4%, pride 1%.

Does all this have anything to do with the film I'm reviewing today? Only vaguely. The film is about a crime motivated by the love of money and sex, though we don't see the sex aspects till late in the film. The film takes place in Wolfer, a fictional town in former East Germany soon after the currency change to Euros. A local factory melts down old coins to use the metal to make sports trophies. Oswald Schneider, nicknamed Ossi (also a patronising name for people from East Germany), wants to rob coins worth 300,000 Marks ($200,000) from the factory with his friend Karl. As the plans progress more and more people are involved in the robbery, reducing the profit per person, until finally they have a gang of 11 people together, including former Stasi agents and East German rowing champions.

Though the film is intended as a comedy I didn't find it particularly funny. For me the funniest moment was when Oswald suggested they should steal a money transporter to carry the coins away.  He was asked why they shouldn't just steal a transporter full of money, because it's easier than robbing a factory and carrying out heavy bags of coins. His response was "because that's not the plan".

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