The ‘Purge’ is a fictional annual 12-hour government shutdown where all crime and violence is permitted without any consequences or reprisal. Director James De Monaco’s successful film “The Purge” and this year’s sequel “The Purge: Anarchy” has triggered many debates as to whether or not a real life purge could actually work and should our governments try it out? The Purge franchise is generally interpreted as condemning the exact violence they are depicting: The future year in which the films take place, 2022, is intentionally just a little too close for comfort, in order to draw dramatic and exaggerated attention to our own less barbaric, less disturbing, but more significant – real – issues with violence and inequality in society.
Some argue that people who support a purge might be more obedient and loyal to the government throughout the year if they know they will soon be getting their ‘reward’. On the other hand, most might live in total fear, anxiously awaiting the day where their lives could be turned upside down, planning their survival. A real life purge would ultimately test people’s characters; would it truly be a dog eat dog world out there or would people band together?
Would people spend all year plotting a way to kill, to steal, or to just survive? A 12-hour period once a year where absolutely anything and everything goes sounds totally barbaric and could unravel everything civilization has built. However some people, including behavioural psychologists, have proposed some chillingly logical arguments to defend what seems like an utterly illogical idea. Of course, however you twist it, it seems the bottom line is that the “advantages” of a purge pale in comparison to the inhumane utilitarian ideals that would drive a real life purge – but we’ll allow you to make up your own mind.
Some argue that a real life purge would actually help the economy. People will be freed, once a year, of all pressure and frustration and will be able to start anew afterwards, energized and ready to work for the next year. People will want to support and help the government by working all year so that they will be able to sustain an annual purge. The homeless and the poor, unable to defend themselves, will be eliminated in the purge – or those with a strong survival instinct will use a purge to become wealthy.
Reality would probably not follow this rhythm. The aftermath of a purge would, in fact, be more detrimental to the economy than helpful. Banks will be robbed, companies will be defrauded, stores and shops will be raided and houses and cars will be up for the taking. A 12-hour period of “everything goes” can single-handedly completely unravel an entire economy and by the time everyone bounces back from that, it will be time for the next purge. Not to mention the fact that insurance premiums would be unsustainably high in a ‘purge’-friendly society.
4. Stress Release?
One of the ideas behind the fictional purge is that humankind has stored up anger that needs to be kept under control in our daily lives: Pressures from work, school and family members can have us all on edge, and most of the time we need to just bite our tongues in order to keep the peace. There’s only so long that you can put on a fake smile and hold polite conversation until you need to run into the next room and scream into a pillow. The logic behind a real life purge is that we would hold onto all that anger and frustration all year, just waiting to release it during the 12-hour period in which it is deemed socially acceptable. The weight of everyone’s pressures would lessen throughout the year knowing that day of release is coming.
It’s a provocative idea, but it only works if you believe that we’re all passive aggressive and secretly simmering. The reality is, of course, that if you’re an angry person then one day to let it out won’t change that. In fact, many psychologists hold that when, for example, psychopaths break the taboo of an act of violence, they are more likely to act again and increasingly regularly.
3. Reduced Crime Rates?
If you can commit any crime you please, no matter how big or small, during the purge, why would you succumb to possible legal consequences by committing the crime on any other day of the year? The crime rates throughout the year would fall drastically. A real life purge would allow people to commit the petty crimes they are otherwise too scared to try. Most people wouldn’t resort to killing sprees – they’d be more excited about finally ripping their engine down the highway, or peacefully robbing a bank, or walking into a shopping centre and snatching every designer item in sight. The violence would take place, but contrary to what the movies suggest, it probably wouldn’t dominate.
This may be the most horrifying but pertinent argument for a real life purge; some argue that a day of violence could keep the problem of overpopulation at bay. A “survival of the fittest” technique, it would wean out the weakest members of society. Only the strong will survive and prosper.
Of course; if we weren’t human and if morals and innate empathy did not play a factor, a potential annual killing spree might do the trick to keep our population in check and to protect the environment in which we live. But as per the civilisations built by mankind, a strong society has the moral obligation and a sense of duty to take care of its weakest members. It’s highly improbable if not impossible that a normal society would en masse decide to kill off its weakest members one night a year.
The original ‘The Purge’ movie only focuses on the day of the purge and not the events leading up to it, nor the aftermath. This leaves viewers with a grey area on what life looks like before and after the purge – perhaps viewers are content with the idea that everything is normal, and actually pretty great, on every other day of the year. The reality? Loved ones might be hurt or lost, homes broken into and destroyed and valuables stolen. Although the government might start back up and running again the next day and life will go on as usual, the collective consciousness might not be able to revert back so easily.