Harry Potter Battles Big Brother
James J. Murtagh, M.D.
of the Phoenix" flies into philosophy, civics, religion, ethics; transporting
Potter to new ethereal realms
By James J. Murtagh, M.D.
(James Murtagh spent 20 years as an Intensive Care Unit physician. Dr. Murtagh is a member of Semmelweis Society International, and has hosted several Congressional forums on the Healthcare Integrity Project.)
alert- Consider seeing the movie before reading this Op Ed .
funny thing besets Harry Potter on the way to Hogwarts this year. He not only has to
battle evil. He has to battle the banality of evil. More importantly, he introduces
his viewers to a whole new realm of ideas.
is the real unseen ghost of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".
Hogwarts becomes ruled by, a mindless 1984-like bureaucracy, where Ignorance is
Bliss, Slavery is the Freedom, and War is Peace. A cold war descends, graying newly
bleak walls with Stalinist-type propaganda. The news media becomes a mouthpiece for
the corrupt establishment, creating perfect soil for the real evil, Lord Voldemort,
to prepare a blitzkrieg. Sure, all wizards and witches are equal, but some are more
delusional, self-righteous McCarthyite leader of the Ministry of Magic ignores facts,
apparently believing he is divinely inspired. Sound familiar? No doubt, future
wizards and witches will write term papers on why England slept as the storm
witches conduct witch trials, it appears. Harry has to appear before a rigged
kangaroo court that gives him less due process than Salem gave witches. Harry is
exonerated at the last minute, but it is clear the witches and wizards persecute
their own much more effectively than normal humans (muggles).
hidebound in-fighting Kafkaesque establishment preserves its own petty perks and even
if they have to torture and or attempt murder students. They ignore the inconvenient
truths their world faces. They are, to paraphrase Al Gore and Winston Churchill,
passing from an era of procrastination to a time of consequences.
the magic out of learning and magic? Only J.K. Rowling could turn such a fiendish
feat. Rowling is the genius who brought children to delight in reading, and to
re-envision school as a sanctuary, where well scrubbed kids might delight in their
old-school ties and don's gowns. But, in an incredible turn, everything is flipped,
nothing can be taken at face value, and the children learn more important lessons,
including: freedom isn't fee.
allies lie to you, possibly to protect you, possibly for a greater good, or because
are being themselves used, or possibly for darker reason. Harry enjoys his first
kiss, but moments later the girl betrays him Mata Hari-like to the Gestapo-like headmistress. But the girl had
been forced to betray him with truth potion. Was the truth potion given by a man
trying to help or hurt Harry?
Potter studies more spycraft than witchcraft. The film has the feel of John le Carré,
with double and triple agents aching to come in from the cold, some after decades of
apparent deep undercover work. True allegiances are deeply hidden. Where lays the
ultimate allegiance of Severus Snape? Is Dumbledore
a master strategist who could even outwit George Smiley? Harry-and we- do not
know who is the puppet and who is the puppetmaster. The final installment of the
series is one of the most anticipated in the history of the written word.
who commit atrocities are not necessarily evil. Seemingly bad acts may be a ruse to
infiltrate cells of much worst baddies bent on Hogwarts destruction. A good man go to
the gulag (Azkaban) just to burrow his way into the graces of a terrorist cell.
Something slouches toward Hogwarts waiting to be born, and the conflicted Harry rues
that ever he was born to set things right.
Potter meets the bad, the good, and the ugly, encountering philosophies of Hegel,
Kant, John Stuart Mills, Nietsche, De Cartes, and Feminism, as he explores his Brave
New World. Mortality, and the idea of fates worse than death, are explored in great
depth. "I think, therefore I can do something to improve my world." Harry
at his best ask, so why should the change in the world not start with me?
This is a
new delightfully complex Potter. Harry Potter helped children worldwide to love
reading. Now, ever so quietly, and insidiously, Rowling weaves in advanced
philosophy, human freedom, religion, and ethics. Young viewers sop up new lessons
possibly without realizing. Even better, they are discussing and debating these ideas
with their friends, in a whole new domino effect. In short, Rowling may kindle a
rebirth in critical thinking, just as she kindled her original boom in reading.
spell over young readers delivers her most valuable message: "Distrust
authority- all authority."
Harry Potter himself says:
the rebellion begin."
James J. Murtagh Jr., MD, Atlanta GA 30329