Ethics Quote Of The Week: “Sasha Williams” On “The Walking Dead”


I referred to this speech in today’s Warm-Up, but couldn’t find the video or a transcript. I finally found the clip: no context is really necessary, because the words are based in basic ethical philosophy. The scene takes place in a hallucination; Rick Grimes, the central character in AMC’s apparently endless zombie apocalypse show, believes he is dying. On a field of bodies, he is met by Sasha Williams (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), a character who perished earlier in the series.

Sasha’s encouraging and comforting words to Rick are as concise and accurate as description of how I view ethical conduct and their essential value to civilization as I have encountered in scholarly texts or classical reference works. (This is why I am so attentive to popular culture.) The key words:

We change each other. We help each other. We make each other better. And it never ends…It’s not about you or me or any one of us. It’s about all of us…and I don’t believe that it just evens out. I believe it always crosses over to the good.

That’s exactly what I believe. And I didn’t even have to go through a zombie apocalypse to learn it.

22 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: “Sasha Williams” On “The Walking Dead”

  1. I knew there was a solid reason for hanging out here. I believe, now, much the same…in part because of things I have learned from you.

  2. Maybe her quote as a standalone is a great sentiment and optimistic outlook for mankind. But I hope it isn’t your essential core belief in exclusion to other key factors – such as a core belief in *what* ethical system the people operate with.

    Her quote within the context of the entire story of The Walking Dead is actually quite a terrifying endorsement of consequentialism. The show hinges on terrible gangs of miscreants terrorizing the hapless. Now the central core group (which in retrospect of the entire story arc is really just one of those terrible gangs of miscreants but maybe two notches less bad) is breaking apart in differences of governing ethics worldviews, all of whom are highly questionable in their motives and realistic hopes.

    Sasha is essentially saying no matter how rotten we treat each other it’ll all work out? Or is she endorsing Rick’s teenager air headed optimism that everything will just magically work out?

    I don’t know. As quote, isolated from the story arc, Sasha makes a good quote about the ability of ethical living to affect the greater society, but even then, only so long as the “ethics operating system” is a valid one.

    Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but having been an avid watcher of TWD since it’s beginning, I increasingly loathe when the show tries to push a moralizing message in words that is completely unendorsed by the action and consequences… or worse is designed to subtly endorse the action.

    • Well, in the context of the show and t5he episode, that wasn’t really Sasha, but Rick’s own fevered feedback rationalizing his own stumbling path. However, the statement was accurate. It doesn’t say that actions are ethical if they have good results. It says that the cumulaite effect of ethical conduct is good. That’s almost a tautology, but it’s an essential one to remember.

  3. But we’re not BECOMING good, nor headed to it. Life is an inherent good, and our lives are all full of things to savor and be grateful for, if we could only be rid of our terrible habit of relentlessly enumerating the negative, while looking at any positive we become aware of with suspicion. I learned a long time ago that our experience with life is entirely a matter of what perspectives we choose, and how adept we become at seeing even the worst of it as opportunities for growth and renewal.

    • It occurs to me, slick, that this is just what happened up in Washington State a few years back. The Republican candidate for Governor appeared to have won by a very slim majority…until a ballot box with 600 Democratic votes was ‘found’ by an election worker in his back seat.

  4. Though you’ve given up on Walking Dead as an examination of ethics in a peculiar context, might I recommend Netflix’s “The Last Kingdom”?

    Based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels, it is essentially a kind of loose “origin story” for England (whether he intended it to be so or not). While Uhtred of Bebbanburg is our protagonist, the story is very much about the efforts of Alfred (eventually to be named “the Great”) to unify a nation-state that would eventually be known as England.

    I can see how in the 1st season, most people would lose interest, while the 2nd season tries to appeal to “Game of Thrones” types, yet the 3rd season (the current season) really comes into its own and finds it’s comfort zone. I think, if you were to watch all 3 seasons, you could really find some solid ethics topics and lessons in the character of Alfred, who seems always on the edge of a nervous breakdown to make the right decisions with the optimal benefit for the nation in question…while, like most leaders, are still slightly motivated by personal ambition.

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