According to Geoffrey Walker, a key principle of the rule of law is that “the people (including … the government) should be ruled by the law and obey it.”1 In George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), there is no rule of law, and the people have no rights. The film serves as a warning: Without the rule of law, barbarians will take what they want by force.
In post-nuclear war Australia, there are no private property rights. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules the land as a dictator. There is a vast supply of water, but Joe only opens the floodgates briefly. With a barbarian in control of the land’s resources, the people struggle to survive.
Immortan Joe considers people as his property. The Blood Bags are forced to give blood to keep the War Boys alive; the War Boys are military and work slaves; and the Five Wives are sex slaves to bear children. When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leaves with the five women in search of freedom, Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagan) rebukes Joe: “They are not your property. You cannot own a human being.” But Joe does not agree. He rides with his War Boys to get his property back.
The War Boys are willing to die for Immortan Joe because of their religious beliefs. They believe that if they die in battle, they will enter Valhalla, similar to how Islamic jihadists believe they will go to Paradise if they are martyred.2 The War Boys are barbarians because of their religion.
Immortan Joe has taught the War Boys the doctrines of a neo-Norse religion. Joe is both a spiritual and military ruler; there is no separation between religion and state. Joe uses religion as a means to an end, indoctrinating the War Boys, so that he can manipulate them to increase his power and possessions.
Not everyone in the film is a barbarian. When Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa first meet, they try to kill each other, but later become allies, and Max gives his own blood to save Furiosa’s life. They do not believe in Joe’s religion, and they do not murder (or steal from) innocent people. They live by a secular moral code.
Immortan Joe is a barbarian because he has rejected Judeo-Christian morality (e.g., love thy neighbor, do not murder, do not steal). The film reminds us that a peaceful society is dependent not only on everyone having food, shelter, and clothing, but also on each person’s beliefs about right and wrong. In a world without the rule of law, people can still live according to a higher law: the law of conscience.
- Rule of Law Institute of Australia,” accessed October 24, 2015, http://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/principles/
- Sahih al-Bukhari Book 53 Hadith 352. https://muflihun.com/bukhari/53/352