Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Irony of Batman

None of these ideas are my own - this is entirely the doing of Peter Rollins in his fabulous book, Insurrection. I just felt like this analogy was too good not to repeat. I'm not quoting it directly, but here's the idea:

Rollins challenges the notion of Batman - a billionaire who devotes his life to ridding his beloved city of street crime, largely due to the trauma of seeing his own parents murdered before his eyes. He diverts huge sums of money from his hulking family business to make this possible. Rollins wonders if, perhaps, Bruce Wayne might've made more of a difference in Gotham City if he'd simply used those vast sums of money to develop social institutions, like schools and public service organizations, to actually create the structures that support a stronger city.

Then Rollins then goes a step further, positing not only that Batman uses altruism as an excuse for pure revenge, but that Bruce Wayne doesn't really want a better city, since a city in which the poor have access to resources and education (and hope) is likely a city that will challenge the hegemony of his own business and ultimately affect his billionaire playboy lifestyle.

It's just classic - a great example of what I often call the machine analogy. If society is like a machine, Batman is devoting his time and resources to change what's coming out of the machine - Rollins wonders whether those resources would be better spent fixing the machine so it produces a product more to his liking, rather than trying to constantly alter the product that comes out. The extra step, recognizing that Wayne's own monopolistic interests and likely part of the cause for the problems in the machine in the first place. True transformation always costs us something; that's why we're so terrified of it.

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