Monday, August 11, 2008

Scenes from my Life

Last week, a friend share this article "Batman, by nature a political being", so I decided to share it with my one and only, since he is both a comic book freak and a political theorist by training. I sent it with a one liner "This is a good article, I thought that you should read it". And THIS is what I got back. I adore being married to a man who can think this deeply about life in general, and comic books specifically.

"This is an interesting article. The author, however, also appears to have not read very deeply into his Aristotle. Man is classified as a political animal for his need to coalesce into societies (ranging in size from families to city-states). He would have had a very difficult time including the Joker in that classification. When the Joker makes his most political speech in the hospital room with Harvey Dent, he extols the virtues of chaos and essentially arguing against society when he condemns our ability to cope with even the most horrific circumstances so long as they are “part of the plan.” Leaving aside the argument of whether that is a strength or weakness of society, the Joker throughout the film establishes his anti-social credentials through the indiscriminate slaughter of not only enemies but allies and the attempt to subvert both official and unofficial authority. Aristotle differentiate between men, considering varying levels of morality and self-interest in his examination of types of political rule, ethics and his attempt to understand “The Good,” but the Joker more closely resembles the categories of life he places outside of mankind, those of beasts and gods. The better archetype to use in comparing the Joker and Batman is the somewhat tired comparison of the two views of man’s nature espoused by Hobbes and Rousseau. While both authors saw things with more complexity than the traditional views ascribed to them, Rousseau’s idea that man has an inherent ability to empathize with others is well embodied by Batman and the Joker is a reasonable approximation of fearful and violent state described in Hobbes’ most famously quoted passage. Even more astutely the hero and villain respond to the society from those perspectives. The Joker, using the same example as is in the article, clearly demonstrates his belief that when the authority on each boat is demonstrably unable to protect the citizens that self-interest and self-preservation will overwhelm morality and the sense of what is right. Batman’s position is not so clearly aligned with Rousseau’s, though both would admit their society was broken. Rousseau was distrustful of society. Batman is not, though he is distrustful of the ability of those in positions of authority to maintain a society that is good for its citizens. An interesting area to examine, however, would be the fact that the biggest problem Gotham has, the obstacle faced by Lt. Gordon and DA Dent, is corruption. Corruption is largely a question of wealth and wealth distribution. One factor that allows Bruce Wayne to become Batman is his wealth. So the source of the city's problems and its protector are largely the same.

Think about it.


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