Justice and Penal Issues

Batman Is The Problem!

So I got into an argument with a guy from the Emancipation Support Committee…

Some from Trinidad reading this post have already recognized that something’s wrong with this post.

It gets worse. It was an argument about The Dark Knight Rises

Photo courtesy Time Entertainment

The conversation basically went in the direction of Batman himself being the problem. And it makes a great deal of sense – Bruce Wayne is a young heir to a throne of riches, who has a personal loss that is not unusual to that of so many others in Gotham, or anywhere in the world. But instead of having that enrich him and have him value his life more, he becomes bitter and vengeful, and luckily for him he has the money to support such a vindictive lifestyle. Fast-forward years later, where Mr. Wayne has maintained his billions and made a name for himself as a socialite by day, while secretly building top-notch military-grade weapons and surveillance equipment in his basement, monitoring people’s cellphones and attacking not-so-law-abiding citizens with all manner of weapons and extreme indifference. Not building schools or investing in social programs. Not building hospital wings or sponsoring disease research.

Or, rather, those who want us to fall in love with the Dark Knight don’t want us to get to know the White Knight philanthropist side of Bruce Wayne. In the comics, cartoons, and especially movies like the Dark Knight franchise, there’s no room for Mr. Nice Guy. Just Batman.

And that paints an interesting picture of solutions to crime and deviance. We as an audience are left to think that it’s okay for law enforcers to employ such heavy-handed national security measures, politicians should be in full support, and that once we are rich enough to take the law into our own hands we should give it a shot and let the chips fall where they may. Let’s remind ourselves that Bruce Wayne, except for the billions o’ dollars, is a normal private citizen like the rest of us.

Yes, we are that normal. That pathetically normal.
Photo courtesy Seekers of the Bat

Or maybe that’s part of the problem too? Bruce Wayne gets to be Batman, and thinks he needs to be, pretty much because he’s a Rich B*tch. Poor people don’t get that chance, and never will. Poor people need a savior, and can’t make one. So it becomes the White Rich Man’s Burden to save the downtrodden 99% from the ills of society…again, with extreme force and extreme prejudice, without attempting to understand the society at large and why it’s behaving the way it does.

Where it gets interesting is that, for the Rich B*tches in today’s non-fictional Gotham City, there might be opportunities for you to take a bite out of crime yourselves! Japanese engineers have created a made-to-order mechanized robot that seats one pilot, comes equipped with shot-proof armor and a 100 round-per-second Gatling gun that fires when the pilot smiles, and can be controlled via smartphone.

Batmobile, check.
Photo courtesy The Daily Mail

In Gotham City, this approach seems to work. However, in the real world it’s been proven time and time again that investing in more and more heavy-handed national security measures – faster patrol cars, better guns, police and military training – only seems to make the matters worse. Why? Because we’re investing in bigger plasters for a wound that’s already infected. Societies have very real social issues that eventually evolve into social ills like crime and deviance. It happens when people can’t get jobs, go to school or access healthcare. It happens when prices go up and salaries go down, and when the public sector forces people into an early retirement that they cannot financially maintain. People get stressed when societies get worse, and that stress eventually reaches a tipping point and people lash out. And if you’re not dealing with those issues before they become ills, it doesn’t matter what you do to the ills. The wound’s already been infected. Now it’s time to clean it, not shoot at it and throw it in jail. That’s precisely what’s happening here in Trinidad, I would say.

Then again, they don’t make criminals in Trinidad & Tobago like they do in Gotham.With our relatively petty criminals, citizens all over are still clamoring for stuff like the death penalty like they’ve ever proven to solve the problem. If we were faced with a Joker or Bane, or even a James Holmes, who knows what we would think would be the solution to crime. Without a Batman in Gotham, some would argue, there would be no way to deal with characters like that. And let’s be real, if ever we had a real Joker, our police service couldn’t stop him, and he would not be enticed into changing his ways thanks to any social program.

We’ve gone into the depth of a man that would be willing to do what Bruce Wayne has done, his conviction to do it and the seemingly good place in his heart it all comes from. We’ve seen what the fates have in store for a vigilante, no matter how well-prepared. But we haven’t answered the most important question – is this truly the way we deal with crime? What Bruce Wayne does is still illegal, and he’s still treated like that at times. And the problem he fights so hard against just keeps on recurring worse and worse, putting more and more at risk…

There’s an interesting debate about national security and society here that, as deep as the Dark Knight franchise has gone, seems to have missed. If you’ve seen the film already with some friends of yours, maybe you can have that discussion. If you haven’t yet (like me unfortunately), go and see it with this lens and see what you find. Maybe this is more than a good film… It might be a good turning point for our society…

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