Where is Batman?
Every time I go to the bathroom, I gaze upon the mythical legend that is Batman. Half his body masked in shadow, the other half ready to do Batman things. He’s says to me, “get off your ass (literally) and do something with your life.” I am of course referring to the June ’88 cover of Detective Comics that adorns my wall.
Why am I providing you the details of my bathroom decor? Well, I’m glad that I presumed you asked.
Each time I visit my lavatory, I’m reminded of my senior thesis about the 1986 graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. It’s been 5 years since I wrote my thesis, and what a 5 year stretch it has been. An orange-tanned-reality-tv-star-not-named-snookie-but-close-enough has been America’s president much to our collective chagrin. The snookie-knockoff-in-charge not only emboldens white nationalists, but he promotes bribery and misinformation, not to mention dictatorial leadership. Meanwhile, snookie has decided to ignore reality and forgo measures to preserve human lives and the planet we inhabit. Seeing the world unfold in 2020 has reaffirmed to me that Batman is not just a fictional superhero. He is the hero we desperately need.
On the surface, we all love Batman because he appeals to the American ethos. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t have super powers, so he relies upon sheer hard work and determination. Likewise, America built the strongest economy in the world with independent spirit and unparalleled work ethic. I’m sold on Batman for these same reasons, but I also think our love for Batman goes deeper than that, especially now.
Not only does Batman appeal to our independent spirit, but he also represents the idealized vision of capitalism, in which successful corporations ultimately use their resources to serve the common good. In Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Bruce Wayne repurposes his company’s “Applied Sciences” division to produce cutting edge technology on behalf of Gotham’s safety. Bruce Wayne isn’t scoring public relations points for Wayne Enterprises. He’s leveraging his position to support his city, expecting nothing in return. Granted, his methods are a bit heavy handed, but you get the idea — Bruce Wayne is Jeff Bezos with a heart.
We praise big tech companies when they donate money to non-profits, but we rarely contextualize their contributions. Last week Amazon made headlines when it donated $10 million to the NAACP, ACLU Foundation and UNCF. Meanwhile, the company produced $250 billion in revenue last year. Therefore, the company’s donation to the Black Lives Matter movement accounts for 0.004% of their yearly revenue. Now let’s put Amazon’s “generosity” into perspective. If you made $100k in salary last year, and wanted to match Amazon’s donation, you would only need to cough up 4 dollars.
America needs companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google to stop focusing all of their resources on technology that influences and capitalizes on our consumption patterns. We need tech giants to develop creative solutions that help the American people and curb the destruction of our environment. Or at the very least, donate real money to people who are able to do so.
Shifting corporate priorities will affect bottom lines in the short-term. However, I don’t see much difference between that and working Americans shutting down their small businesses to save lives during the pandemic. Furthermore, people might be more inclined to support companies with their wallets who recycle resources back into communities in the long run.
The federal government has failed us, so we need help. We need good jobs. We need better health care. We need a healthy environment. But most of all, we need to regain a sense of common humanity. It’s time for Bezos and co. to look around. Corporate leaders might be smart, but they’d be no where without their employees, their customers, and our liberal democracy. It’s time we acknowledge that we’re in this together.
Batman might be a fictional character, but the stories are relevant. I mean, is Gotham really that far off? Our cities are largely shut down by a pandemic, but the streets are alive with protests against police brutality. All the while, we have a dictatorial leader threatening retaliation against his own people….I’m sending for help.