Not too long ago I wrote about how Batman needs to just suck it up kill his villains. The idea being that he could have killed the Joker the first time he met him and saved thousands of human lives.
Batman, however, is unique in that he is still a man. No matter how ridiculous his adventures get he’s still one of us with all the associated human foibles and desires. He still understands what it’s like to be us.
Superman, I argue, would not be the same. With all of his powers and a brain, I assume, built for an alien psychology, there is no way he would be anything other than awful for us. The minute he decides he knows who should live and who should die is the minute our civilization ends.
No One Is Perfect
Everyone has faults. Superman’s power may make him something like a god, but he isn’t divine. He came from a world where individuals still had flaws and was raised on a world that is brimming with personal faults. There is no reason to assume a superman would be perfectly well-adjusted.
With a superman, any fault would lead to nightmarish consequences. For example, let’s say Superman was a wife-beater. Domestic violence is an all-too common story. Imagine what that would be like for Lois–constantly afraid that he’s watching her and knowing that there’s no way to escape because Superman is everywhere; he can see and hear what she is doing at all times no matter where he is. If he lets her call the police, will they believe her? If they do, are they going to arrest Superman? That would take an army… and the Justice League and, I don’t know, Silver Surfer or something.
Either Lois lives the nightmare alone or it gets out and escalates into a global super fight. There’s no middle ground there.
And Superman wouldn’t have to be that messed up. He may just have an interest in things like abortion rights or prayer in schools. He was raised in Kansas, after all. Or maybe he decides that no one needs guns now that he’s around. As a matter of fact, that’s happened before. In Superman’s For Tomorrow story arch he rolls into a middle eastern country and takes all the guns. He, like a stern farther, destroys all their weapons and tells them to knock it off.
Can you blame the guy? He has a compulsive need to help people so why wouldn’t he violate a country’s sovereign authority to save lives? Yeah, maybe he overstepped some individual rights to property and arms, but what are those powers for if you’re not going to meddle?
Not much, actually. The next week insurgents from the neighboring country kicked the place over. It was pretty easy since none of the defenders had guns. So Superman comes back and demands that the insurgents throw down their weapons and surrender to the “proper authority.” As it turns out, they’ve already killed all the opposition and imprisoned the King. Superman is forced to concede that they are the “proper authority” unless he decides to make himself the “proper authority.”
Pollution. U.N. sanctions. Political corruption. Whatever it is, picking a side in human struggles tips the scale ridiculously towards one political interest or the other. Which puts him in the position of having to ignore those cries for help.
More importantly, it keeps Superman from effecting any permanent change. Has he ended crime? Has he ended hunger? No, because he can’t do it without forcing us to live up to his standard.
Superman Wouldn’t Have A Life
How is it that Superman can hear and see everything and not spend all of his time saving lives? I mean all of his time. Murder, rape, robbery, wars, abuse and every other terrible thing we do to each other is happening, literally, all the time. Not a second goes by in which more than one of these things isn’t occurring.
If our superman feels as we do and genuinely wants to be part of our society, he’ll spend all of his time saving it at the cost of actually having friends, family and any other meaningful attachments. How long can that go on? How long before it feels like he’s repeating the same thing with no real change?
Astro City‘s Samaritan has this problem. He’s a superman that spends almost every second of his day running around the planet at super speed saving people. At one point he slows down to let a little girl, whose cat he saved, see him. Seconds later he is chiding himself for almost letting a man in Boston die.
Choosing between staying at your job and letting 5 people die every second is worse than awful.
It sounds like insanity to me. If he feels and thinks like we do, my bet is even someone with the strongest mental fortitude wouldn’t last more than half a century trying to stem the tide of never-ending human cruelty. It wouldn’t take long for him to do what every instinct tells him and force a better world. It would be easier and more efficient to build a totalitarian regime and make us be safe; he would conclude that democracy is just too messy.
Or he could go the other way and decide to ignore those cries for help, which means…
Superman Would Be A Sociopath
Most supermen still have relationships, so I have to assume they ignore a lot of those cries for help to afford themselves a life. It must be frustrating to hear all of that suffering and not do anything about it, right? With all his power, it would be like walking by a starving man with all the McDonald’s in the world and not tossing him some nuggets.
But that has its own problems. He chooses to ignore all the suffering he hears because he’s learned not to care or because he didn’t care in the first place. Either way, it means that he’s become disconnected from the human condition.
Which isn’t that crazy if you think about it. A superman doesn’t have most of our needs or worries. Death is probably off the table and he’ll never have to worry about earning a paycheck or finding a place to live. He’s infinitely smarter than most of us and he knows no limits. Understanding him is like trying to understand God. He has nothing in common with us. Aside from his appearance, there’s almost nothing human about him.
He would see us as we see animals.
And he would treat us accordingly. He might leave, like Doctor Manhattan, which would be a best-case scenario.
If we are lucky he’d decide human life has no meaning to him and that he should go be a god somewhere else. If we aren’t so lucky he would go about the work of organizing our lives the same way we organize the lives of dogs. A superman would let us know when it was appropriate to eat, sleep, work, play and procreate.
Welcome To A Police State
And that’s really the rub. If a superman does care for us, he would feel an obligation to use his powers to control us. And if he doesn’t care for us, there would be nothing restraining him from doing it anyway. It’s game over unless some other superman shows up to save the day. Any way you slice it our society is at the mercy of some superman’s whims, which really makes it his society.
No one could stop him and pretty soon human institutions would bend to his will to avoid his destructive retaliation.
No doubt it would be a perfect world without crime, suffering or the burden choice.