I define “responsibility” as “the obligation to make right.” Realistically, it would fall on the person who has the capacity to so. It would also help to define what is wrong to begin with, two issues that could warrant their own schools of thought.

 

Responsibility differs from blame in the fact that it doesn’t necessarily assign an outlet for repressed frustration and outrage. It neither assigns unrealistic expectations to anyone without the capacity to solve the problem. Indeed, the one who invented the gun can’t simply rise from the grave and “un-invent” it to negate the loss of life due to its users.

 

It differs from consequence in the fact that it, along with blame can be either internally or externally assigned. Consequence is a natural result of any action. Teaching a child that his actions have a consequence by spanking him is mute point. Stealing a candy bar might have a number of desired consequences, one of which is being spanked, hence the initial attempt to conceal the theft. The desired consequence is to enjoy a tasty snack without taking a toll on the allowance. What it is more likely to teach is: every mis-action has a punishment. The implication is that right should be done out of fear of punishment, and that they will they will always be found out. It would be better for society to teach children that there is plenty of evil to be done within the law and that they will never be punished for, but shouldn’t do regardless for X reason.

It also differs from guilt or fault. One can be very much responsible for the crime, but not responsible for its outcome, though he may be responsible for other things. Guilt, not referring to regret, is the fact that someone committed the act in question. In the context of punishment, letting out frustrations on the cause usually makes one feel less indignant afterward. But I’ll be the one to confess that historically speaking, releasing anger on what we perceive to be a guilty party is detrimental to ANY kind of advancement besides exerting power.

 

I will not argue that the penal system should be abruptly scratched from existence, but our societal sense of right and wrong is addicted to forceful authority figures.  We vote on laws, but the ideas underling them don’t get across in their existence alone. No need for “people to run around and do whatever they want if we get rid of the penal system” because it’s ALREADY HAPPENING. Often enough, the prison sentence as a result of a crime IS NOT A FACTOR IN WHETHER THE OFFENCE IS REPEATED upon release. Impoverished nations have living conditions worse than most prisons, so there is a point where it ceases to register as a punishment to the prisoner who has adapted. If I’ve lived in a 5 star apartment my entire life, and was abruptly moved to a small, unconditioned dorm room, then I might consider my situation to be akin to prison sentence. For several, it would actually REMOVE FEAR OF IMPRISONMENT. One of my major critiques of Batman is that he counts on the criminals fear and superstition about him. It’s as if criminals can’t have the traditionally heroic characteristic of courage. At this point, I think Bruce only keeps the bat-persona out of personal connection, aesthetic value, and tradition. And due to difficulty in finding a high-paying job, wouldn’t stand much to lose from risking the acquisition of illegal funds.

 

The problem is obvious, but the solution is not. That’s why “and unusual” should be struck from that…Bill with…the Rights and stuff written on it. (The Constitution of Independence or something?)

One thing I love about the DC universe is that it is an endless virtual playground for wrestling with all sorts of philosophical and ethical questions. Though the same can be said about any fantasy or literature, the right and wrong of the situation is at the crux of the concept of “heroes” and “heroism.” That fictional universe has become a juxtaposition of almost every possible literary genre. Now that I think of it, real life can be described as a juxtaposition of every possible literary genre. Another thing I love about it.

 

Before I get into the chosen example, I’ll say first and foremost that just about EVERYTHING is preventable. For example, I kick a small rock into the street. Several days later, without my knowledge, someone slips/trips/ loses balance on the rock while crossing the street at night in front of a driver. The tired driver doesn’t see the grounded pedestrian, and is jolted into an alert state as he thinks he’s just hit a massive pothole. I certainly won’t kick any rocks now that this possibility has dawned on me, but to subscribe blame and punishment to me would be archaic. Does he have the responsibility to never repeat the accident? Sure. Punishment? No.

 

This is the most extremely ambiguous example I can possibly think of: Wonder Woman is faced with a nigh-unstoppable, mystical, bio-weapon monster uncomfortably named “Genocide.” The monster was made from Princess Diana’s (WW’s real name) future corpse, and from the soil from sites of mass murder. “She” held a shopper by the neck amidst the wreckage of a mall it destroyed. It told Diana to kneel, seemingly implying it would break the lady’s neck unless Wonder Woman did so. After complying, Diana asked “Is this to give me a sense of defeat, monster?” Genocide replies, “No. A better view.” then does the dirty deed with a loud CRONCH sound effect.

 

Did the creature have any choice to be otherwise? Not really. It does what it was engineered to do. Eventually the creature was subdued after it thoroughly wrecked Wonder Woman’s plans for the future. Given the chance to finish the thing off, she gave a peculiar reason for doing otherwise: “Never for revenge.” She HAS killed before to save more lives by comparison, and would kill in a battle/war situation, but…”never for revenge?”

This borrows from the “depends on the intentions” school of thought. For example, “The act of shortening a life isn’t inherently evil, it is what is done WITH it that is good/evil.” This stance would clarify the difference between hunting food in its natural habitat with a gun or arrow vs. mass encampment/processing/beak clipping/small cages/ live slaughter. One is to feed the family; the other is for mass sales. This is the point of strain between her and other heroes of the DCU. In general, most affiliated heroes have a strict, “NO KILL” policy. Many people have criticized how they are thereby responsible for the deaths these villains cause by not killing them when they had the chance.

 

I’ll diffuse the argument by saying the heroes are too reactive to begin with. In their original appearances, superheroes were written as very socially conscious, but this slowly gave way to more action-oriented stories with increasingly powerful supervillains. Humorously called attention to during a destructive fight sequence in an issue of JLA: “Good thing for this crummy economy, or we wouldn’t have all these abandoned buildings to crash into!”

 

The creature Genocide was created from Ares, god of war, influencing several people. Not controlling them per se, but subliminally egging them on to something they wouldn’t have normally. Physically, Ares didn’t do very much at all. Genocide was really just a baby, being born a few days ago. It did what it needed to do in order to subsist: kill in very sadistic, emotionally damaging ways.  It’s mystical nature connects it to the Greek gods, who themselves have to be sustained through worship. Within context, it makes sense that it would need to do this for sustenance. (Metaphysical, psychic energy? I’m not sure how that works. Ares, for example, is sustained and energized by acts of war and/or conflict.) The scientists of the “Secret Society of Super-villains” or “SSOV” certainly would not have done something so “full frontal” without an outside side force urging them to do otherwise. But I can certainly stay awake during your class despite my own body urging me to do otherwise (JK) or during my 8:00 classes. They could have dismissed the idea altogether. Then again…Wonder Woman might not even HAVE a future corpse if she doesn’t give up her immortality or allegiance to the Greek gods at some point in the future. But if giving up her immortality causes future deaths, and she is to be punished for the deaths “eye for an eye” style, then… (You see why I love the DCU NOW?)

 

Diana killed Ares with an axe to the head. It was in a battle situation, so it was perfectly all right by most people’s standards, especially her own. Plus he’s not even human. In the DCU, some people take the “intrinsic value of human life” to an extreme. (See War of the Supermen for examples.)

Ares was very much a responsible party, as it was within his capacity to undo his actions. Compare his “mass production” of conflict in a similar vein as the mass production of meat products. Naturally, heroes and villains and non-heroes and non-villains fight often enough to give him more than enough sustenance. Yet he cuts off more than is appropriate, in excessively cruel ways. He gave the SSOSV the means to excessively indulge in their resentment of Wonder Woman. Genocide’s creation would not have taken place without the mass resentment. So it our faults for buying as much as they, the meat makers, are selling? OF COURSE! But the responsibility lies in whoever sees, the problem as what it is and has the capacity to change something. Whatever that capacity may be… It is our responsibility to use our power for good.

-Daniel Ballow

Advertisements