Thought for the Day - Rhidian Brook - 19/06/2013

There’s a moment in the latest superhero movie Man of Steel where Superman’s nemesis, General Zod, complains that the lawmakers have led Krypton to ruin with their endless debates. Zod demands action. Even violent action if it means the survival of his people.

This week, as the leaders at the G8 Summit debate global problems – with Syria at the top of the agenda - it’s been possible to hear similar complaints. Some say debate is not going to get anything done in Syria. They want to take action to bring an end to the conflict- even if that action involves violence.

In the world of comic-books, when the powers that be fail to save us, a superhero usually flies in to do what the government, the law or the army are unable to do. They have cool superpowers – invisibility, a huge hammer, x-ray vision – and come fully armed with quasi-religious justifications such as: ‘with great power comes great responsibility’; ‘it’s not what I am underneath it’s what I do that defines me.’ Or ‘I’m here to fight for truth or justice.’

In the end, it doesn’t matter what the colour of their cape is, the solution to whatever problem they face is nearly always the same: it’s violence. Of course, a superhero who talks his enemies into submission or lays down his life without a fight probably wouldn’t pack them in at the Odeon. And the fact is the world has always expected its heroes to be tough. We can easily forgive them their social inadequacies and terrible costumes just as long as they save us. And preferably in a cool, violent, way.

The expectation of a saviour has historic precedent: the promised deliverer - the Messiah or God’s anointed one - was expected to appear with superpowers as standard. Here’s the psalmist using almost marvel-comic metaphor: ‘May God arise, may his enemies be scattered, and as smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away!’...

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