Tuesday, March 13, 2007

to be edited

this post is not to be read the way it is. It's notes for me for two future blogs on this site, but I need to put this down and I'm at lunch from work.

One is a fairly serious philisophical piece stemming from Civil War (I know I said I was done, but I don't think I ever will be now)
And the other is this totally crazy idea I had for a Superman story that might have already been done out there somewhere but it sounds really awesome to me.(Lex is still Supes' friend)

The Civil war post is going to be about freedom, or specifically, a government and its duties regarding freedom.
A lot of people are upset with the registration side of the 'civil war', viewing it as an impingement on freedoms. There are of course two different parts of that act- mandatory registration for superhumans, and a form of deputization for those who would be costumed crime-fighters. There are no strong, rational arguments for the latter, but a lot of people are comparing the former to fascism- that the government is absolutely impinging on freedom.

Of course it is.

The foundation of modern, western government (particularly the U.S.) is that each person is empowered with a certain amount of sovereignty, often termed Popular sovereignty, and described by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. And, that in order to avoid anarchy, we divest ourselves of some of this sovereignty and pool it in the form of a government of representatives. This sovereignty of which we divest some is essentially the sum of our freedoms.

It is necessary to abandon some freedoms in order to gain a protection for others. This is simply unavoidable- unlimited freedom is, paradoxically, no freedom at all- we understand what freedom is- uncanny in similarity to one of Plato's Forms- we recognize its qualities, but it seems to me that there could never truly be unlimited freedom, especially not for all- if one person is not restricted, will he not take some of another's freedoms in order to better his own life, by, say, enslaving him? If this man will not, will not another? This unlimited freedom is Anarchy, and it cannot and does not last long. Nature abhors a vaccuum, and people gather and create power by their very nature, and others are compelled to seek it.

History has shown us that we will take the freedom of others for our own power.

So what remains is to create a government, divest ourselves of some of our freedoms in order to guarantee the rest of our freedoms. To the Government it creates do we leave the singularly unenviable task of valueing those freedoms.

This applies to Marvel's Superhuman registration act as well. We as people have many rights- those detailed in the constitution, those detailed in judgements of the supreme court and those enacted into law by our bicameral house of representatives and our somewhat democratically elected president (at best). And then, because we value freedom, and because we assume a freedom where no just, necessary restriction applies, we can be said to have many, many more rights (the right to watch Seinfeld, if, in fact, I have paid my power and have my television on).

We don't have a listed hierarchy of priorities of rights in our country. It would probably be of benefit if we did. But here I'm going to propose the start of one.

Freedom of Thought--->Freedom from Bodily Harm--->Freedom to influence others in good faith(freedom of speech)--->Freedoms of Action.

One last point about the role of government- it must not only provide punitive action for those who violate the rights of others, but must do its best to protect others using the specific rights they have given up in their appropriate fashion.
That's confusing, but I'll clarify with two example: Violence, for example, is the prerogative of the state. Except in extreme cases, usually self defense, we are assumed to have given up our right to use force against others- in exchange that the Government will judiciously, appropriately apply force on our behalf should it be necessary. This is the good faith the government MUST show us in exchange for our freedoms, and so we have the police. It also goes a long way in explaining why we feel so strongly about cops who abuse power- they are abusing power that we gave up so that they could protect us- in a way, they abuse us all twice by failing their oath.
My second example is financial law. it is entirely possible, given no market restrictions, or even just sufficiently lax ones, for a company to simply preclude any competition with practical means. This is an impingement of freedom of others by abusing ones' own freedoms. Many people feel that Microsoft these days is an example of this, but better ones exist- the old Standard Oil, Ma Bell, Hearst newspapers. Also, Stock Market manipulation is a good example of this- one can mislead or simply trade information in secret in order to make scads of money. In exchange for giving up the opportunity (freedom) to make money unencumbered by law, we gain the assurance that the government will do its best to protect us from those who would abuse us through unregulated use of money and power.

The government has a big responsibility, and it has a responsibility to make us accountable for our actions.

Ok, back to superhumans.

Some superhumans have inconsequential powers- for example, The X-Man Beak's wife, Angel, can eat like a fly. But other superhumans have incredible, amazing, spectacular, astonishing, uncanny or fantastic powers. powers, that like my deluded hero would say, Come With Great Responsibility.
However, in our world, it is too often not enough to simply hope that someone will choose to be responsible with their actions- in fact, we know they are all too often not. we have restrictions on other freedoms simply to prevent the access of the irresponsible to great powers- Driving, for example, or flying a plane; carrying a handgun is another great example. It is unfortunate to simply require a person to register and recieve training for nothing other than being born, or for accidental circumstances- but the consequences otherwise may simply be too great.

I can hear the voice of criticism. "Isn't this the same as profiling muslims and blacks?"

No. Not at all.

requiring a superhuman to get training in a legitimately dangerous superhuman ability is quantifiably different from profiling, because it speaks to how that superhuman is different. Requiring an Arab to go through training to learn how to not blow people up, to make a crude and offensive analogy, punishing a person for a perception, not a fact-makes assumptions about that person's character- that the government has no cause and no right to make- impinging on a person's sovereignty purely based on prejudice. (An Arab is not born with a bomb), while in the other it's not simply a matter of perception. Cyclops can and does shoot dangerous beams from his eyes, and as a matter of fact has limited control of them. He needs training to be safe, and to guarantee the saferty of others. Freedom from fear, as Norman Rockwell so beautifully illustrated, is also a freedom.

There also needs to be a safeguard against abuse. There are superhumans in the Marvel (and DC) Universes capable of great and terrible things- some of which could never be traced under normal circumstances.

One such example I have used in the past is of an adolescent boy with powers identical to those of Jebediah Killgrave, I.E. the Purple Man. Purple Man has a form of Mind Control, and can command people to do whatever he likes.
I'll be back on this later. Don't link to this until I edit it, Eric

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