Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, is the epitome of dynamic contradictions.Not unlike Batman’s character struggles, character is built and questioned constantly, often without a law in sight. Since we are tied to people who talk to each other and make social gestures that have to be recognized, the allegory of the gestures of Batman will be used in the following pages to demonstrate how dynamic systems of trust and relationship were right in front of us all along.
As the alter ego of Bruce Wayne, Batman’s identity rests with his strong sense of citizenship with the inhabitants of Gotham City as well as his fixation for vengeance. After the untimely deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents, his sole purpose was fixated on righting wrong his way. Heroes or, even more interesting counterparts, the anti-heroes in comics are hyper-real. I, the hero, am good, which is obvious by my fluttering cape with the symbol emblazoned on my pectorals. You, the villain, in body skimming spandex sans cape or even the run-of–the-mill town crook, are not good. The anti-hero is downright malevolent (or perhaps just clueless). The duelists compete in a “language of gestures” (Mead, 1938). To Mead, meaning in the world is made through signals and gestures as a kind of social behaviorism (Mead, 1938). The hero saves the world from ruin. The crowned hero takes a right to the kisser. The miscreant falls ungracefully off the cliff on the outskirts of the city. The physical nooks and crannies around Gotham City are incredibly unexpected and diverse, would you not agree? The hero often appears out of thin air. The villain plunders for power and perhaps less importantly material gain. The hero prevails is immediately absolved for throwing city property at said villain. What brought the hero to that place?
Mead (1938) related this idea of gestures to primarily verbal communication. However this idea can be broadened beyond the spoken word. The superheroes in the bout use verbal and physical fighting so as to “make the gestures (the) same”. The villain gets squashed to smithereens by before mentioned city property then hobbles alone to the dark lair to hatch the next scheme. The higher level of cognitive significance of communicating started with those fisticuffs. But mind you, Batman returns to the dank dark cave…alone to live with consequences of his actions.
Both hero and villain are tortured in levering heuristics that each in itself could wreak havoc with stability. Each side of the superhero ethical equations brings undeniable fervor and passion. Bruce Wayne was pushed by a strong drive to avenge. But do superheroes or we mere mortals work primarily off of emotion? Should policy view society as one of rationalized competition for limited resources or one where there is collaboration? For that matter, how should be view “communities of solution” in the same fashion? I do not remember Batman having a brewski in the Arkham Asylum with The Joker. But people tend to demonstrate an allegiance to a side (if only for appearances) to maintain social accord or to leverage advantage.
Any change called metachanges, such as a misplaced physical punch or even a faulty ethical decision, could have major repercussions on the already delicate balance of power. The crooks are transporting from the city dock outdated cathode televisions that conceal booty. Batman swoops down. Good prevails. Bad is defeated for now. But will that Gotham peace last or be the most beneficial in the long term? Does Batman’s moral center waver?
In part, policy must manage the social and ethical principles linked to the nature of these metachanges. Those in policy game realize all too well that the broader politicized arc is really a generalization of all those metachanges. Those metachanges, some perhaps deemed inconsequential or undiscovered, can have widespread dynamic changes on the larger social system. To that end, tackling these real world metachanges can lead to the large visible health payoff that society requires and expects resolution with their morning coffee. The villain is foiled and all is right in our Gotham until the same burgeoning health concern comes back on the top of the policy docket. Batman found the sweet spot briefly, retreating to his bunker wearing his dented Batsuit to the sage advice of his comrade, Alfred. Policymakers reenter the policy bunker, dodging the heuristics minefield, while shrouded by a porous cloak of political stability. The citizens of Gotham haunt them all in public health while some take a long drag on their cig to calm the nerves. It is back to the drawing board.
Mead, George (1934) Mind, Self, and Society, ed. C.W. Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)