It’s not who you are underneath it’s what you do that defines you
When a character has been around as long as Batman (78 years, Batfact fans) it’s interesting to examine the differences, both broad and subtle, between the various iterations – both in print and especially, on screen – of the Caped Crusader’s adventures. The myriad TV and film adaptations of Batman have covered almost every ‘pitch’ possible, from the pun-laden dayglo antics of the family-friendly 1960s TV show, to the operatically gothic Tim Burton/Michael Keaton movies, to the deadly-serious-bordering-on-intellectually-pretentious Dark Knight trilogy.
As well as variations in the overall tone, the movies and TV shows often present radically different versions of Batman’s billionaire alter-ego Bruce Wayne, or rather, different versions of the public face he presents to the people of Gotham City. In most versions he’s a handsome benefactor, a respected philanthropist and upstanding citizen. In the aforementioned Dark Knight movies, directed by Christopher Nolan (currently being garlanded for Dunkirk), Christian Bale’s Bruce instead chooses to play the part of a pampered lush, a moneyed wastrel besmirching the Wayne family’s good name as eagerly as he parties away its millions.
I like this version of Bruce Wayne; it gives an additional dimension to Bruce’s sacrifice in choosing to live his double life (not only must he foreswear family and happiness, he has to humiliate himself to maintain his ‘cover’) but it’s also a sensible precaution… For all that he disguises himself with a full mask rather than just by taking his specs off, it’s, if anything, far MORE obvious who Batman is than Superman.
Not only is there only one man in Gotham who can AFFORD to be Batman (armoured racing cars and bat-shaped jet fighters don’t pay for themselves), everyone knows that Bruce had the kind of traumatic childhood (parents gunned down in front of him) that might make someone WANT to be Batman. Except in Nolan’s Gotham, Bruce Wayne is (as far as anyone knows) a spoiled drunken princeling. No way could THAT jerk be Batman.
At one point in the first movie, Bruce’s childhood sweetheart Rachel catches him in mid-debauch and admonishes him. He tries to hint that this is all an act, that under the surface he’s serious-minded and sober but she just says sadly ‘It’s not who you are inside, it’s what you do that defines you’ (he later repeats this back to her while in full Bat-gear, hinting as to his secret identity).
I’m often reminded of this line and never more so than now, with regard to sensible Labour activists and their desperate attempts to square the Corbyn/Brexit circle.
I’m loath to bring up Owen Jones for the second time in three weeks, as it seems like I’m piling on and I’m not; I genuinely like the guy a lot and think he’s on the money on most issues. But we bumped into each other on Twitter again this week when I couldn’t help but respond to his repeated assertion that he still ‘opposes’ a Hard Brexit.
I pointed out that he can say that all he likes. He probably believes it, but unfortunately right now he’s doing nothing of the sort. By continuing to campaign for, and exhorting all those on the left to unite behind, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, whether he wants to admit this or not, Owen is SUPPORTING a Hard Brexit.
Even if you yourself oppose Thing X in principle, if you choose nonetheless to enable someone who has declared their intent to enact Thing X, you are helping to cause Thing X to happen. You are, in the most literal sense, supporting Thing X. Support and opposition aren’t just philosophical positions, they are ACTIONS. You can claim to ‘oppose’ something, but if you do or say nothing to prevent it or undo it, you’re not actually opposing it at all.
And if, as Owen and his fellow (formerly) pro-European Corbynistas are, you’re continuing to give material and intellectual support to those who intend to impose the thing you ‘oppose’, then not only are you not opposing it, you’re actively supporting it.
This is an uncomfortable notion, I’m sure. I imagine that the American liberals who decided to withhold their vote from Hillary last year because of her emails, or because they preferred Jill Stein, or because ‘they’re all the same’ would react angrily if they were confronted with the fact that they chose to help Donald Trump win, but that’s precisely what they did. If you commit an act (or indeed refuse to commit an act) when you know that this will have a given consequence, you are choosing to cause that consequence, however appalling that prospect may be to you.
I’m not sure if Owen is still talking to me on Twitter; it was someone else who came back with the response that all that matters is that Labour wins the next election, because ‘party is principle’. If that’s true, that’s a TERRIBLE principle. A Labour government isn’t a quintessentially preferable option to a Conservative government; it depends on what those putative governments propose to DO.
What we’re seeing – the absurd ethical gymnastics being performed by Labour supporters desperate to avoid disagreeing with Jeremy Who Is Called Corbyn on any issue while knowing he’s got it wrong on Brexit – is a manifestation of the left’s unthinking, unexamined, and often unmerited presumption of moral superiority over the not-left. Of COURSE Labour are better than the Tories, goes the thinking, even if their policies are every bit as detrimental to the lives of ordinary people. Labour are ALWAYS better than the Tories, because they’re Labout, while the Tories are the Tories, stupid. It’s not the labels we apply to ourselves. It’s not what we believe. It’s not what we say we support or oppose. It’s not even what we want. It’s what we do that defines us.
Keep moaning, keep sabotaging, keep ACTUALLY resisting.