Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Medicalizing Modernity : a few vigilante superheroes against the many democratic un-superheroes

We have traditionally considered super heroes to be 'super' because their various strengths are clearly superior to those of ordinary beings, but this could be the wrong way to view their 'super-ness'.

We can instead think of super as simply meaning bigger and fewer.

This is because the basic laws of physics with regard to mass, energy and space suggest that fewer big things can occupy a given niche than can many small things.

Hold that thought as we turn to that time-honoured fictional small frontier town beset upon by outlaws.

The fictional residents have two basic choices.

In one, all the citizens can decide democratically what to do and then do it as a collectivity : the democratic and the legal way .

Now we know that few democratic decisions are ever unanimous and even fewer collectivities ever work together for long with one mind : this process is going to be slow, noisy and costly.

Or the fictional town can seek one individual to rid the town of the outlaws, by working outside the law.

Shane or Superman, in this fictional universe the vigilante one always solves the problem the democratic many could not, quickly taking out the bad guys --- and the problem never ever comes back.

Now in real frontier towns, such as Manitoba's The Pas, the actual problems before them are very complex and enduring.

To over-simplify ,they concern relations between a white protestant middle class in the heart of the town who hold all the positions of power and authority and a poorer population, usually catholic and aboriginal or immigrant, on the edge of town, literally Beyond the Pale.

Neither Superman, Batman or Spiderman or George W Bush's 'shock and awe' can solve those problems in the blink of a stun-gun on an outlaw's face.

They have instead emerged because the forces of modernization has brought big industries to places once solely occupied by non-industrial cultures.

The money thrown up by those industries draws in many different ethnicities to come together to live and work around it.

Think of it as one of the most common and contentious plenitudes thrown up by unconscious forces of modernization.

Modernity or Plenticide was the semi-conscious reaction by many to it : to reduce the new complexity of life by re-ordering it in a vertical hierarchy of worthiness, with the people with all the existing power coincidentally always at the top.

Medicalizing Modernity (seeing modernity as a quasi-medical solution to a global mental health issue : modernization's overwhelming plenitude overwhelming our need for order)

In their heart of hearts, all the peoples of The Pas know how their problems came about - and that that there is no tiny band of outlaws to lay blame upon.

But they all retreat instead to watch movies starring super heroes solving big social problems instantly and cost-free --- because it sure beats emerging from the Cineplex back out into the real world again.

There again to deal with the long and messy democratic process of reconciling various cultures who share a common humanity.

Perhaps then we should consider adding the cost of regular visits to Super Hero movies to Medicare, for those of us who can't handle too much change or variety.

Even when the change or variety is for the better...

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