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What Batman Can Teach Us About Money

More than a few critiques of the new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises suggest the movie is a direct attack on the Occupy Wall Street protests.

The villain, Bane, and his followers steal from and kill the wealthy, all while offering hollow promises that they’ll return power to the supposedly enslaved Gotham citizens.

In launching anarchy, this group literally occupies Wall Street.

While it’s true that Batman, the alter ego of billionaire Bruce Wayne, puts down this uprising, here’s a critical point: Bane’s movement is made up entirely of thieves and thugs, not frustrated but upstanding citizens of Gotham City.

This isn’t the rich guy revenge fantasy some critics are making it out to be.

While there’s definitely a pro law-and-order bent to director Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films, the heaping criticisms that these are apology movies for post-9/11 government policies or the 1% miss the mark.

Yes, one theme is that we need the rich to make everyone’s lives better. If the rich do well, we can all prosper.

But there is no championing the glories of inequality here.

And we’re not talking about a demand for more failed policies supporting trickle-down economics, either.

This is about how corporate responsibility, ethical business leaders and a generous spirit of giving can build us all up.

Conversely, greed, government and corporate overreach, and decaying principles can tear us all down.

The film is an indictment of our times even if it still believes there is good in human nature. It’s not a call for more gluttonous helpings.

Mark Fisher, in his piece “‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Asks Us To Believe The Rich Can Save Us” on AlterNet.org, laments that “the sustaining fantasy of (the Batman films) … is that the excesses of finance capital can be curbed by a combination of philanthropy, off-the-books violence and symbolism.”

But it’s no fantasy that, if more of our nation’s business leaders acknowledged that excesses actually exist, we wouldn’t have to worry about banks becoming too big to fail or what new speculative bubble will take down the economy again.

Or as Slate’s Matthew Yglesias writes, “the solution is basically to persuade wise stewards of the status quo that it’s in their interest” to be charitable.

In the real world, that means recognizing that Wall Street and government have to stop constantly defending the wealthy — whether it be in implementing tax reform or in figuring out who gets the next bailout — at the expense of everyone else.

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  1. Michael L said:
    on July 30th at 08:45 pm

    I disagree. The movie was really a more personal story about Bruce Wayne wasting his talents and Bane wanting revenge. As it happened, Wayne is a rich capitalist, and Bane shouted some socialist slogans which no one really took seriously, but those were the background, not the main point. The movie would have been exactly the same if Wayne had been a politician drafting major social welfare legislation and Bane had used libertarian/anarchist slogans. If there is a lesson, it is that in Wayne’s case you shouldn’t just live off an early success. You have to keep trying to improve yourself/your company/your city etc. And for Bane the usual one that revenge is a dead end path.