Modern social movements lack central leadership
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 17:02
Over the past few months, I became obsessed with Batman. I got into it because I bought the two most recent and highly impressive Arkham video games. I’ve logged more than 72 hours worth of time into the two of them combined. At first I started playing because of the solid mechanics of the game. With the tight game play, awesome storyline, recognizable villains and Batman it was everything you would want in a good game. But then I started to think.
Maybe I didn’t like Batman because he was a superhero; maybe it was because he appeals to the more ideological aspect of my personality. So I re-watched the movies and picked up some of my dad’s old Knightfall comic books. Instead of just looking at the pictures, I read them closely. I bought “The Killing Joke” at Captain Blue Hen Comics and I read it in an hour. And the whole point of the Batman finally hit home with me and then a bit more. Batman is more relevant now than he ever has been.
There’s always going to be the timeless objective of Batman being a symbol. The man can be broken, but the image is incorruptible. However, the symbol of a strong figurehead resonates deeper than I originally thought.
The modern world is a highly divisive and polarized place. We, as an American society, are still fighting over whether or not same sex couples deserve equal rights or if an assault rifle is something that people really need. Not to mention how the original Occupy movement was knocked off track by people who misunderstood the point of it. It was to protest the horrendously manipulative business practice by the financial sector, not for everyone to complain about student loans. But without a prominent and strong leader, important issues remain unfocused and movements crumble.
Think of the movements that were effective, the ones that we remember. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X for the civil rights and other social movements in the ‘60s, Gandhi’s entire life and our own American Revolution and the Founding Fathers to name a few. These figureheads are what we are missing in modern protests or reforms. There is no single person that comes to mind for the majority of the public when gay rights or financial reform is mentioned.
I get what Occupy was trying to do by not naming a single leader. It gives the impression of total equality. But is it really so bad to have a single person speak for a movement? Leaders provide focus and motivation and also act as a constant reminder of what you are fighting for. Having Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman certainly did not hurt the post-war civil rights movement.
Truthfully, I was excited for the Occupy movement. We, the people, were finally going to hold the corrupt banking system accountable. We would finally make some progress and re-humanize the borrower instead of allowing banks to see us as simple sources of revenue. But then, people that misinterpreted the problem corrupted the movement. A massive influx of borderline irrelevant, “we are the 99 percent” cards hit the Internet and that became all the news media could talk about.
Without a unifying leader, focus was shifted from the legitimate goals of the movement to the sense of entitlement present in the Millennial Generation. Examples like these makes me think we need a Batman for the Occupy movement, modern civil rights, for gun control, and all major societal issues. We need someone who stands for the cause’s central ideas.
This lack of a rallying point is why I’m hopeful after Sandy Hook. It’s tragic and I can’t even imagine what their community is going through. But maybe, just maybe, we can find some good in all this. Maybe Sandy Hook can become the symbol for gun control. Maybe now something will actually change. Maybe the assault weapon ban could be reinstated, or stronger background checks drawn up, or maybe we’ll at least start enforcing laws already on the books.
We need someone to remind us of our responsibility, as people, to treat everyone else like people, to push against the bigots as hard as they push against us, to do for gay rights what King did for African-Americans and to fight against the fact that somehow America gave more rights to businesses than it did to its citizens. Same-sex couples aren’t asking us to overhaul society. They’re asking us for a basic social right, the right to ceremonially show that they want to spend the rest of their life with their partner.
Maybe that’s what Batman is to us now. The kind of symbol we lost somewhere down the road, and the kind we need to find again.