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Chile protests against President Pinera and deep inequality.
“But symbols get scrambled when they’re reused. If a spectacle resurfaces, its meaning rarely remains exactly the same. That’s happened with the Joker, and it’s happening with other old reference points too. Take the loud pot-beating protests that have been taking place all over Chile, called cacerolazos. People leaning out of windows or marching on the streets, loudly expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo and their support for the protests. (If you don’t know what that sounds like, here’s a video a relative sent me from Oct. 19, taken in the middle-class neighborhood of Ñuñoa.) If you were around and right-wing in 1971, the cacerolazos ringing out all across the country the past week—in rich neighborhoods and poor ones, in cities big and small—might remind you of the March of the Empty Pots, which many forget was actually undertaken by conservative Chilean women to register their opposition to Allende’s socialist government. Those protests were largely and functionally right-wing, but—like the cacerolazos against the government today, which have a very different politics—they also managed to transcend class differences.

Today, the cacerolazo seems to be transcending categories again. Because they seem to be coming from every sector, it’s not clear that Chile’s current situation is reducible to the usual right–left axes. On Friday night, the largest protest in the country’s history gathered, with approximately 1.2 million in Santiago and protests in solidarity all over the country. The sheer size also doesn’t lend itself easily to factionalist descriptions. That’s what sets this moment apart—and makes it seem just very faintly possible that a country that’s been rehashing the same triumphalist and traumatic stories about itself for decades might be able to pivot for a new chapter. While over 120 allegations of human rights violations are being investigated, including possible homicides by law enforcement and allegations of torture and sexual abuse—as well as hundreds of people injured by birdshot—the massive gatherings have not yet resulted in the kind of brutal military crackdown that happened in 1973.

I started here by referring, as for years one had to, to the country’s two protagonists: Pinochet and Allende. They were symbols of two very different Chiles. But when I said that these sights in Chile the past week would be traumatic if you were alive in 1973, I meant it. Many Chileans weren’t alive then. This contingent—young, buckling under increasing costs of living and enormous debt—seems tired of relitigating the past. They’re objecting, at least in part, to the long shadow Pinochet and Allende have cast: to the way Pinochet has been used endlessly as an excuse by the left while they preserved many or most aspects of his economic model; to the way Allende has remained a boogeyman for the right, used to scare children with stories of financial ruin and leftist terrorism. It even makes a certain horribly Freudian kind of sense that breaking the country out of these unproductive narrative recursions would require a strange and terribly dangerous semi-reenactment. With tanks on the streets. Lines in the stores. Fires. Fights.

I don’t want to downplay the intensity of what’s happened the past week. The chaos has many Chileans exhausted and on edge. What began with a student protest over a subway fare hike has exploded into nationwide marches against much more: an unsustainably high cost of living, poverty-level retirements, bad and expensive health care, poor education, and crushing debt, to name a few. President Sebastián Piñera called a state of emergency in the early hours of Oct. 19, deploying the military. Much of the country is now under curfew. As of this writing, 18 people have died. There is footage of soldiers beating civilians; one video captures Carabineros (militarized police) bludgeoning people as they walk by. A TV network aired live footage of soldiers shooting as they drove through a neighborhood in Recoleta. On Tuesday morning, an Argentine TV news team was broadcasting when a soldier lifted his rifle and shot at them with a rubber bullet. By Tuesday night, there was footage of soldiers shooting into a building in Las Condes. Chile’s infrastructure has been heavily damaged in the protests too: After Oct. 18, most of the subway system was severely damaged and temporarily shut down. Dozens of stations were burned. While some lines are partly operational, full function won’t be restored for months. Buses and police precincts and stores were set on fire. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses throughout the country have had to close due to looting or other damage. Things are loud and frightening and wild.”



“On Friday, the Congress was evacuated due to protests outside, a peaceful (if loud) protest that by evening surpassed a million people in Plaza Baquedano alone. Though truckers have denied going on strike for fear of creating food shortages, they joined taxi drivers to bring the highways outside Santiago to gridlock, protesting against high road tolls. Efforts to create enough change are ongoing too: Evelyn Matthei, who served as Piñera’s former minister of labor during his first term, ran for president, and is currently mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district, said in an interview on Friday that the kind of profound change the country needed would require replacing “at least” eight of Piñera’s 24 ministers with people from the middle class with more diverse backgrounds that included (for example) public education experience. In the lower chamber of Congress, the House passed a proposed reduction in the work-week to 40 hours, and the opposition proposed a plebiscite for a new Constitution. To the extent that the demands are legible, the protests seem to be calling, first, for an end to the state of emergency and the military presence, and, more broadly, for a Constituent Assembly—for a new Constitution and a new social contract that sees people more as citizens than as a captive market for corporations seeking government concessions. Many are calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Chadwick, who spearheaded the initial escalation against the fare-dodgers. Others call for Piñera’s ouster. After the extraordinary, nation-wide outpouring Friday evening—Santiago’s protests were made up of almost 7 percent of the country’s population—Piñera tweeted, “The massive, joyous and peaceful protest today, where Chileans ask for a Chile with greater justice and solidarity, opens big roads to future and hope. We all have heard the message. We all have changed. With unity and help from God, we will travel this road to a better Chile for everyone.” Many of the chants had directly insulted him. On Saturday, he announced that he’d asked all his ministers to resign and said he would lift the state of emergency on Sunday if circumstances permitted. The curfew in Santiago is over. No one knows what will happen next.

***

I’ve noticed fewer Joker references over the last few days. And it feels like the potency of certain old spectacles—men in uniform confronting civilians, long grocery store lines—might be diminishing too. After a week of this state of emergency, things are not better in Chile. Things do not get easier when the “happy face” gets replaced by honest feeling. Tourism has plummeted, there are still fires, and people are anxious and angry and tired. But circumstances are not as bad as they could be. It could all go south at any time, but for now—for now—there is not desabastecimiento. The lines are not bread lines. (Yet.) Disturbing though the images of military attacking civilians are, things have not escalated to the familiar point of no return. I don’t know if that’s progress for a country both saturated by and sick of witnessed and inherited traumas. But it is something.

“Do you think Joker inspired any of this?” I asked my cousin Bernardita. “Of course,” she said, “or actually, the reverse: the social discontent inspired this interpretation of the Joker. Without a doubt.”

Whatever use the protesters have made of the Joker, there are obvious limits to his explanatory power. The protesters’ interpretation of the nihilistic clown has also taken some extratextual—and unifying—turns, such as the refusal of some politicians (and even a general) to adopt the rhetoric of war. The Joker snapped and turned on society. Chile is angry, and parts of it did snap. But by and large, the public still cares and has not devolved into nihilism. On Oct. 21, NO ESTAMOS EN GUERRA—WE ARE NOT AT WAR—was projected on the side of the Telefónica building near Plaza Italia, where huge crowds had gathered to reject the military’s enforcement of the curfew and test this version of Chile to see if it has changed. And if it can.”
lililoofbourow  chile  2019  protests  history  salvadorallende  pinochet  inequality  precarity  change  corruption  government  governance  democracy  neoliberlalism  chicagoboys  policy  politics  protest  sebastiánpiñera  michelebachelet  ricardolagos  dictatorship  symbols  symbolism  thejoker  batman  military  mobility  wellbeing  qualityoflife  labor  work  debt  violence  coup  trauma  injustice  justice  reform  constitution  eduardofrei  revolution  resistance  neoliberalism  capitalism  miltonfriedman  victorjara 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Being rich isn’t a superpower, and Steve Jobs isn’t Spider-Man
"Every age gets the heroes it deserves—or rather, the heroes it needs to do a certain kind of cultural work. Superhero stories have become our Greek dramas — popular entertainment built around larger-than-life figures with rich histories playing out complex fables of power, morality, and democracy. We tell the stories over and over again, either taking their characters back to their roots or placing them in fresh scenarios. We use these stories to explore new fantasies and solve new problems.

There are many issues playing themselves out in contemporary superhero stories—race and gender representation, surveillance and militarization, LGBT rights and identities, to name just a few. It’s strange, however, that one of the most important is one of the least talked-about: the disproportionate power wielded by the rich, whether wealthy individuals or wealthy societies. Wealth may be the buried theme of both contemporary comics and contemporary politics. Talking about superheroes and superpowers without talking about money misses an enormous part of the story—not least because the business of superheroes is bigger than ever, and the companies behind our most popular superheroes are some of the largest conglomerates in the world.

Now, it’s true that many superheroes have been rich: Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Iron Man’s Tony Stark were created as millionaire playboys decades ago. And this makes sense. As Spider-Man’s adventures showed for years, super-heroics don’t pay the bills: it’s difficult being a gadget-driven superhero (or any kind of superhero) without first having money to burn. But over time, Bruce Wayne stopped being just an idle heir and Tony Stark stopped being just an eccentric arms dealer, and both became hero figures much more recognizable to the 21st century: the genius entrepreneur. These characters are less Howard Hughes (the original model for Tony Stark) and more Elon Musk, less J. Robert Oppenheimer and more Mark Zuckerberg. They are brilliant futurists, larger than life—the people we ask to show us the future, and hope that they will help make the world one worth saving.

We don’t have warriors and war heroes at the center of our popular consciousness any more; we don’t have kings and queens, gods or monsters. We have entrepreneurs and superheroes: incarnations of a myth of the heroic individual. These are the titanic figures, at the junction of capitalism and futurism, whose actions have disproportionate effects on our world—actions and effects the rest of us are trying to grapple with. The Social Network, Steve Jobs (both the book and the movie), Ashlee Vance’s biography Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In—all are about businesses and entrepreneurship but also have a strong element of inspiration and self-help, and not just for budding business leaders but the larger public, to a degree we haven’t seen since the days of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

They offer, in short, much the same appeal as comic books.

The sociologist Thomas Streeter argues in “Steve Jobs, Romantic Individualism, and the Desire for Good Capitalism” that these myths play an important role in contemporary culture. For Streeter:
The romanticized version of Jobs’ life offers a story wherein one can imagine a capitalism with integrity, a capitalism where one’s inner life, one’s flaws, one’s passions are appreciated and lead to good things. The Jobs narrative offers the appealing vision of an idealized, productive, humane capitalism contrasted with the speculative, predatory kind of capitalism, unconnected to useful objects or activities, that appeared in the headlines after 2008. The name of Steve Jobs has become the symbol for the opposite of a Wall Street financial manipulator. Jobs functions, not always but often, as a signifier of good capitalism, of industrial capitalism with moral integrity. And in a world straining awkwardly, perhaps desperately, for ways to reconcile capitalist production with political democracy, that signifier can seem immensely useful and attractive.

Now consider The Amazing Spider-Man #1. Peter Parker is still a superhero, a good guy—so the story’s authors go out of their way to dot every I and cross every T to make sure we know that he’s still a good guy, one still obsessed with “great responsibility.” Parker explains that his goal with Parker Industries isn’t to save the world—which superheroes do every day—but to “make a world worth saving.” Over the course of the issue, we learn that his factories in China pay fair wages, that he’s taken a minimum salary, and that along with consumer products, the company works on biotechnology and renewable energy. When SHIELD helps Spider-Man stop thieves who’ve made off with Parker Industries’ customer data, Spider-Man strong-arms Nick Fury into handing the data back without the government taking a peek. He’s even started an “Uncle Ben Foundation” with the vague but noble mandate of “going around the globe using Parker Industries technology to help the less fortunate and raise the quality of life wherever we can.” It’s half Gates Foundation, half Batman Incorporated.

“We’re not here to build a fortune,” Parker says, “we’re here to build the future.” In short, as a businessman, a superhero, and a human being, the new Peter Parker, the world’s greatest self-made superhero, is impeccably, improbably, offensively good. Peter Parker is what you get if you tally our persistent anxieties about the power and personality of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Bezos, et al—and then just alleviate them: the perfectly polished superhero entrepreneur. If the real Steve Jobs is not available to serve as our imaginary heroic capitalist—whether because his personality is too flawed, the businesses he built are too imperfect, or simply because we can’t continue to tell new stories about him—Spider-Man is available forever.

This is not to say that all CEO superheroes are as perfect as Peter Parker. For Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Oliver Queen, and other wealthy superheroes, exploring business gives the writers room to explore the characters’ flaws and mistakes: their obsessiveness, their addictions, their immaturity. In fact, often these characters can sometimes seem barely likable. But in many ways—just as with Steve Jobs—this focus on flaws is still an act of reconciliation and never really jars the premise that the story being told is the story of a hero. The assumption remains that, barring a mind swap with a supervillain or a mystical personality reversal, these men (and it’s almost always men) are fundamentally good.

On the outside they may be flaky, boorish, and arrogant. Still, they feel things, have powerful value systems, and ultimately want most of all to improve the world—if not save it. If they were not superheroes, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne would be awful people. (They also resemble many young men in the worlds of business and technology.) Because we know Stark and Wayne are superheroes—and because we intimately know the history and personality traits that drive them—we forgive them everything. (Can you think of a better way to try to understand Elon Musk?) Despite their flaws, our superheroes are what we want our capitalists to be.

More subtly, they also give us tools we can use to understand ourselves—to reconcile our own wealth and power relative to others, our own status as citizens of global superpowers in a world filled with injustice, a world needing to be saved."



"In recent years, there have been a handful of comic book stories where superpowers have become consumer goods. MGH (mutant growth hormone), Xperience, and Kick are all mutant-derived drugs that induce or boost superpowers. All of them are addictive and deadly in various degrees.

But in a recent storyline, Iron Man/Tony Stark suffers a magic reversal spell that changes his personality. “Evil” Stark moves to San Francisco, where he creates a smartphone application and nanobot stack that lets users change their bodies to whatever they want, including boosted intelligence, health, beauty, and even immortality. Initially, he gives away the powers for free, but when adoption peaks, he remotely shuts them down, charging $99.99 a day for continued activation. The wealthy continue enjoying superhuman life, desperate users turned to crime, and Stark’s company makes a killing. Eventually, employee/love-interest Pepper Potts stops him, with the aid of a robot programmed with Stark’s old “good” personality. When that fails, Potts—a talented and quite wealthy business mind in her own right—buys out media outlets and blackmails Stark with the promise to expose the scheme.

The Superior Iron Man is literally a story of good capitalist versus bad capitalist, masquerading as a critique of contemporary tech culture. But the funny thing is that the “evil” Tony Stark doesn’t seem all that different from the “good” Tony Stark of past years. A little more craven, a little more louche, less evil than he is amoral. The difference between superheroes and supervillains turns out to be little more than a matter of perspective and degree.

It is tempting to think of our new capabilities as superpowers, because that makes us, in some way, superheroes. It is tempting to think of the inventors of our new technologies as heroes, icons, brilliant men and women of vision and ethics who overcame their own limitations and external opposition to save the day. It means that to cheer for them is to cheer for good. It means we live in a world that is both more magical and more ordered—even more human— than the one we know. It is much more distressing to ask ourselves, “What if we are not the hero in the story? What if we are not even the villain? What if the story was never even ours at all?”"
2015  timcarmody  superpowers  superheroes  comics  stevejobs  technology  wealth  capitalism  thomasstreeter  marcandreessen  tonystark  ironman  spider-man  brucewayne  batman  siliconvalley  elonmusk  peterparker  howardhughes  jrobertoppenheimer  markzuckerberg  inequality 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Super Position – The New Inquiry
"Almost never do superheroes make, create, or build anything. The villains, in contrast, are endlessly creative. They are full of plans and projects and ideas. Clearly, we are supposed to first, without consciously realizing it, identify with the villains. After all, they’re having all the fun. Then of course we feel guilty for it, re-identify with the hero, and have even more fun watching the superego clubbing the errant Id back into submission."

"Costumed superheroes ultimately battle criminals in the name of the law—even if they themselves often operate outside a strictly legal framework. But in the modern state, the very status of law is a problem. This is because of a basic logical paradox: no system can generate itself.

Any power capable of creating a system of law cannot itself be bound by them. So law has to come from somewhere else…

We’ve gone…from a situation where the power to create a legal order derives from God, to one where it derives from armed revolution, to…"
systemsthinking  systems  occupywallstreet  ows  dictatorship  dictators  legal  law  tradition  fascism  comicbooks  comics  spiderman  superman  darkknight  christophernolan  batman  walterbenjamin  conservationoftradition  conservatism  states  violence  superheroes  2012  davidgraeber 
october 2012 by robertogreco
The Dark Knight Buyses | Dave Ex Machina
"Compare with Superman’s other foil, Lex Luthor. Luthor is, in his most recent forms, a multibillionaire. I don’t know his current origins, but in the past he’s come from pretty humble beginnings. So he’s up there with Batman in the super-wealth and super-brains department, though I don’t think he was just handed his fortune. Fans beg for Superman to fight Batman over and over (though Batman should, according to them — and does — always win) and yet they get this any time Superman goes up against Luthor. Luthor is evil Batman. He’s got the same resources and the same abilities, but unlike Batman, he has not chosen to play by the rules. In the comic book world, this means Luthor doesn’t win, which is why the comic book world is described as “escapism”. In the world as it is, there are far more Luthors than Batmen, and they win far more often."
superman  batman  comics  wealth  escapism  2012  via:tom.hoffman 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Directions From our Dreams: Imagining a More Amazing iOS 6 Maps App | Wired Design | Wired.com
"Buried in Baio’s post was this intriguing tidbit: “Developers can specify a category (Car, Bus, Train, Subway, Streetcar, Plane, Bike, Ferry, Taxi, Pedestrian, Other).”

“Other”? What kind of thing can you do with “other”? Media inventor Robin Sloan saw it first.

"So Apple’s iOS 6 Maps delegates public transit to third-party apps. That, my friends, is a storytelling opportunity. Two words: Catbus app."

Yes! Why limit ourselves to mundane, workaday transit (especially given how hellish this is for developers) when now we can map anything.

With that in mind, we humbly present this list of suggestions:

* An app that routes your trip via LA’s lost streetcars.
* A psychogeography directions app, perhaps a port of Near Future Laboratory’s Drift deck, which directs aimless wandering around a city.
* An app to help The Warriors get home.
* An app to celebrate Bloomsday by following James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom through Dublin.
* An app for Batman that routes by rooftop."
publictransit  api  mapping  wandering  batman  jamesjoyce  bloomsday  driftdeck  psychogeography  catbus  apple  ios6  ios  mapsoftheimagination  maps  robinsloan  timmaly  2012  andybaio 
june 2012 by robertogreco
What Did Slavoj Zizek Think of ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ Anyway? -- Vulture -- New York Magazine
"I don’t buy the theory that, ‘You think you are playing, but you are generating violence.’ I don’t think there is a clear connection between that kind of violence and real violence. This eternal fear of liberals who claim if you play video games, you’ll think reality is like this and you’ll go out and beat someone. It’s a much more complex system … If anything, playing Grand Theft Auto is more of a superstition. In order not to do something in reality, you play it virtually. I think it functions much more on that level. You know it is a very complex topic; psychoanalysis can learn something here.”"
via:preoccupations  games  gaming  gta  film  philosophy  batman  violence  theory  videogames  zizek  grandtheftauto 
july 2009 by robertogreco
BK FEATURE: Why Superman Will Always Suck - Bam! Kapow!
"Really, what lessons do Superman comics teach? It says that mankind is full of dull, pointless weaklings & evildoers who can only be stopped by a white ubermensch from another planet, who didn't work a day in his life in order to achieve his powers."
batman  superheroes  superman  culture  comics  humor  via:kottke 
april 2008 by robertogreco

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