I will share my outside (and perhaps nerdy) viewpoint on this, because I recently had a very similar discussion to this one with one fellow doper Boozahol Squid P.I. who caused me to think about this very question.
The question for us dorks was- which is a better place to live: Gotham City or Metropolis?
I stated that Metropolis looked like a much nicer community, and by far, seems to be the safer one with Superman guarding it and all. **Boozy **however was against that idea, and said he preferred Gotham, which took me back, as Gotham is a gritty crime infested city- a dump if you will.
But here’s the point (and i’m paraphrasing here), the issue is not which place is a “nicer” place to live, as i had been thinking about the question- but rather a philosophical question- the one that you have asked.
Superman is a person who “protects the innocent” so to speak. In metropolis, the city is protected by an individual that tries to prevent crimes and stop them before they occur (now I know this isn’t always the case and all, but I don’t want to get into the superhero trivial details but rather focus on the gist of it all). But on the whole, Superman PREVENTS crime by protecting his citizens.
Batman on the other hand takes the 2nd stance: he punishes the guilty. He finds those who have committed the crimes (and using his detective skills), he tracks down the wrong doers and brings them to justice.
Thusly, it was an easy metaphor for me to better understand now. One is a city that seems like a Utopia- a place protected by a nearly omnipotent being that prevents all crimes from harming people. While the other city was a crime filled dangerous place to live- sure there were nice places in it, but there were still slums, and yes, it too had a protector that acted in the interests of its citizens, but for the most part, he was focused on the AFTERMATH of a heist or a crime- in bringing the murderer or criminals to justice.
I still felt Metropolis was a better place than Gotham, and couldn’t understand Boozy’s preference, That’s when he brought up the kicker: it all depends on what your stance is on personal FREEDOM. Gotham is a more democratic and “free-er” state than Metropolis. This can only be seen by pushing the examples of the superheros to extremes (Superman’s Red Son series did this marvelously).
Batman doesn’t punish those who speak out, he ONLY truly punishes those who ACT out, the truly “guilty”. He is a detective, who examines the evidence, finds those truly responsible and brings them to justice POST the crime.
Superman doesn’t act the same way, and in fact, would take measures to PREVENT crimes, this means stopping them before they occur. There have been many comics done of this idea- Superman decides that he is simply the best person to “protect” the people, and thusly begins to act as "Big Brother’ to his citizens, by stopping all forms of protest, rebelling or acting out. Basically, he would reduce metropolis to a totalitarian state, or a “benevolent dictatorship” of sorts- where the citizens are safer, but at the cost of their civil liberties and freedom of speech/press etc. This ensures that everyone is innocent, and everyone is protected by an omnipotent being.
I found that idea really interesting actually, and never really considered it that way. Yet, if you asked me which I would live in? I would probably pick Metropolis still- because I feel I am an “innocent” person, and I would tolerate the loss of my civil rights, if it meant I would be “safer” in the long run, as my health right now means more to me than my freedoms. But i can TOTALLY understand how someone could argue the complete opposite- that one’s civil liberties and freedom should mean more, and should not be given up in order to fully “protect the innocent”.
It’s a fun thing to talk about, and I never really understood or liked philosophy much, but it was neat to think about it in terms that I could easily understand- with the two views and endpoints making more sense to me.
So yeah- put me down for Protecting the innocent, even at the cost of freedoms and if the criminals get away to come back another day.
However, I realize this one thing- we as people are not superman. So in witnessing the state of affairs post 9-11, where I felt this way- that protecting the US was tantamount and that I would cheerfully lose my liberties if it meant we were all safer for it. I’m realize now how naive that sort of a choice really was (then again, I was like 15 when it happened, I’ve become more cynical and less likely to blindly trust authority since then by the course of the results of the next several years). So, though I’d pick the protecting the innocent, I’d watch that carefully, as I know how easily it can be twisted by a fallible person to go down a sliding slope towards “Big Brother” or a benevolent dictatorship, or invading a nation to protect us from WMD’s. It’s a very slippery slope.
So perhaps, neither extreme is best, but instead we need cooler heads from both sides willing to examine the issues.
Justice League, anyone?
Thanks for listening to this drivel (as it’s a bit long- sorry), and you can get back to your more serious discussion.