10 May

With Great Power

I have been reading a lot these days of those in power keeping more for themselves and not sharing well with others.

We have lost our collective sense of responsibility.

spider-man-quote-227380This troubles me. Certainly this was a value I grew up on and very much internalized. It was best known to me through the origin story of spiderman. In the story, Peter Parker is learning to understand his new found power of the spider and playing around with it. His Uncle, who raised him, tells Peter, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter blows him off, until later, Peter could have intervened to stop a robbery, and that robber ends up killing his uncle. Peter understands the meaning of responsibility and tragically understands the personal cost of doing nothing and/or being self-focused.

I am troubled that our Congress no longer has a sense of collective responsibility. They have excellent health insurance but have thus far failed to make sure all of us can have the same. They have excellent retirement benefits but have failed to insure that we will too. They failed to respond to banking greed, subprime mortgages, and corporate malfeasance. They are failing to keep internet access open and available. they have failed in funding education and keep funding wars. the list goes on…

Walmart, and other corporations, pay their executives exorbitant salaries and benefits, but only pay their employees minimum wage. Most of the Walmart employees are under the poverty level and utilizing public assistance. Walmart’s business model is to come into communities, many low income, and drive out the competition with the low prices that they demand from distributors. They make money hand over fist and don’t have the sense of responsibility to insure that their employees are cared for.

We see it also with the NCAA, where the “non-profit” organization makes billions from the march tournament and the collegiate athletes and merchandizing, and yet perpetuates rules that limit what those same athletes can and cant do. Recently a UCONN player talked about being hungry because these rules limit how much food they can get on campus.

My problem with these corporations, organizations, and people in power is that they are not acting with collective interests in mind. They are the young Peter Parkers, thinking only of the money and popularity he can get and taking care of himself. I want us, those who have power in some sort, to be Uncle Ben, or the wiser Peter Parkers, where we understand that our power also brings a burden to take care of those around us, to share the rewards of our power, and to make sure those in our community our protected. Even when that responsibility comes at great personal expense. This is what I expect.

I carry this in mind personally too. As someone who has benefited all my life (and intergenerationally) being white, male, straight, able bodied, upper-middle class, I have that same responsibility. that system that gave me unearned benefits just for being these, is unjust. My collective responsibility is to shift that system toward equity. My responsibility is to care for those around me, share my benefits, and to make sure those around me are protected.

This value drives me. I expect this of myself. I expect this of my kids as well. I expect this of the elders and leaders in my communities.

Thank you Spider Man. Thank you Uncle Ben.