Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Superman wept

Well, how bad is this financial crisis? Should we be merely worried and fretful, or actively praying and soiling ourselves? So far we’ve lost Woolworths, though I can’t really see that that is evidence one way or the other. Woolies was surely a dead shop walking. The merest puff of recessional wind should have been enough to knock Woolies down, never mind the hurricane that’s supposed to be hitting us. Perhaps it only becomes a crisis when your personal pay cheque fails to arrive. Anyway, the media has worn me down and won; it has finally disturbed my equilibrium.

There is a state between wakefulness and sleepfulness. You might call it ‘dozing’, though I prefer Mrs Brit’s description of it as ‘when your thoughts turn silly’. This is the ideal place for the 20 minute afternoon nap (any shallower and there’s no benefit; any deeper and you wake up feeling rotten), and it was in this postprandial condition on Sunday that a strange and terrible vision came to me…

…The world’s leaders, in despair at the impending financial doom, have called upon Superman to save the day. So Superman duly arrives, swooping into the international summit with his usual aplomb. They sit him in front of a huge computer and say “Help us out of this one, please.”

So Superman considers, looks pensive, and addresses the keyboard. And what, exactly, can Superman do about the worldwide implications of the Credit Crunch? The answer is… absolutely nothing. He is useless. Sure, give him a collapsing bridge to support, or a malfunctioning plane to carry safely back to earth, and he’s in his element. But untangling the gargantuan woolball of global finance is another matter entirely.

And the full extent of his impotence begins to dawn on Superman as he taps away hopelessly – though very rapidly –at the keyboard. He mentally runs through his inventory of powers: lifting very heavy objects, flying very fast, the red zappy eye thing. All quite useless. He is a dumb, physical brute, a meathead, good only for chunks of manual labour.

Worse than that, Superman suddenly realises just what an appalling abdication of responsibility his career thus far has been: hanging around Metropolis - a city which already has perfectly adequate emergency services - rescuing Lois Lane over and over from her stupid self-inflicted perils just because he fancies her, while across the globe, disease, drought, war and famine lay waste to millions. The amassed, interwoven miseries of Planet Earth, home of the wretched human being, are much too vast for a Superman. We leave him, head buried in the crook of his muscle-pumped arm, weeping hot acidic Super-tears.

Meanwhile back in England, the FA, desperate to win some cheap national pride, have drafted their number one hero into the football team in a bid to win the 2010 World Cup. They’re playing James Bond 007 up front, tucked into the ‘Sheringham role’ just behind Emile Heskey. How can we lose? Bond never fails. But come the first friendly against Spain at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville, disaster strikes. Bond, after running furiously around for 10 minutes, showing no semblance of positional awareness, is red-carded for killing centre-back Carlos Puyol with an expert karate chop to the solar plexus.

At half-time the epistemological philosopher and former Aston Villa midfielder Andy Townsend sums things up on ITV.

“Heroes are only heroes in context,” he explains. “At the end of the day, these fictional supermen operate in a closed environment: we only give them defined problems that we know they can solve, however difficult, and then they move on to the next episode. That’s why there are no superheroes in real life. The world is too complex, problems are part of bigger problems and the solutions only make more problems. That’s why it was never going to work bringing Bond in as an out-and-out striker. If anything, play Gerrard up top alongside Rooney and try 007 on the left.”

“And he’s definitely deserved the red card there, you can’t raise your hands in the modern game, especially in Europe,” adds Robbie Earle, ex-Wimbledon player and leading Spinoza scholar. “The manager will be disappointed with that. Unknown unknowns don’t exist in fiction, but in real life they’re all we’ve got.”

And then I woke up. Or rather – because I wasn’t fully asleep – my thoughts became less silly and I went to make a cup of tea.


Ali said...

Superman is actually quite intelligent. He couldn't last long against Lex Luthor if he was all brawn and no grey cells.

Kev said...

Superman was created by Jewish writers to fight the Nazis, a task to which he was suited. Perhaps what we need is new heroes more appropriate to the age, trained in the darkside of accounting practices by monks deep in the jungles of Asian market economies, able to upskill workers in single bound, fearlessly maintaining consumer spending in the face of market uncertainty. Doesn't have the same kind of inspirational factor admittedly. Maybe let them shoot lasers out of their eyes as well so they can something to do on talk shows.

Brit said...

SuperAccountant, eh, Kev? Yes, has a Pythonesque ring to it but I can see it working as a TV serial. The important thing would be to get the spreadsheet manipulation and data entry action to be as authentic as possible, in between the laser eye fights and sex scenes.

Stephen Fawcus said...

Superman could fly so fast that he travels back in time to, say, 1970 where he could warn everybody of the financial crises that will come from irresponsible captialistic activities.
He would be shot as a communist.

Brit said...

I hated that bit where Superman turns back time to make Lois come alive again. First, it made no sense - just because the earth spun backwards wouldn't make time reverse now would it? And second, that's too much power, rendering everything else in the story pointless. PAH!

Ali said...

That was a visual illustration of the time-travel i.e. symptom, not cause.

SuperAccountant? I think I've found my purpose in life.

Brit said...

Is that right Ali? I always thought he flew fast in order to reverse the rotation, and that caused time to go backwards.

Not that it matters a great deal, it's not like your version is more 'realistic', is it?