Benevolent billionaires

The fun has just begun!

I am knee deep in Batman stories with my kids (thank you Rachael for the gift of a truckload of books!), and I have some thoughts.

First, a disclaimer: I'm a noob in the Marvel universe so I’m going to zero in on one story. I may walk back some of these conclusions after I’ve spent more coronatime in the Marvel archives, but in the meantime, here are some expansive claims drawn from a narrow reading of one adapted-for-kids Batman yarn.

The Batman story we’ve been reading on loop, Toxic Terror, features Poison Ivy and Batman with a rare shared goal: saving a city park from development.

The end is banal and age appropriate; the means are where it gets interesting.

Poison Ivy adopts an ecoterrorism playbook and turns innocents into trees. Batman thinks that’s not exactly fair to Gothamites.

He’s not wrong. But I can’t help but sympathize with Poison Ivy. She’s getting shit done, in a grassroots, no-fucks-given, bootstrapping kind of way.

Batman, meanwhile, has some truly exceptional tools at his disposal. He has his Utility Belt, which in my book is always treated as a proper name. The Utility Belt has achieved the kind of spatial optimization that Silicon Valley wet dreams are made of. It certainly has a much smaller footprint than any of my purses or diaper bags, yet somehow it always delivers. No matter how unanticipated or unprecedented the scrape Batman finds himself in, the ideal gadget materializes at just the right moment. No fumbles, no fails. Batman can capture the villains and save humanity faster than I can scramble for a spare diaper among petrified goldfish crumbs and half a dozen Lego bits and someone's applesauce soaked sock.

Mad respect, Batman.

There’s another thing about Batman’s effectiveness, though. Sure, his moral compass is squarely aligned toward virtue. He’s got that enviable Utility Belt. He can whip up an antidote to a brand new poison within a matter of hours. (Batman: if you’re reading, HELP US.) But there’s something else, something where this stops being fantasy and feels like grim reality.

Batman’s got a few other tools in his belt, and these ones need no upper-case branding or user-experience optimization. In a story supposedly whittled down to its necessary bits, the word count spares no expense when it comes to Batman’s wealth.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne. Wayne Manor, the largest mansion in Gotham City. Bruce’s wealthy business partners. Etc, etc.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne, owner of Wayne Manor, chairman of the wealthy and powerful, dispatches with Poison Ivy in his typical way (bespoke tools, campy puns) and then he solves the park/development squabble with the most effective levers of power there are.

He makes a few phone calls to wealthy friends and government officials. He makes a sizable donation.

Park preservation: complete.

Humanity: saved.

Is that not some next-level, sly-as-shit capitalist propaganda for our innocent young to take in with their bedtime story?

Fear not, innocents. There is a shadow hierarchy of billionaires, secretly toiling in our best interest.

Continue your routine of clock-punching and consuming, dear citizens. These anonymous scions will save our green space and cure our most pressing social ills with dispatch and without promise of personal gain.

Stand down, would-be activists. Your methods are only an obstacle to your own salvation. Don’t question it; trust the process.

I started making a list of the divergences between Batman and our current real-life would-be billionaire savior (ill-fitting costume, makes phone calls for personal instead of public interest, etc, etc) but it risked becoming one of those earnest opinion pieces that we’ve all read on mind-numbing loop for the last 1203 days.

So instead I made an extremely scientific chart of How Billionaires Rank on the scales of humility and selfless public service.

Please note that in most charts, especially those that billionaires are concerned with, up and to the right is the best direction to move in. This chart is more like a virus chart: up and to the right is the worst.

As you can see, Batman is the best.

And the best, to be clear, is one man secretly serving as a deep state vigilante.

The muscular messengers of capitalism have gone to extraordinary lengths to convince us that billionaires are indeed our benefactors, and that propping up a system that rewards them so handsomely is to our benefit.

This corona-time is a potent reminder that worship of wealth cannot save us from nature or from ourselves.

No matter how prescient Bill Gates is.

As the Joker, and now my four year old, always say:

The fun has just begun!

Alyse

p.s. Speaking of billionaires, the latest episode of my podcast is out, and it’s all about fundraising in Silicon Valley. This is my favorite episode yet. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other platform.


This week in good news

I’m just like the NBA! I got some CASH MONEY from the government. That is, my business did. After over a month of waiting to hear about our application, funds appeared as stealthily as a costumed billionaire in my bank account. Every dollar of that assistance is going straight to our employees. I am so grateful.


Quote of the week

h/t to Jamie for sending this article.

Focus. You have 5-6 hours to work. You have no time to fight the patriarchy.

-Ify Walker


Media I’m glad I consumed this week


A+ on the vocab quiz

pleonasm (n): the use of more words than necessary; redundancy.