The Power / Responsibility Equation

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Spider-man

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke (though I honestly heard it from The Boondocks Saints first)

“Um, what?” – Good people everywhere.

I mean, seriously: both of these ideas make a lot of sense and are pretty much taken as fact, but good people still let bad things happen all the time. I don’t want to believe that all these good people are lazy or ignorant, so instead I’m going to believe it’s a semantic issue.

I think most folks just aren’t sure what “great” means. Or what power means, necessarily.

Spider-man has it easy: he has super-powers, he’s in New York, so he feels responsible for preventing violent crime against New Yorkers. He doesn’t seem to be worried about world hunger or health care reform, and we don’t expect him to be – he’s doing what he can with what he’s got.

But we in the real world don’t have such clarity, even if we do have what would be considered great power.

The President, for instance, has enough power that he could conceivably affect world hunger, health care reform, or violent crime in New York. But he doesn’t have enough to affect all three issues, so he has to decide what he’s responsible for and do his best, while, of course, being faulted for all three.

And we ordinary people don’t have enough power that we feel responsible for much of anything. Spider-man doesn’t outline the level of responsibility expected out of people with average power.

I think we need an equation for that, and maybe a detailed delegation system.

We can’t all care passionately about everything, we just can’t. So what we need to do is first outline a solid definition of power. (Money equals power, they say, but that doesn’t necessarily take influence and physical strength into account. If you have the Mayor of Gotham, John Daggett, and Bane all in the same room, you’re looking at an influential dude, a rich dude, and a strong dude, but which one’s in charge? And does he feel in charge?)

I’m no mathematician, so I can’t really work it out. I imagine Power = Money + Influence + (Strength / Location) or something like that, but I’m not the guy for that. Maybe you can help?

Any way, even once we do that, we need to align levels of power to levels of responsibility, and then dole them out appropriately. Like, say, a lady with 11 power has 11 responsibility, which includes things like world hunger and social justice. A dude with 3 power has to deal with stuff like, I dunno, hungry neighbors and abandoned puppies.

I guess once everyone sorts out their power and allotted responsibility, they then have sign-up sheets where they put down what good things they’ll handle. And then whoever signs up last will get the really unpleasant stuff, like eating lunch with that weird lonely person or figuring out how to end centuries of ingrained hatred.

The best call is to pick your favorite power-appropriate task and claim it now, before we get that list going. You don’t want to have to pick last, and you definitely don’t want to let evil triumph, so that’s really the only solution.


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