Ruminations of an Aspiring Super-Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I’ve had a pretty good life. As I look back, it’s all but impossible for me to deny it—I’ve been blessed. Of all the lives people lead, and all the myriad strokes of luck one might receive in birth, I really hit the figurative jackpot. I was born in a thriving nation, and into a loving family. I received a great education, have had no significant problems with my health, and have experienced absolutely no legitimate tragedies in my life.

Yeah, it’s enough to really piss a guy off.

As I think back on it, I’ve got to say it’s a bit unfair. So many potential catastrophes could have befallen me…and yet I come up short in every imaginable scenario that could have contributed to true greatness.

I’ve never fallen into a vat of radioactive chemicals. I’ve never been left an orphan with an inexhaustible inheritance. Hell, I’ve never even been the sole surviving member of a once proud race!

Holy hell, what’s a guy gotta do to catch a break? I mean, it would be nice to have some excuse to go ballistic and begin pursuing merciless world domination, don’t you think? But without a tragic origin story, doing so just makes you an asshole.

I feel like I’ve waited long enough. When do I get my chance to enslave the human race with a mind controlling radio-wave? And commanding an army of zombie-bears from the back of a T-Rex? Forget about it!

The factory in my town could have easily blown up, sending toxic gasses cascading down upon my home. I would have awoken in a post-apocalyptic hell, with nothing of my former life left, and only a painful cough to remind me of all I’d lost. But no, I guess that would be asking a bit much. So now, when I fantasize about creating a computer virus that turns the screens of all world-bank computers into scenes from ‘Where’s Waldo’ while channelling all extant wealth into my own offshore account—I just feel crazy.

With no heart-wrenching past to be angsty about, it’s pretty tough to be a maniac.

‘Oh Brad,’ you might say, ‘you can be anything you want if you just put your mind to it.’ Well to that I say you’d better check your damn privilege. Maybe you were wrongfully detained by law-enforcement while your family was burned before your eyes—but not everyone had villainy just handed to them on a silver platter.

Even if I wanted to launch a satellite full of dangerous pathogens into space, and hold the earth’s population hostage for enormous amounts of money, I would at the very least have needed to lose control of the majority of my body due to some biochemical accident in a forgotten Slavic town. But alas, I was raised happy and healthy.

Really, I’ve got to say there’s a disturbing sense of entitlement among the world’s evil-doers. You parade around wreaking havoc and causing general disarray, without even thinking about those of us who are cursed with being well-adjusted citizens. If I’m being honest, it makes me sick.

Whatever. Fuck it. I guess I’ll just do my job, and hang out with my friends, and all that other ‘normal’ stuff. But the next time you villains decide you’re going to poison the water supply with DNA-altering substances in order to sell the cure to the highest bidder, you’d damn well better consider reaching out. Otherwise, if ever a stray meteor wipes out my nation and leaves me charged with electrical powers but lacking all memory; struggling for years and barely clinging to life until finally raising myself up stronger, harder, and with an undying thirst for vengeance—you’d better look out!

Sooner or later, I will experience hardship; and when that day does come, those of you who’ve hoarded all the suffering to yourselves while leaving the rest of us to toil in tepid normalcy will have your reckoning. When you’re sitting comfortably in your lairs, stroking your Persian cat and watching the news on your wall-monitor, and you hear about me creating a mad cross-breed of giraffes and sharks, then turning the abominable creatures lose on Wall St.—then you’ll see my true potential.

Hard times and trauma are not a gift to be taken lightly. So appreciate what you’ve got, and hold on to that top spot while it lasts. Because let’s face it; I’m just one ‘wife-kidnapped by government agents in a terrible case of mistaken identity’ away from joining you on that mountain of chaos and lunacy. And when I do, you’ll wish you’d been more inclusive to those deprived of trauma in our formative years.

Just you wait…

-Brad OH Inc.

In Defense of the Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp..

Green Desklamp

There is a great deal of credit to be given to the pivotal villains in our lives. They are the flavour—the spices to the bland and basic nutrients of daily experience. Without the villains, there is no story, and without villains, it’s pretty damn hard to have a hero. Without the Joker, Batman is just some crazy asshole in tights; without Scar, Simba just an entitled burgeoning monarch.

Whether we look to the great novels of our time, or fine films—in daily life and even in professional wrestling, it’s inevitably the villains that make the story matter. They create the conflict, and more often than not, provide the personality so lacking in a world without them.

At Brad OH Inc., it’s a role we are often more than happy to play, and why not? Villains walk the less familiar path, and the great ones do so for reasons worthy to make us question what might otherwise be a simple matter of rote knowledge. They are the equation before the solution, the seduction preceding the climax.

In contrast, the hero is an easy role, and one driven merely by the most basic values and expectations which everyone should know. They’re accessible, simple, and fundamentally uninteresting. Ultimately, the hero can by nature do little more than reaffirm that which we already know, and while this can for a certainty be a great comfort at times, it lacks the potential to teach us anything new. Practice makes perfect—but mistakes are where the fun comes in.

Yet if you ask any given person, at any random time, you will with little variance hear them claim that they are a ‘good guy/ girl’, that they do what is right, and condemn its antithesis. It’s not a hard claim to make, and it shouldn’t be a difficult line to walk. The right choices are—or at the very least certainly should be—incredibly easy to make. Decency is a concept confined to no language, limited by no culture. It’s the same in most any society, and is the basis of every religion. Be honest, treat others well, consider the effects of your actions—Christ, I’m getting bored just typing it. Reiterating such basic concepts ad nauseum is like selling a math book with only the answers—it tells you everything, but teaches you nothing. It’s the job of the villain to provide the questions, and that is by far the more compelling role.

But while the villain may be the more fun and interesting role, it’s no earth-shaking thesis to say that decency remains the logical choice as far as actual action goes. After all, if everyone were to simply follow even the most basic principles of decency, we would be living in a veritable utopia of equity and compassion. A quick and informed look around however should tell even the most simple-minded observer that that is far from the case.

So what’s going wrong? Is it that the majority, or even a highly impactful minority, is choosing to play the villain role out of passion for its inherent interest? No, I don’t think so.

If we accept the basic assumption that the world would be paradise if everyone were to follow simple precepts of decency, and further that this is such a self-evident truth that awareness of it can never be far from any one person’s worldview, then the current state of the world presents us with a significant conundrum.

The problem as I see it is that for such a system of basic decency to have any success whatsoever, it must be a tenet to which everyone holds dear. Not a few, not even the majority. It’s a platitude to be sure, but in this case it’s true that even a few bad apples will spoil the barrel. If your neighbour is likely to rob you blind and leave you for dead, showing trust and decency is a quick ticket to being a victim.

For decency to work, it must be ubiquitous. To this end, the impetus to act morally is a shared responsibility of all; unfortunately, this tends to translate in the minds of the simple majority as tantamount to and inseparable from diffused responsibility.

Herein lies the problem. The perception of diffused responsibility is erroneous from the start, as it functions to break down faith in others, and provides excuses for the self. ‘It’s up to everyone, not just me’, is an easy call to arms for the ethically impaired, and could act as an effective summary of society at large. Ultimately, diffused responsibility serves as a lessened sense of purpose for everyone involved.

The fact that a successful society is the shared responsibility of so very many people makes the idea of personal responsibility seem like a distant pipe dream, whereas in truth it should serve to increase the motivation. In place of diffused responsibility, I would submit that it should be felt as a sense of compounded responsibility. The more people share in a responsibility—and the more significant the good that stands to be gained—the greater should be the personal impetus to adhere to it.

Obviously, that expectation is a fruitless hope, but there have been respectable approaches to creating this sense in the past. For starters, an obvious attempt is rule of law. This applies consequences to anyone who strays too far from the path of decency, as defined by the courts. Law certainly succeeds in maintaining a status quo, but the threat of punishment is insufficient to snuff out ill-will in those who see no future in honesty.

Another historical attempt to keep people adhering strictly to the righteous path has been religion. Religion has—to an extent—managed to help overcome the notion of diffused responsibility and settle on the greater ideal of compounded responsibility to be decent—at the threat of eternal fire. But with the rate of active practitioners dropping steadily (Source), and the very notion of faith being bastardized by legislation such as the Right to Corporate Religion (Source), there is again little in the way of keeping the average person from shirking this fundamental personal responsibility.

The death of god is one thing, the death of the human spirit is another entirely—and a far more regrettable one at that.

So what solutions remain? If the threat of punishment by measures such as laws only motivates cooperation as long as the benefit of compliance outweighs the motivation for misdeeds, and religion is increasingly ineffective at providing internal motivation to respect the compounded responsibility to decency, what options are we left with?

I think the key question here is, beyond the delectable irony of playing the villain role, why do so many people choose to break public trust—diffused responsibility notwithstanding?

Above, we established that the world would be a utopia if everyone simply made the right choices, and acted with dignity and respect. There would be no need for dishonesty or competition. However the problem that arises is distrust—if you cannot count on other people acting this way, then you will be ripped off and fooled. Thus, very few people bother to act correctly.

The problem here is that society is presently functioning as a zero-sum game: the gains of one are the losses of another. This is increasingly true in a world where Corporations are bleeding money out of the economy, hoarding it in non-taxable offshore accounts and leaving the population as a whole to struggle on with exponentially limited resources.

If our goal is a society where people will willingly make choices that benefit society as a whole, the solution is not singularly in punishing those who break this social contract, but rather in fostering a nation in which there exists the option for all people to safely make this choice.

With effectively balanced social supports: healthcare, welfare, affordable education and housing, etc., we could strive towards a society where living in a moral way will never leave a person wanting or starving. If citizens were not forced into unbearable debt, they could realistically get by simply living a just life. If people had that faith in their society, it would make true the false promises of all past religions.

Despite the fun of playing the villain, I firmly believe that people would choose to be good if it were a realistically safe path free of treachery and betrayal. If we want people to act morally, they must be provided with the option to do so unburdened by the threat of a neglected family life or crippling debt.

It is possible, but first we must move past the selfish machinery of Corporate profit-motivated nihilism which continues to keep the citizenry shackled to a lifestyle of simple survival without positive growth.

It’s just an idea mind you. It’s a complex issue, and there can be no doubt the obstacles in the way are unthinkably vast. In the meantime, there’s no sense in not enjoying ourselves. If we can’t have perfection, at least we can have fun! Here at Brad OH Inc., we’re happy to continue to play the villain, at least until a better role comes along.

-Brad OH Inc.