Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Batman vs. Bruce Wayne: Who Can Save South Africa?

In a country overrun with crime, do we need a Batman to save us, or a Bruce Wayne?
 by Curtis Betz


Recently, I was speaking to my wife about her fear of living in Johannesburg due to the high crime levels and I made the joke that South Africa would be better off if we had our own Batman. This sparked a line of thinking that made me wonder if Batman could save South Africa, or instead would the answer to this country’s crime lie in his billionaire playboy alter-ego Bruce Wayne? Can we solve our problems with higher levels of security on the streets or is salvation only found through solving deeper societal problems such as poverty and a lack of education?

In the Christopher Nolan film Batman Begins, we see a young Bruce Wayne on the train with his father, Thomas Wayne. Thomas tells his young son that he built that train with money from his company, Wayne Enterprises, to give back to the city that gave them so much. Thomas believed that the best way to help Gotham City was by using his vast wealth to help the people through charity and building up the city’s infrastructure.

After witnessing the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham and travels the world learning to fight crime. Upon his return to Gotham, he takes control of Wayne Enterprises. It is at this point that he begins to use Wayne Enterprises to fund being Batman. But imagine if Bruce had carried on his father’s legacy and used his billions of dollars on social welfare. He could have used his money to build houses, set up a scholarship fund to send underprivileged children to college, or even to build a hospital for those who can’t afford health care. Aside from his riches, the Wayne name alone carries great weight. In The Dark Knight, Bruce uses his money and social standing to assist Harvey Dent in becoming the new District Attorney for Gotham City. Bruce even states that Harvey is the hero that Gotham needs. Perhaps if Bruce Wayne spent more time promoting politicians that would fight corruption in the system and less time running around in a bat suit, the politicians could solve most of Gotham’s problems legally.

Take this story out of Gotham and place it in the context of South Africa. A real life Bruce Wayne could do wonders in this Rainbow Nation. Imagine a South Africa with proper roads even in the rural areas because Mr. Wayne has paid for the roads to be fixed and has even secured the tender for fixing the roads for Wayne Enterprises. Imagine townships with proper houses, each with electricity and indoor plumbing, courtesy of Wayne Enterprises. Imagine a state hospital that offers the same level of care as a private hospital without raising prices, all thanks to the generous contributions of Bruce Wayne. Imagine politicians that actually protect the people’s interests and not line their own pockets with tax dollars because Bruce Wayne is backing the candidates that he knows will do the job right.

There is some evidence, when comparing Africa with the rest of the world, that shows that the best way to fight crime is to tackle social issues. It is estimated that nearly 50% of Africa lives in poverty, defined as living on less than R12.50 a day per person, and in 2012 alone, nearly 170,000 cases of murder were reported in South Africa. Compare this to Europe where the poverty rate is less than 1% and less than 25,000 murders were reported in 2012. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between poverty and crime rates. Education is also very important in solving the major crime issues. It is estimated  that 15 out of every 1,000 South Africans will enroll in tertiary education. Meanwhile, 57 of every 1,000 Americans will attend university. The murder rate that I mentioned earlier shows that 4.8 of every 100,000 Americans were murdered compared to a shocking 31.8 South Africans. It stands to reason that lack of education and high poverty rates result in a rise in violent crime. Bruce Wayne funding education and combating poverty would be a massive blow against crime in our wonderful nation.

The second option is Batman. Personally, I would be beyond excited to see Batman on the news.
“Batman Stops Local Tik Dealers” would be the best headline News24 ever ran; a masked hero, more legend than man, roaming the dark corners of the Cape Flats and stopping robberies and car hijackings with the theatrics and flair that only Batman can provide. Crime rates all over the country would plummet faster than a lead balloon if criminals feared being brutally beaten by The Dark Knight. He would be the incorruptible symbol of justice that robbers, rapists and drug dealers would all be petrified of. However, we have to consider the same question that Detective Gordon posed to Batman at the end of Batman Begins: what about escalation? We built fences around our houses, and the burglars found ways to climb them. We made cars with smash-and-grab proof windows; they found other ways to steal our cars. We have a man in a Spandex suit punching out bad guys in the middle of the night; how long until South Africa sees its first Joker? Could South Africa survive a night like we saw in The Dark Knight? With tensions already high, could we resist tearing ourselves apart? Or worse yet, could we ever survive the situation we saw in The Dark Knight Rises? Could South Africa still stand if the prisons were opened by a madman like Bane and our police force was taken away? As much as I would love knowing that Batman protects us, I would live in fear for the day when the villains came. Sure, Batman would save the day in the end, but would we really survive it?

Is Bruce Wayne and his undying dedication to social development the light at the end of South Africa’s tunnel? Could Batman be the hero that South Africa needs? Is it more important to focus on fighting the criminals in the streets, or will the crime only stop when the root causes are finally solved? Personally, I believe that the fish rots from the head and the only way to solve our problems is to cut off the head. Start with fixing poverty and corruption and the crime will fall away with it.

(As an afterthought, Bruce Wayne could sponsor the Springboks. How awesome would our Springbok jerseys look with a big Batman symbol on the front?)

What do you think? Who would be the best hero to save our Country? Sound off in the comments below.