The Last Superman

Recently, it was rumored that Barack Obama might be tempted to enter the bidding for a rare edition of the first ever Superman comic. Although we are now told that the American president will not participate in the auction (he is actually a Spiderman fan), the fact that the rumors started is much more than coincidence. [ Telegraph ]

Superman is the clearest representative of the American dream; he is the ultimate cowboy, the redeeming angel of the new era. Despite the time that has passed since he was last seen flying above Metropolis, and the steady stream of heroes that has flooded the world ever since, there is no doubt that the blue knight in the red cape is still the greatest. [ Financial Times ]

No wonder that people are trying to associate Obama with Superman, as if asking the two to join forces and defeat the escalating crisis. Obama’s sweeping inaugural speech before Congress was a perfect proof for that. Actually, it was a classic Superman speech. Superman, as we all know, always “emerges stronger than before” after a crisis. He always finds his peak when everything seems to be lost, and eventually gains the upper hand. He also saves the world from complete catastrophe and gets a round of cheers in the process. [ CNN ]

The only problem is that Obama is trying to be Superman in a post-Superman era. An era where there is no place for mythological superheroes, covered with an aura of heroic loneliness. Obama, like the rest of the world leaders, has to understand that the old methods will not help solve this crisis , because reality has changed. Its rules have changed, and we are playing in a completely new game. [ Spiegel ]

Until recently, we have lived in an individualistic world, a world where omnipotent financial opportunists, brilliant and cunning ego-giants controlled the globe, but now the situation has changed. It’s like a mysterious and unknown fisherman has caught humanity in one global net, and left it hanging, perplexed and lost. The fat sharks at Wall Street suddenly find themselves tossed into the same boat as the littlest small fry in Istanbul, gasping for relief.

In this new era, the financial system is clearly showing us (and consequently each and every one of us must come to understand) that using others or simply caring only for oneself has become a vengeful, two-edged sword. Instead of being a loyal friend that helps us get ahead, the ego has become a dangerous enemy. And now, the big question is who will save the world from itself?

There is no doubt that we are in deep need of new heroes. Life in this new reality is forcing us to invent them. But to do so, there is a need to rearrange our set of values and change the prosperity formula from using others = success to mutual concern = success. Or, in the words of the British prime minister Gordon Brown to labor activists in Bristol , “Our task must be nothing less than to rebuild a financial system where it has failed and then to create an economy where banks are no longer serving themselves but serving the public.” [ Guardian ]

This new, interconnected, interrelated world demands new superheroes. Heroes that understand that the true enemy is found within. A true hero will be someone who knows how to conquer his inclination, his own greed and self-centered way of thinking. People or nations who know that they have to do everything to strengthen the mutual support and connection between people. People and nations who are able to see others as heroes, too.

These new superheroes will know how to communicate the integral and unified laws of existence to the next generations. These new superheroes will be the ones who know how to teach people to see themselves and others as organs in one body, in one nature, as one universal Superman. And just like in a body, while mutual care for the benefit of the whole generates harmony and life, caring for the self alone results in cancer. Only if we understand that this also applies to our one and unified body of humanity will we be able to regain life in the systems that are now taking their last breath of air.

So, could Obama be one of these heroes? Time will tell. He is off to a promising start. [ Times Online ]

He has a great desire to change the world for the better and his personality embodies a unique mixture of countries and people. The only question is whether he will be wise enough to set an example for the other world leaders to follow. Otherwise, a lot faster than planned, he may find himself carved in the pages of history as the last egoistic Superman.

Eli Vinokur
Eli Vinokur an independent columnist. He is completing his PhD in Social Sciences and Philosophy in The Faculty of Humanities at Tel-Aviv University, Israel. His research focuses on Jewish thought and its modern applications. Vinokur's work has appeared at Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, MSN Israel, NRG Maariv among other publications.