Batman, Noblesse Oblige, and the Perennial Nature of Aristocracy

I don’t particularly play video games anymore.  This is not because I have anything against them in particular, but because I find I take more delight in other pursuits nowadays.

Still, I occasionally have some idea of what goes on in the world of video games.  Take this development, for example:

The game is of little importance here.  I want to focus on one of the narrative effects of the trailer:  Thomas Wayne’s monologue to his son, Bruce.

The letter from beyond the grave reads like a laundry list of the duties and burdens of an Aristocrat.  Think about what he says:

Invest in them…treat them like family…protect them from forces beyond their control…

Are these dictums any different from those that might be required of a Lord in running his feudal fief (among others, of course)?  As the incredibly rich patrons of the city, the Wayne family already exists as Gotham’s aristocracy.  Thomas Wayne’s advice to his son is a guide to live up to that legacy, to be an Aristocrat with a deep sense of Noblesse Oblige, and to live a life of service to Gotham City.

The consequences and philosophical implications of vigilantism are irrelevant here (although a Neoreactionary analysis of superheroes and vigilantes in general would be great fun). What we need to bear in mind for our purposes here is that Thomas Wayne’s advice is meant to guide the young Aristocrat, Bruce Wayne, into taking on the responsibilities of an Aristocratic lifestyle, to take on the mantle of leadership and the hardships that it entails, instead of merely dining on its fruits.

Reading into this a bit though, this isn’t just a plea for Bruce Wayne to take up the mantle of Noblesse Oblige. This is a plea for Aristocracy the world over (but especially in the West) to rise up in this time of trouble and save the masses. This is a plea for the Natural Aristocracy to rise again, and take their rightful place in society.

Despite the political leanings of most comic-book writers, the subject of superheros has always been one that is intrinsically hostile to egalitarian sentiments, due to the fact the superheros can only exist in a world in which only a select few can ever have a hope of safeguarding the many, who must also be utterly incapable of doing it themselves.

So what does it mean that the popularity of superheros has become resurgent, with what seems like every other big blockbuster movie being an adaptation of some comic-book hero? I say this signals an unconscious desire for a new Aristocracy that will arise to save the masses in what is perceived to be a foreboding time, with a high possibility of crisis in the future. The masses want someone to save them when the crisis hits.

When the crisis comes, will this Aristocracy answer? Will they save the people in their charge? Or will they flee Gotham at that moment when the city needs them most?

The greatest fear of the masses is that the aristocracy will flee, for they know deep down that they cannot run society themselves. The need for an Aristocracy is painted into the deepest corners of the human psyche, especially in those who cannot form a part of this Aristocracy themselves. It is the duty of those with Aristocratic potential to rise to the occasion, and it is only they who are capable of answer the call. Yet if their duty goes unrewarded, will they answer? In a world which despises the Aristocratic, who among the Aristocrats can be relied upon to do their duty?

In the absence of an official Aristocracy, an unofficial Aristocracy will arise. However, without the guiding principles and gentle responsibilities of an Official Aristocracy, this new unofficial Aristocracy will inevitably warp, and become a Fallen Aristocracy, one that is not necessarily particularly well-disposed towards the people who are beneath them on the societal hierarchy (consider Brahmin distaste for all things Vaisya).

There is no such thing as a society without Aristocracy. The vacuum must be filled somehow. You can either have a good Aristocracy or a bad one, and which one you end up with depends on how much you are willing to accept the role of said Aristocracy in guiding society. Support them and be loyal to them, and expect the best from them, and you find yourself with a truly Noble Aristocracy. Reject them and show disdain for them however, and you will not end up with a society without Aristocracy. Instead you will see the Noble Aristocrats withdraw, and the Fallen Aristocracy take their place.

This is not an arrangement that is conducive to the general health of society, and so eventually, society will decline. Perhaps it will even collapse, though this is a rarity in history. The death of a great civilization is not usually so dramatic. In any event, chaos and disorder arise. When this happens, the Natural Aristocracy re-emerges, and finds a way to draw out order from the chaos, beginning the cycle anew…

Just as humanity will always tear itself down if its base impulses are left unchecked, so too will Aristocracy find a way to reassert itself. Aristocracy is a human constant, always there, whether in background or foreground, either guiding humanity to new heights, or waiting in the shadows for the opportune moment to pick up the pieces and begin rebuilding.

This is why, no matter how bleak things may seem, no matter how degenerate, Malthusian, or hedonistic the world may have become, there is always room for hope, for not only does hope spring eternal, the grounds on which we might allow ourselves to have it do as well.



3 thoughts on “Batman, Noblesse Oblige, and the Perennial Nature of Aristocracy

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