Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Even superheroes wouldn't venture down our streets at the weekend

Could superheroes be forging an alliance with the Occupy movement? I ululate thus after news that the uniformed vigilantes were given a warm welcome while patrolling near a protesters' camp in Salt Lake City, USA.

The Black Monday Patrol is, as you would expect, made up of Nihilist, Asylum, Insignis and Ghost - all stout fellows whom you wouldn't mind your daughter bringing home (except maybe the married ones). True, handing a jam scone to a man in a skull mask and long black leather cloak could prove awkward, but I'm sure such masks feature an orifice into which scones might conveniently be popped.

The superheroes, you might recall, are ordinary, crime-fighting vigilantes vaguely modelling themselves on the square-jawed titans whose cloaks flutter hither and yon in comic books.

None can fly, alas, but they wear big boots, which can be a boon when marching from A (one's bedroom at Mom's) to B (the locus of lawlessness). For the superheroes aim to clear the streets of ne'er-do-wells and other young people.

The police are ambivalent about the movement. On the one hand, it may keep down crime. True, the cloaked crusaders are often subject to tittering, but they can also cause a villain or mischief-maker to think twice, as superheroes will probably intervene, even if with an action that amounts to saying: "Here is my face. You may punch it if you wish."

The point about the superheroes is that they're visible - extremely so - whereas the police have largely withdrawn from society and spend most of their time indoors on paperwork.

It's also unclear how superheroes would go down in Britain.

There are a few in Englandshire, but only a fool would venture out in costumery to the streets of English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish towns and cities on a Friday or Saturday night. These are effectively war zones, and governments now recommend you undergo US Navy SEAL training if you fancy a pint up the city centre after 8pm.

The Occupy activists operate on the fringes of the law, and you'd have thought superheroes might have been keener to evict them than shake hands.

But the two sides got on like a candescent dwelling.

One protester said of the Black Monday Patrol: "This is exactly what needs to happen in the world. You know, why do we need police when we can help each other out?"

It's an interesting question, though not one worthy of taking seriously. If I discovered a crime (again) and wanted something done, I would alert organisations in this order: (1) my nearest newspaper, (2) hired thugs, (3) the police. However, on balance, I think we need a professional police force. Who else would do the paperwork?

The fact that citizens are doing it for themselves - standing on their own two feet and ringing their own bells, as the song says - highlights a healthy trend, even if one fraught with peril. It's the opposite of apathy, that scourge of modern times with its motto: "Don't just do something, sit there".

But taking the law into one's own hands is a risky business, particularly as the law is a large, sweaty buttock. Everything contains the seeds of its own decay - the law, the police and yes, ultimately, protesters and superheroes. But they're attractive things while growing, and ought to have the chance to flower.

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