Would a super powered individual be able to exist in today’s society?

The popular culture that existed in the late twentieth century spawned an explosion of expression, this in tandem with scientific advances spurred our imagination as we looked to achieve ever greater feats. Media provided a fundamental outlet where this expression could find its voice, through books, magazines and television. It provided us with heroes and villains, trials and tribulations and now I’d like to examine what would happen if one of these individuals existed in our society for real.

A super powered individual entering society would face two challenges, the first being the revelation of his/her powers to the society in which they reside. Far from being a grandiose gesture, this would most likely encompass them making contact with their government to declare their abilities. These abilities would then be measured and documented, with the predisposition of the government determining what happens to that individual, whether they be dissected, studied or used by the government. Groups of politicians at the highest levels, utilising the uttermost secrecy would discuss the individual’s potential role within society.

The governmental dilemma that would exist on the revelation of an individual with super powered abilities would be overshadowed by a larger dilemma, the determination of whether this individual with these powers is still classifiable as human. The inclusion of these powers would ostensibly remove them from the human condition, because those classified as human could not undertake the things that this individual could. This status ambiguity could result in a removal of their basic human rights, since they no longer conform to the standard definition of human.

An opportunistic government could use this ambiguity to its advantage, legislating for the dissection of the individual on the grounds that they have no right to exist under human law. The reaction of the human species as a whole to this new species may be the same as the Cro-Magnon to the Neanderthal, except that now the Neanderthal kills the Cro-Magnon. That being said without more of this new species being born the species itself remains a mutation rather than an evolutionary change.

Such a being would undoubtedly create a lot of debate in the scientific community and the world at large.

Human beings by their nature desire community and a super powered individual would be no different. An individual manifesting super powered abilities either through a unique accident or circumstances would still be present in a community for an extended period of time either prior to their manifestation or as a result of their upbringing in that community. During this time, that individual would have/make affiliations with other individuals in the community, individuals whose status would be under threat once this individual had revealed themselves to their respective government. The individual could make one of the conditions of their revelation that these individuals are kept safe by the sponsoring government. This would in all likelihood result in a sort of witness protection programme for the affected. The psychological effects of this upheaval on the individual could be quite damaging.

The second of these challenges would involve the practical application of their powers, would they use them to further their own agenda or work as a subordinate to another’s agenda. With either approach you are faced with one very specific problem, what if that agenda changes? A government may follow a more hard-line approach which would bring the individuals affiliation with them into question and likewise the individuals ethical codes may change to the extent where their politics differ from those of the sponsoring government. This estrangement could lead to dire consequences for both the super powered individual and the government to which he or she is affiliated.

How the individual uses their powers in the societal sphere depends on the character of the individual. Not everyone may want to manifest their powers in an obvious way, some may prefer to remain behind the scenes influencing and changing things without necessarily being visible to the public at large. The preconceived notion that an individual who gains superpowers would put on tights and prepare to fight injustice is a construct of the pop culture of the last 50 years and may bear no resemblance to reality.

Heroes and villains in comic books often do not fight larger battles than against their antagonists. Usually the greater injustices go unanswered, as they are beyond the scope of the medium to which the story is being told. An individual with super powers could use their abilities to greatly change the world.

He or she could use their powers to greatly enhance the knowledge of humanity through use of their super powered abilities, they could travel the universe using means that normal humans would not have access to. The abilities that they possess could be used to enhance all aspects of human life.

The individual could inspire humanity to reach new heights, behave in a way that they would ideally like to behave. The actions of one individual could prompt the revelation of others with super powered abilities, who could take their place in human society.

Yet amidst this garden of roses, there are thorns. The reaction of the human species to this individual could result in a scenario where humanity becomes complacent. By complacency, I mean that humans could look to depend on the super powered individual to run their lives, sacrificing their free will and their futures to them.

There could also be a backlash where this powered individual would be ostracised from their community due to their abilities causing jealousy or negativity. In the same way that some are envious of footballers, there could be those who are envious of super powered individuals.

The individual could rule humanity as a despot, enslaving them under a dictatorship.

The revelation and subsequent reaction to an individual with superpowers is a scenario that could both prove of benefit and detriment to mankind. The course of this will largely be determined by both the individual with the powers and the world into which they exist.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

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