By Agent Null
So, as I have already written about, I went out on my first patrol with Zetaman earlier. While we were doing our thing, we were talking (what? You think we did everything in a gallows silence?), and we discussed ideas, plans for the future, and so on.
But it all came back to the same topic: How do we better present ourselves in a way that demonstrates to the public that we are not just doing this as some sort of childish live-action role playing or for the "lulz"? How can we as members of the RLS subculture prove that we can be more than just silly brats in costume acting out wish-fulfillment fantasy?
Well...I have come to find what I believe to be the answer. It was right in front of my face the whole time, as luck would have it:
Look, very few are going to like what I'm going to have to say here, as it flies into the face of what we know as convention. But then all truths begin as blasphemies. And as I am not a stranger to being strung up for the sin of telling the truth (and not making it funny) with regards to this subculture, I've no problems outlining the ways in which this subculture needs to change.
First of all, we need to get away from the comic book mindset that helped create us. As loathe as I am to point this out, comic books are not real. The situations, societies, and attitudes that shape the world of superhero fiction simply does not apply in the real world. Here, in the world where we live, there are very few true heroes just as there are a scarce amount of truly evil villains. In this world, black and white are simply colours; they are not moral absolutes. Calling ourselves ANYTHING other than "Real Life Superheroes" would be a huge step in the right direction.
Second of all, we need to be more transparent. Think about it: you decide to become a costumed crusader. Now, during the course of making this decision, you decide to set up a webpage and forum in an effort to reach out to other like-minded individuals. And then, you make the forum private, with membership upon approval. Sooo...doesn't that defeat your purpose? If you TRULY want to help the public, you would not set up a place for discussion that they cannot read and discourse with you. To even entertain the notion suggests something to hide. And most likely, they will believe that you are hiding that face that you really haven't done anything of note, nor will you ever. Judging from what I've read on those forums, I also believe this to be the case. Also, if you are the type who is sensitive to any flames you may receive from the public you are trying to reach out to (and you will), perhaps this is not the line of work for you after all.
Third, we need to be more exclusive. Look, one of the biggest issues within this subculture stems primarily from an appalling lack of standards. Are we really that desperate for validation that we should accept anybody who comes along with a MySpace profile and a few good (if mainly false) tales of derring-do? I should truly hope not. I hate to go back to this, but in one discussion I had, I pointed out that our subculture would even accept John Wayne Gacy if his icon pic was of him in his clown costume and he claimed to "destroy evil". I still believe this to be the case. On this same topic, if one of us is shown to be less than they claim to be and it can be proven beyond all doubt, then they should be cast out from the subculture altogether if they will not explain or justify themselves. No other society would allow people of this nature to remain with them. Why should we?
Fourth, we need to be honest about ourselves. This goes toward transparency, but it still bears mention nevertheless. Look, I do not believe a majority of those within this group are as active in fighting crime as they would have us believe, if they are at all. If one fights crime in the manner in which these people claim to, and they have not been killed or arrested for vigilantism then fantastic. More power to them. But prove it. Show some documentation, whether it be a police report or a newspaper article or a link to a news broadcast. If one cannot, they should either be silent about it, or they should not be surprised when such claims fall under heavy investigation and scrutiny. The basic rule should apply: proof or it didn't happen.
Fifth, while I understand the affectation towards maintaining a secret identity while on the job, the fact remains- YOU ARE NOT YOUR CODENAME. At the end of my day for example, I'm not Agent Null. I am me. Agent Null is nothing more than a symbol I gave myself. Anyone can be Agent Null.
Sixth, I know goes back to point #4. But here it is: If you actually are fighting crime, busting drug dealers and muggers and the like, and this can be proven; once again I say that's fantastic...But you have changed NOTHING. Zip, Zilch, Zero. How is that, you ask? It, like so many other answers I present here, is quite simple. You change nothing because not once have you managed to combat the REASONS crimes occur. In fact, I have a crisp clean sheet of paper with President Lincoln's mugshot printed on it that says you never once gave that any real thought. You know something guys? The internet is a fantastic place, full of magic, wonder and knowledge. Perhaps if you devoted even a half hour of the time you would normally use to talk about which non-existant spells to use while fighting demons that aren't there or which piece of armour would look cooler on your MySpace profile to looking at the real sociological motivations behind crime, you would be so much more effective at PREVENTING crime from happening in the first place. Now, I am not so naive as to assume that we can prevent future crimes from occuring merely by dint of our efforts in tackling real issues (for once). But you know, in the end, that is a more noble end than simply beating up criminals.
Seventh, we need to be active in the cities we live in. By this, I do not simply mean we need to be constantly patrolling the streets in search of ciminals to thwart. Far from it. Instead, we need to show EVERYONE from the rich to the poor, the old to the young, that we care about them and want to be able to succeed on their own. We need to be present in soup kitchens or other charities. We need to be seen handing out necessary survival items to those who lack them. We need to be the first to lead drives to aid those who have suffered losses. If we have first aid and cpr training, we need to teach others to do the same thing. If we are martial artists, we need to teach others to protect themselves. We need to not selfishly hoard our abilities to sate our own ego. We need to demonstrate and teach those abilities to those who wish to learn them.
And finally, we need to be proactive in the above methods. Sitting here and debating these topics will get us nowhere. What I have stated here is nothing less than the whole truth of the matter. The more we sit here and debate the points to death, the less we are out there, doing what needs doing.
And the less we are out there, the closer we creep to carving our epitaph as a punchline in pop culture history.