"With Power Comes Great Responsibility"
The phrase has changed throughout time, but with each of its incarnations it shares the commonality of being a tool. Although we’ve become most familiar with the Stan Lee version, more important and famous figures have also uttered this phrase such as Churchill, Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. If I were less lazy, I could pull out the quote from the book of Luke in the Bible.
What I believe to be the superficial heart of this quote, regardless of its form, is that you (being either a single person or a “body” of people such as a group, organization, or nation) have a responsibility to your fellow man to act in the best interests of humans as a whole. In other words, your abilities, wealth, resources, or power must be used to serve the ideals and needs of a society.
It’s a beautiful sentiment, but at the same time it is also propaganda, sour grapes, and an excuse. The true intent of uttering this phrase belies an action that has taken place, or is about to take and its purpose is to placate the masses. Churchill warned us after Great Britain became a second class power in WWII that we would now be responsible to the world with our great power, but you can argue that England’s plundering of the riches of developing nations had ended, and seeing that the US would be stepping into their former role, he spoke from the position of a bully that had finally found someone he couldn’t beat.
Whether it was Lincoln justifying the new bloody new style of warfare the North was utilizing during our Civil War or Kennedy acting humble on the eve of taking the reins of the world’s most powerful nation (and potentially inspiring Stan Lee’s writing in Spiderman) I would argue that this phrase marks the exact opposite of the message it stirs within the masses; that liberties, lives, fortunes, and wealth are about to be taken and consolidated into the hands of the few.
In an age in which we can no longer handle the speed in which our technology advances and we slowly lose our freedoms to paranoia, guilt, and misplaced acts of patriotism I hope that I do not hear this spoken by someone with power.