There are approximately just under seven billion people on this planet. One would think that if anyone did happen to have any form of super powers or other extraordinary abilities, they would be rather easy to spot. With close to fourteen billion eyeballs looking about all the time, hiding would be extremely difficult. Even if one were to attempt the use of such things as masks or elaborate costumes, they'd inevitably be noticed. In fact, the very concept of super heroes made popular through pulp comics of the twentieth century is realistically completely unfounded. Although fanciful and quite a lot of fun to contemplate, the sad and horrid truth is that human beings are incapable of adequately becoming super heroes, were the opportunity to present itself. There are far too many variables in conflict with the concept, both intrinsic to the human condition and stemming from an individual's environment. Much like Santa Claus: An Engineer's Perspective, I have a hankerin' for bringin' some soberin' thoughts to what is otherwise drunken fanciful flights of revelry.

First off, we have to consider the mental dynamics of human behavior. Granted, each individual would approach the extraordinary experience of facing one's own super hero origins in a different manner, but if one were to be dead honest with oneself, if ever put in a position of suddenly and paranormalistically receive powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, one would doubtless not find oneself fighting the urge to become a superhero. For many, the last thing on said individual's mind would be to use said abilities for selfless furtherance of humanity as a whole. More likely, were any one human to discover control of such abilities, they'd use said abilities for horridly selfish gain. Let's say for example one were to wake up one morning with the ability to predict the future. Would one use that ability to warn people of their impending deaths or to help international organizations of generosity avert disasters? Certainly not! One would use such abilities to bet that said disasters and impending deaths would occur. One would buy a lottery ticket with the winning numbers on it. If one happened to be in the right place at the right time to help avert disaster that would be one thing, but since one would be able to predict said disasters, they'd manage to avoid being in those places at those times and let the uninformed fend for themselves. We are after all, only human.

Stan Lee once proclaimed that "with great power comes great responsibility." Truly, this is a noble and heartfelt sentiment. However, given that countless examples we can ascertain prove otherwise, the sentiment is not wholy intrinsic towards the human condition. Take for example organized crime. Admittedly, those running such crime rings have a lot of responsibility but only towards themselves and their organization, and they go out of their way to break the laws of mankind to further their own goals. Another example would be corporate and governmental leaders, who claim to use their power reponsibly. However, recent turns of events such as the Enron scandal, and the accusations that Martha Stewart used inside information for stock trading indicates that with great power comes great corruption, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Granted, some powerful people utilize their prowess to help others, but what thanks do they get? Bill Gates has come to be known as a great humanitarian, giving to many charity organizations and the like. However, despite the fact that his Windows Operating System is heralded by some as the greatest achievement of modern times, most people just complain about how often it breaks down and how he uses corporate tactics to buy out competition or squeeze competitors until they become obsolete or ineffective to his global domination of the computer industry. Therefore, Bill Gates is just as self-centered as the next person, and his philanthropy could simply be construed as a sign of guilt.

True heroes of modern day include our First Response occupations. Policemen, fire fighters and paramedics rush in where angels fear to tread. For their efforts, we pay them incredibly too little, and they risk their lives far too often. There's little to no profit in lifesaving. It's not like everyone who gets their life saved wants to immediately pull out their checkbook in thanks. An exception of course is the medical industry, which charges outrageous amounts of money for even the slightest of emergencies. Most doctors are able to carve quite a lucrative profit at the expense of others. One could argue that their gain is captive consumerism profiting at others' misfortune. However, without such gains, there'd be no suitable motive for performing miracles and saving lives through the use of technology, unless an individual finds that helping people is its own reward. Emotionally and spiritually that may be the case, but it sure doesn't put food on the table.

So where does that leave us? Surely even if the majority of mankind is selfish, greedy, and egocentric, there must be at least a small minority of them more altruistic. Unfortunately, the law of averages and probability calculations tell us that if special abilities were granted to human individuals randomly, the odds that members of this minority would receive such powers more often than selfish individuals is not promising. In fact, it's more likely that if there are super powered individuals out there, they'd go out of their way to hide their abilities, and use them for selfish purposes. If anyone out there discovered their secrets, most would be more likely to kill such discoverers, rather than to allow the world to learn of their prowess. Granted, this is a very pessimistic view, but casual observation of the past several centuries of human history indicates that a more pessimistic view is warranted. We prefer war over peace, as it's more profitable to do so. It's doubtful to assume the contrary for alleged individual super humans.

However, let us assume for the sake of argument that despite all the above, I am wrong, and that there is actually at least one human out there who is truly altruistic, and through some twist of fate achieves powers above those of mortal men. Now, were they to run around in brightly colored costumes, no doubt we would have noticed, what with those fourteen million or so eyeballs on the planet. Furthermore, modern technology makes it practically impossible for anyone to hide doing anything anymore. Satelites are able to take photographs of individual homes in residential neighborhoods. Even if one were to build an elaborate underground secret headquarters from where to base generic dogooding activities, eventually their entrances and exits would be recorded, not to say anything of the escape valves for their ventilation system. It's simply not possible to hide indefinitely in today's world, unless you happen to work for organized crime.

So we can assume, again for the sake of argument, that if there's a super hero out there, they have done the exact opposite from those brightly costumed vigilantes in the comic books. They would wear clothes that would make them inconspicuous, rather than draw attention to themselves with capes and whatnot. Perhaps they'd dress in all black, although that may also draw attention to themselves. More likely, they would use earth colors like browns and tans. They also would not name themselves anything in particular, other than their given name. If someone noticed them actually accomplishing any derring do, that individual would have immediately told their friends and family, if not made a phone call to the local authorities. Actually, more likely they'd contact Rolling Stone magazine, or get an agent and manage a book deal with the inevitable trilogy of movies. So for some reason that escapes me at the moment, we'd have to assume that if such an heroic individual exists, they have somehow managed to avoid detection. Perhaps among their abilities includes invisibility, although that would be rather quaint and incalculably coincidentally convenient. Even if they were not detected directly, their efforts at saving the world an unspecified number of times would certainly not go unnoticed. Eventually anyone who attempted to destroy the world would notice that their efforts were repeatedly unsuccessful. Now, if this happened once or twice that'd be one thing, but if a conniving super villain of some sort were repeatedly thwarted, they'd eventually have to complain to someone; most probably some organization in one of the world's governing bodies. In fact, considering how so many of the organizations in the world's governing bodies have repeatedly attempted to destroy one another, and have yet to be successful, they're most probably already complaining to one another anyway, so further complaints that their attempts at murdering one another are being thwarted would perhaps also go unnoticed.

What wouldn't go unnoticed is that already there are laws on the books stating that vigilantism is against the law. Going around gallavanting all over the planet taking the law into one's own hands tends to go directly against the interests of most of the world's governing bodies, which have already managed to carve out a wholly profitable series of occupations that do this for themselves, so some absurd do-gooders running about stopping thieves and helping old ladies across the street would jeopardize several centuries of human societal engineering. This would be like a scientist discovering a cure for diabetes, which would destroy the multi-million dollar insulin industry overnight. No doubt there's assassins even as you read this, financed by the insulin industry, going around murdering unsuspecting scientists for the sole reason of being too smart for their own good. All this simply makes being altruistic not only unprofitable, but downright counterintuitive to one's own survival.

Conclusion? Someone with the powers of mystic illusion would make more money in Las Vegas than they would on the front lines of some war torn nation. Someone with the power to speak to animals would make more money helping the fishing industry lead fish to their deaths on our kitchen table, and the World Trade Organization would have better resources for hiding their identity than would the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If there's someone out there impervious to harm, he probably has managed to eke out a good living as a Hollywood stuntman and not a superhero. He would feign occasionally breaking a bone or bruising a rib in order to divert attention. It's simply a much more feasible and realistic assessment, given humanity's present tendency towards mediocrity. However, a comic book about a man impervious to harm performing insipid stunts for action adventure movies wouldn't usually sell many copies; hence the more profitable and fanciful concept of super heroes prancing about in tight pajamas. It's all rather childish, really.

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