Two weeks ago, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to mixed reviews from film critics, but nonetheless went on to perform spectacularly at the box office. Just this week, the Panama Papers were also unleashed into the public sphere, from the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The 11.5 million document leak featured startling revelations on a web of shady offshore accounting, involving twelve prominent world leaders including David Cameron. Implicating a total of 143 world politicians, their families and close associates, the leaks demonstrated the various ways in which elite rulers have been exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes.
So…hang on, what do these two things have in common? It might not be immediately apparent, but both the Batman lore and the Panama Papers share unlikely narratives on the state of corruption in our society. Whenever we hear the term ‘government corruption’, the immediate mental image that springs to mind is that of developing countries, which are often rife with social inequalities. But the recent leak is a stark reminder that this epidemic also occurs in some of the richest, most developed and most powerful countries in the world including Britain, Iceland and Russia.
In the age of the Internet, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, it has become much easier to expose government corruption even in some of the tightest, most secretive of regimes. Information travels far and wide with just a few clicks of a mouse, immediately contributing to a more complete public understanding of how politicians and their cronies operate worldwide. And, as our understanding begins to gradually build, it becomes apparent that their methods resemble only a slightly more sophisticated form of gangsterism. One of the more obvious allusions to this is that of Russia’s implication in the leak; a $2 billion trail which leads all the way to Vladimir Putin, in a scheme in which money from Russian state banks has been hidden offshore.
…the recent leak is a stark reminder that this [corruption] epidemic also occurs in some of the richest, most developed and most powerful countries in the world
So again, why Batman? In both the comics and Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, government corruption and gangsterism play a central role in contributing to the political, social and moral decay in Gotham City. It was the resulting corrupt social order that was responsible for the inequalities that bred many desperate criminals on the street. One of the more prominent examples was Joe Chill, who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents in a dark alleyway – in other words, government corruption potentially affects just about every aspect and level in our society. And in a world in which politicians, judges and even cops are easily bought over, Bruce Wayne finally decides to take matters into his own hands in order to restore balance, order and justice to Gotham.
In the 2005 film Batman Begins, it is the evil underground empire run by mob boss Carmine Falcone that was primarily responsible for this social decay. Taking a more extremist viewpoint on the situation was the terrorist leader Ra’s al-Ghul, played by Liam Neeson, who believes that Gotham has become so corrupt and decadent that it must be destroyed and then rebuilt from the bottom (interestingly enough, the character was of Middle Eastern descent in the comics). However, our protagonist takes on a far more rational perspective, adamantly believing that the city is full of good people and that it can still be saved.
And so – following recent revelations that David Cameron himself did not admit to a profitable stake in his father’s offshore investment fund until five days after the Panama Papers were leaked – it’s high time we put various recent Tory policies into perspective. Firstly George Osborne’s track record in handling the national debt has been less-than-stellar. Last month, it was reported that government debt has increased by a staggering £555 billion since he took office in 2010, and that the government had to borrow up to £70.7 billion in the first eleven months of the current financial year. It is also said that the Chancellor may end up borrowing even more than his forecast of £72.2 billion for this year, thus potentially compounding the debt even further.
David Cameron himself did not admit to a profitable stake in his father’s offshore investment fund until five days after the Panama Papers were leaked
Second, immigration; with current talk of Britain leaving the EU, it has recently been reported that Home Secretary Theresa May wrongly deported up to 50,000 international students as the result of a Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) cheating scam which had incriminated all who had taken the exam. Following the test, May took action by revoking the sponsorship licences of 60 educational institutions, as well as detaining and removing tens of thousands of international students who had previously obtained the TOEIC certificate in previous exams. However, on March 23, the Upper Tribunal (Asylum and Immigration) stated that the Home Secretary’s evidence for her claims was wrought with “multiple frailties and shortcomings.”
Third, foreign policy; Saudi Arabia, Britain’s main trade partner in the Middle East, has now achieved the reputation of surpassing Russia as the world’s third-biggest military spender. According to The Washington Post, this can partially be attributed to Saudi Arabia’s costly year-long war in Yemen, in which the Sunni Saudis are waging in sectarian conflict against the Shiite Houthi rebels. Which is, of course, a direct result of its consistent arms deals with the good ol’ United Kingdom. We must also remember that the brutal Saudi regime is also responsible for breeding ISIS militants, who now go on to terrorise innocent people all over Europe today.
Following the recent leak, the people of Iceland have already spoken. On Tuesday, demonstrators vented their anger during a mass protest following revelations that Prime Minister Davíð Gunnlaugsson once owned an offshore investment company with multimillion-pound claims on Iceland’s failed banks. And so, figuratively speaking, perhaps it is high time the good people of Gotham should collectively stand up to its own corrupt leaders and ask: “Tell me…do you bleed?”