Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What if Superman never left Smallville?

I was watching Superman 3 this morning (the one with Richard Pryor), and in the first part, Clark Kent returns to Smallville for his high school reunion. This got me thinking about the “brain drain” effect. The brain drain is defined as: the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge.

The reasons usually include two aspects which respectively come from countries and individuals. In terms of countries, the reasons may be social environment (in source countries: lack of opportunities, political instability, economic depression, health risks; in host countries: rich opportunities, political stability and freedom, developed economy, better living conditions). In terms of individual reasons, there are family influences. Although the term originally referred to technology workers leaving a nation, the meaning has broadened into: "the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another, usually for better pay or living conditions"

Obviously Superman would be the pinnacle of a technically skilled person. It seems reasonable to infer that Superman may have never reached his potential as the most highly skilled crime fighting super hero in the universe if he had remained in his hometown of Smallville. He would have been relegated to helping people stuck in ditches, and putting out barn fires. Oh sure there would have been a drunken bar brawl he could have broken up here and there, but would he have been able to deal with the likes of Lex Luthor if he had not honed his skills in the big city of Metropolis? By moving, Superman was able to help millions instead of hundreds.

Much like Superman I have black hair, and have a desire to impact the world on a macro level. But what about my own proverbial Smallville? If I do not return at some point, who will save the people from their hunting accidents and river drownings?

Someday I will return, but not after I battle my own Lex Luthor. The problem is that it is hard to return to one’s hometown after living in the big exciting city where supervillians abound with plots to destroy the world. Hopefully, Superman will return to Smallville someday and become a reporter at the Smallville Gazzette. Then he can keep teenagers from tipping cows and steeling vodka as he reflects on how awesome he used to be.

Hopefully, after I have honed my own crime fighting skills I can return home to clean up my own Smallville, but in the meantime, I must remain in Metropolis in order to keep the world safe from terrorists, politicians, and American Idol.


N.P. said...

I really like the Superman comparison here!

I also only thought of the brain drain concept as something that countries (like India) have to deal with when their intellectuals leave the country and move to other countries with more opportunities and money. But your article has opened up my eyes to this concept in rural communities and those individuals that decide to move to the big city. It's really hard because in the same way that immigrants leaving one country for another cannot imagine going back - I can imagine it being the same way in some cases of being exposed to an urban environment and its opportunities and trying to incorporate yourself into a home you may no longer understand.

Jon di Cristina said...

I love this post. If we're talking about an individual's "fullest potential," though, I think we need to be careful about what criteria we choose. If it's about success in one's career and helping as many people as possible, then yes, Superman had to leave Smallville to reach complete self-actualization. But I think the more important criterion is happiness. Does Superman want to fight Lex Luthor, or would he rather save kids at the fishin' hole? If he chooses the latter, the world ends up ok because, thankfully, there are other people who are happy fighting supervillains. It's the "It's a Wonderful Life" effect: Wherever you are, just be a good person, and the world will be a better place.

Chez Marta said...

I second the huzza for the Superman comparison here, not only for your black hair, but for your seemingly unspoiled, true heart. But let's stop my swooning here, because I want to point out that, as we learned from Winter's Bone, crime fighting is just as crucial in rural areas as it is in the megapolises. Mobsters appear everywhere where law enforcement cannot reach them and, increasingly, they tend relocate to distant rural areas where the local government is weakened by adverse income redistribution (tax) policies, and state actors are largely absent.

D'Arcy said...

I love this blog post. It really describes in an entertaining way the struggle modern migrants from rural areas often feel when they choose not to return home. Speaking with a high school friend who works in sustainable agricultural development the other day we both asked the same question: what if all the bright youth of Dunsmuir had returned to the town after earning their degrees rather than investing themselves in their new urban communities? It was a wistful conversation - both of us feeling at a loss because we were unable to envision a way to create Dunsmuir economy that could sustain the career aspirations of our generation.

Dusty said...

I am curious about the link between rural post secondary education in the states that all these rural to urban migrants are moving from. Would these migrants have left in the first place if there had been accessible and equitable post secondary education in the rural areas in which they are from. How do we keep Superman in Smallville if there are no chances for him to go to a four year university near Smallville and no economy near Smallville to support him with a job that will provide him with enough income to manage the debt he will likely encrue to increase said earning potential.

Anonymous said...

Definitely, you must save everyone from American Idol!!Then you will be awarded as the Greatest Hero in Town.Like In.Every.Town. LOL