The Matter-Eater Lad Principle

I am fond of the infamously ever-continuing (and lately ever-rebooted) comic tales of the Legion of Superheroes.  Set in the 30th century, it’s about a group of young people who revive the superheroic ideal, band together disparate races and cultures, and have grand adventures.  It’s kind of it’s own genre, but is probably closest to the Japanese Anime trope of “bunch of people with abilities have adventures.”

Now it may sound weird, but this series actually had a moment that I find is a great thought provoker.  It happened when Tenzil Kem, aka Matter-Eater Lad (Yes, the names were a bit lame) was drafted to run for office on his homeworld.  Yes, imagine a political system where anyone could be in office, wether you wanted to be or not.  I suppose it was a bit like the Drazi of Babylon 5.

Now, this rather humorous incident in comics actually made me think; imagine a society where office was that random.  Imagine a society where at any moment any citizen could end up with political power.  As much as there’s humor in those statements, it’s also a thought-provoker.

See, we live in a high-tech democracy here in America.  Yes, we can certainly criticize the system, the media, the candidates, and . . . well everything . . . but people can still have a voice.  That voice may be carried by single vote or by blog or whatever, but it is a voice.  Certainly in the age of Joe The Plumber (OK he’s neither Joe nor a Plumber, stick with me), any of us could end up a political focal point.

We all have some amount of political power, and might end up with quite a bit.  We’re all a bit like Tenzil Kem, only with less of a publication history.

So are we ready?  Are we, like the inhabitants Tenzil’s homeworld of Bismoll (yes, it is a lame joke, but that’s the real name), ready to exercise our political influence?  Are we ready to have our words put into action?

Are we ready for the repercussions?

When someone makes a political statement, says what we should do, etc. I always like them to spell out their plans.  How will their idea work?  What are the repercussions? What are the side effects?  What did you base your ideas on?  Someone who can’t answer that – or who responds with snide comments and accusations – isn’t ready for political power of any kind, from a blog to a position.

We can have influence at any time.  We should be ready.

Of course judging by the sorry state of our politicians, pundits, preachers, and media people supposedly with political power are in no way ready to wield it.  Or express it.  Or in a few cases I doubt they can tie their shoes properly.

So maybe we should be holding everyone to higher standards.  Including ourselves.  In fact, starting with ourselves, since it’s too easy to just accuse others of being wrong.

Do it.  Do it for Matter-Eater Lad.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at