Monday, January 30, 2012

What Makes Us Human?

By Proof

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Did Descartes have it right? “I think, therefore, I am”? Or maybe Twain’s observation that “humans are the only creatures who blush…or need to”? Fairy tales and speculative fiction are awash with the theme, of what it means to be truly human. Wooden Pinocchio wants to be a real boy. Silicone and steel android Data longs to know what it is to be human, despite the irony that the longing is itself a human emotion. He is curious about what it means to be curious. Curiouser and curiouser! Strange visitors from another planet are raised by humans to embrace a code of decency and honor. Others come and fall in love... does love make us human?

And what of those who, became somehow more than human? Radioactive spider bites, bombardment with gamma radiation, mutations of the human genome…at what point can it be said that a human transcends humanity and becomes homo superior?

Now imagine having those philosophical musings, discussing and arguing the respective points over the course of ten years. College boy conundrums? Speculation at a seminary? Meditations at a monastery?
No. A discussion about...the level of taxes on...toys.


The forthcoming Avengers movie, directed by Joss Whedon and expected May 4 from Walt Disney Pictures, depicts the Marvel superhero group teaming up to save the Earth from utter destruction.

Saving the world is ordinary fare for superheroes, especially teams like the Avengers and the X-Men. But one of the biggest battles ever fought in the Marvel universe took place in the real world, a historic fight that lasted 10 years and crossed America.

The clash ended quietly in 2003, with a monumental, six-figure legal ruling by the U.S. government: The X-Men and many other superheroes simply aren’t human.

Or more precisely, they’re not dolls, which, according to the U.S. Customs Bureau, represent “only human beings.” They’re toys, which represent “animals or non-human creatures.”

What’s the difference? Gazillions of dollars.


Even though it sounds like the sort of discussion the nerds on The Big Bang Theory might discuss, this was big business.

The U.S. government waded into the “mutant or mortal” battle 19 years ago at ports in Los Angeles and Seattle after Customs officials there classified several large shipments of action figures, including the X-Men, as “dolls” instead of “toys.”

But labeling the figures as “dolls” made importing the X-Men nearly twice as expensive as they would have been as “toys,” facing a 12 percent tax rather than a 6.8 percent tax.

...Recognizing the difference between toys and dolls, international trade lawyers Sherry Singer and Indie Singh saw an opportunity to save Marvel a lot of money by getting the X-Men, along with Marvel’s other action figures, including the Hulk, Spider-Man, and Iron Man, reclassified as toys.


At this point, one is hard pressed whether to laugh or cry. To think that for ten years lawyers have been working, on both sides, and expert witnesses have been testifying whether Barbie should be taxed at a higher rate than Wolverine, reminds me of another Bizarro world I read about when I was younger.

Does the government really have a vested interest in whether or not the Human Torch is more human than torch? I know it is in the DNA of every bureaucrat to micromanage every aspect of our lives, but at some point, can't we decide that the government we have is more than we really ever needed? When our toys are categorized, not by weight, or the amount of polystyrene or paint, but by the philosophical backstory of their characters???

I suppose I could have titled this "What is a doll?" But, would that have piqued your human curiosity and caused you to read this far? And would you have had as much of a surprise making the hyperspace leap from comic book heroes to taxes and tariffs?

This is but one more illustration of the bloated bureaucracy that nibbles away at our economic freedoms and attempts to regulate every aspect of our lives. It's way past time to start taking our country back from our wooden headed, would be masters and their arbitrary rules and regulations.

Equal rights for G.I.Joe! In the meantime, before we can roll back this overly burdensome and somewhat ridiculous over regulation, I suggest that Mattel put out a comic book where Barbie, Ken and Skipper all get bitten by radioactive spiders...

The folks at Mattel can show their gratitude to me with a small percentage of the tax savings realized...


Cross posted at Proof Positive

2 comments:

Kid said...

Very interesting question on the level of thought and emotion.
On the level of mechanical ability though the difference is pretty obvious. No other creature on Earth will fly to the moon.

Proof said...

Or dream of it!