Earlier this week I watched the remastered version of THX-1138, George Lucas’ first major film, an extension of his original graduate thesis project at USC in 1967. The film, for those of you who may not have seen it or have forgotten it, is a dystopian vision of a future world where all emotions are controlled by drugs, similar to today’s MAOIs, tricyclics, and SSRIs (or antidepressants) in an underground city, monitored by technicians who utilize mirror-faced androids to physically ensure compliance. It is a bleak and compelling vision based loosely on Orwell’s 1984, the writings of D. H. Lawrence and almost certainly (although unverified) Philip K. Dick.
It would be easy for me to sit here in the hills of the Leatherstocking region of New York and dismiss these types of fictional dystopia as fantasy. The 1970’s in America was a stark decade and many films of the period reflected the collective apprehensions and anxieties as a reaction to Vietnam, Nixonian politics, nuclear proliferation, space exploration, and our first dance with oil dependency. It was also an honest decade in terms of artistic expression and THX-1138 was one of many such assertions. What’s important about these ideas from the late ‘60s and throughout most of the ‘70s is not only their prescient message of warning, but the undeniable fact the warnings were ignored.
I have several friends who are excited about the prospects of Barack Obama becoming our next president. Without denigrating them or any other supporter of the Obama camp, I want to point out the level of sophisticated mendacity our political and economic elite have achieved. We are a nation built upon the premise of consumerism which in turn requires a high degree of desire and want in order to drive spending on products we largely don’t need. This mechanism is vast and now extends to every component of our lives. Our government is dependent on wanting the latest in military technology in order to drive congressional district economies, which in turn produce jobs for people who then desire plasma TV’s and new cars in turn supporting the consumer spending model unique to our form of so-called Capitalism. It is a vicious and unsustainable cycle, due mainly to it’s dependency on energy produced millions of years ago by our sun. It is not a conceit or revelatory idea that Mr. Obama receives his support from the citizens whose livelihood depends on this machine and the corporations who perpetuate it. As of today 75 separate corporations have committed to supporting this years’ DNC convention, an event that is nothing but a ceremonial gathering acting as a facade for the already determined outcome of the Democratic primary contests. As Glenn Greenwald reminded us writing in his blog last week, the turnover in our legislative bodies would make the apparatchik of the old Soviet party blush. Once elected our incumbents stay in office as long as it pleases them. Therefore, I want to remind those who blindly adhere or even partially commit to the support of Barack Obama (or any other Washington politician) as a messenger of hope, or a lesser of two evils, that he like anyone who obtains major party support in American is a product of the machine and is there not to re-tool the machine, but rather oil its gears.
We are all party to this system as long as we prefer to see our politicians as polished stars, rather than intellectuals who are truly interested in the well being of every citizen of this country. We will continue to push closer and closer to a world that resembles the one in THX-1138 if we continue to value things over experience. Television, the internet, anti-depressants, credit cards, all began with the best of intentions. As citizens of this country and this planet, we must take stock in our responsibility to them by actively participating. Our collective passive aggressive behavior is an acceptable response to those in power because it holds no currency. The powerful who perpetuate the machine have learned to diminish even demonstrations that once held sway a mere thirty years previously, and that preceeds any discussion on “free speech zones”. Now is the time to turn off the television and gather information that will aid us in our true want, a world without suffering or we are all doomed to suffer in silence together, or worse, have our suffering rendered mute through the clever facilitation of video games, drugs, television and whatever future device we invent for our own enslavement.