……..nothing left remarkable
beneath the visiting moon.
In many ways that’s exactly how one begins to feel in the Trumpian era. Nothing seems remarkable and nothing appears true. We are fed so many lies and so much hyperbole by the leaders of the world that’s it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Who are these people one often wonders, who are these people and how did they come to have so much power? We are drowned in trivia from dawn to dusk. Should we really care whether a certain film star has been married thrice, should we really care whether they have been married at all? Can they act? Can they govern?
One gets so snowed under with exaggerated statements about the talents of these people that one can easily forget that in the past, before internet and mobile phones, not so long ago there were people of stature doing quite remarkable things that changed our world. These were the giants who were the stepping-stones for others, the people upon whose shoulders one could stand and see further.
Now the word from the gadget world is that robots will take over and there will be no need for poor old Homo sapiens. Book after book, program after program adorned in pseudo learned jingoism tells us how soon we will be here forever, but unexceptional, and robots will make the human being superfluous. So, we’ll be here forever and do what? Twiddle our thumbs in boredom it seems! It makes one want to spit blood frankly. The very people who write the hyperbole about trivial stardom want to write us all off.
I remember when climbing Sagarmatha was exceptional and there were no fancy gadget men pulling scores of second-rate climbers up. I also remember that awesome moment when man first stepped on the moon; and now they are selling tourist packages-or at least a tourist package. I also remember before those two events when John Logie Baird’s television went on air. Perhaps the most memorable event was the discovery of the genome. Achievements carried out by a species of animal, many of their colleagues study away daily searching for miracle after miracle, for cures to diseases that have afflicted the inhabitants of the earth for long periods of time. And yes, I think we can admit that Homo sapiens may not be the measure of all things; that there is still a sizeable proportion of our grey matter that is unlocked and unused; and that we need to give more space to the co-inhabitants of the earth, the wonders of the sea and sky.
Everything seems to have dumbed down, that is the problem. Whatever doesn’t fit on a Twitter message or cannot be conveyed by mobile phone doesn’t seem to be worth knowing to the movers and shakers of the current era. It’s the information age, and information is power! That applies to false information, alternative truth and what not. With the latter we are truly moving into the dystopian nightmare foreseen by Orwell and Huxley. The latter with test tubes producing eggs that are desired rather than nurtured and the former with the infamous Ministry of Truth and televisions everywhere that are not so much installed to entertain or inform but to spy.
These are not the most frightening views of dystopia, based as they are upon one author’s hatred of totalitarianism and another’s experiments with hallucogenics. I have read more frightening accounts of the world of the future when totalitarianism takes over and the last big bomb has scattered its poison all over us: I’ve seen two such accounts in film. One being ‘soylent green’ about a time when the world cannot feed its starving millions. Then comes the miracle food, soylent green, and people are snapping it up, queuing eagerly for it. One man is over curious and investigates the origins of soylent green.
Here I’ll take the liberty of copying a brief description from a 1973 promotional. Note, Soylent Green was released in 1973.
“Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction thriller film starring Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, and, in his final film, Edward G. Robinson. The film combines the police procedural and science fiction genres, depicting the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect. “
Doesn’t it sound familiar? Those who were around in 1973 will of course remember the horrifying revelation that soylent green was actually processed from human corpses. The older you happened to be, the faster they pushed you onto the conveyor belt.
The story describes a dichotomy between the rich and the poor. The rich have concubines (in fact one of the concubines is called Siri or Shiri- sound familiar) and to fresh food, fresh meat, fresh air and real countryside whereas everyone else has----soylent green. I think cinema chains should dig up this film and show it again.
There are others of course, books and cinema, which portray our worst nightmares. ‘The Family of Man’ about a world after the last big bomb (again) when women are sterile, apart from one and a group of vigilantes are busy keeping her safe from a nasty government. So you see, it’s not only in Nepal that people think governments are nasty, totalitarian, and imposing a kind of dystopia on us. It used to be a popular theme before trivia took over. For dystopia Attwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale is absorbing based as it is on old testament methods of overcoming the infertility of wife number 1; and again after the last big bomb.
For yours truly, however, the most frightening is by Ray Bradbury- Fahrenheit 451- the temperature at which books burn. To escape the destruction of literature people escape to the woods and each has the task of memorising literary classics. Why do I find it the most frightening? Because given the trivia the world has sunk to, given alternative truth, and given the addiction to mobile phones we could let all chance of unlocking and using that untapped part of our grey matter slip away from us. We could, perhaps be taken over by machines and I don’t want that to happen, do you?