Friday, May 18, 2007

Children of Men

It's not often that a movie affects me so much that I just burst with the need to organise my thoughts on paper, or in this case, on blog. Children of Men has had such an effect. This apocalyptic vision of a world without children, without hope and without humanity was so distressing yet it wasn't so surreal that I didn't think our society could already be on such a crash-course.
The premise is a world where a mysterious plague of infertility has eradicated the world of children. Such nihilism ensues that most of the planet has fallen into anarchy, except for the UK which maintains a poor semblance of normality. But the cost of this 'normality' is the forced internment of any and all refugees who try to escape to the UK (sound familiar?). The landscape is stark, colourless and heavily polluted, as if human kind has given up hope for itself and the future and has flung itself headlong into careless abandon.
It wasn't just the scenes of refugees, both old and young, black and white, being rounded into cages, brutalised and finally interned in chaotic camps that struck a chord. It was the sense that humanity had given up hope, and decided to stop caring. It was all about the haves and the have-nots, us and them. It was the sense that this slide has already begun in our own society.
Those of us lucky enough to be born or live in the West have everything. We (and I include myself in this) occasionally feel that we might struggle, that it's hard, that we can't get what we want, but when compared to a fisherman in Bangladesh, or a single mother with four kids in Sudan, we have so much it's almost obscene. Yet our government, who we as a nation voted in, wants to close our borders to refugees arguing that our country, our economy, cannot sustain them and us at the same time. How can they possibly argue that when most people in this nation have more than one television? When we throw out half the food we buy because we don't get around to eating it in time? When we upgrade our cars every few years to have the latest model?
And equally, it makes me ill when I hear the Australian and US governments argue that complying with the Kyoto Protocol will be too damaging to our economies. What right does the West have to soil the planet in pursuit of luxury, then deny any responsibility?
I live in the mountains, so I'm unlikely to be affected by rising sea levels. It's pretty cold and wet up here at the moment, so it would be easy to think that when the impact of climate change is felt here, it won't be so bad. It's easy to stick my head in the sand. But the rice I cooked last night comes from a part of the country that is already so dry we are destroying our natural river systems just to keep it functioning. So much of what I take for granted will become a scarce resource within my lifetime.
Even worse than that, and far more important, is the sense that just about everything I do as a priveleged Westerner will mean death for someone in the developing world. When I turn on the heating because I'm a little cold in my cotton top, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, rising sea levels and the watery destruction of a fishing village in Bangladesh.
I want to feel responsible. I want to feel guilty. I want to judge my every decision and my every purchase by how much destruction it is going to cause. Until our society and our government starts to do that, I'm terrified that the world of Children of Men will be upon us before we can blink.


Adski said...

This film surely is thought provoking hey Bianca! Lobbyists surely realise the effect these visceral feelings have on people, and the result is funding for films like 'Death of a President'. The difference being of course, that Children of Men succeeds where others flounder!

"I want to feel responsible. I want to feel guilty"

It's the individual's choice what they do with their liberties, assets and freedoms for sure. My personal apathy or inactivity on the larger issues of equality are tempered by beliefs that a homogenous world is not achievable, nor desirable.

It makes me think of misguided missionaries bringing 'education and enlightenment' to the heathens, disregarding existing cultures and creating an unsustainable existence based on charity.

Global warming is, of course a different issue. With the current short term promise based politics, I see catastrophe as the only demonstrable turning point for publicly supported policy.

Strong issues, and a strong movie!

Bianca Nogrady said...

I totally agree about not wanting a homogenised world - this is my big dilemma. On one hand, I think it is so important for different cultures to maintain their cultural identity because that's what makes the world interesting. But on the other hand, globalisation and global warming will mean increasing migration, and for all these different cultures to be able to co-habit peacefully, and to avoid ghettoisation, there has to be some 'smoothing' of some of the rougher cultural edges between groups. Some traditional practices or beliefs that may be acceptable in one cultural context may cause conflict when transposed into another country. What's the path between the two extremes of homogenisation and ghettoisation? I dunno.