- Wealth and Poverty – the super-rich maintain their supremacy by the ability to influence opinion and accumulate property;
- Health and Disease – whilst some nations maintain universal healthcare schemes, the world’s wealthiest nation, the USA, continues to avoid healthcare as a human right;
- Power and Marginalisation – does anyone truly believe that money cannot buy power?;
- even Religion versus Atheism – the hatred between believers and non-believers supercedes their desire for freedom and justice for all.
Some of these conflicts will be displayed in the movie, ‘Elysium’, that opens on 9th August.
I believe that the message of this film is greater than what seems to be just a ‘deprived masses fight back against utopia-for-the-few’ shoot-em-up.
In 2001, I read a paper, The Second Fall by Anatole Lievin which resembles much of what is portrayed in Elysium. It’s all there: the medical sanctuary for the rich in outer space, the greater mass of humanity imprisoned on a distopian Earth.
The concept of an off-planet utopia may have been inspired by the painting by Don Davis from a 1975 NASA symposium which discussed celestial cities. But, as many philosophers have reminded us – we first have to conquer inner space (our own propensity for conflict).
Professor Lievin’s depiction of a world where the super-rich can gain immortality at the expense of the rest of us is not far short of present-day reality. We merely lack the ability – at the time of writing – to build cities in space with better views and living conditions than our home planet.
It is said that our planet once contained an entire landmass, or panagea, where everything was connected. Did humanity evolve ‘out of Africa’ and then populate the entire earth, separating into races, tribes and clans along the way? Are we truly separated by all these beliefs and cultures and languages that we created over the millenia that disconnected us geographically and psychologically? Are the various gods that we created universal and timeless, or merely reflections of our thinking?
In 1647, the manifesto of the Leveller movement attempted to express the concerns that people felt in that most class-ridden society, England. By the way, this is a society that has infected many others with notions of ‘status’ and ‘nobility’ and ‘breeding’. These are notions which have enslaved people all over this planet, and have caused the near-destruction of millions of indigenous peoples, and the disenfranchisement of their lands. The Levellers were not the first free thinkers to be subsequently eliminated by those holding the reins of the nation. In 1381, leaders of the Peasants Revolt, or Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, were cut down by the ‘nobles’ accompanying Richard II. They had sought to level the inequities in society as well, using the verse:
When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?
Ask those who were killed in the many revolts of the Middle Ages, the Chartist Riots of the 1840s, the Paris Commune, the Occupy Movements of the 21st century – does it pay to challenge the power of the status quo? I submit that one answer lies in a quote from Isaac Asimov:
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
I propose that the answer to the grievances of all of us peasants is to continually assert that power is only valid if it is shared. The accumulation of wealth and power needs to be capped and the excess utilised for the benefit of all living things. Then we shall have peace and the meek will have inherited the earth.
Now is the time.
Postscript (and tribute to Anatole Lievin)
In 2050 the population of earth split in two, those who believed in god and fighting for what they believe were consigned to the American continents, the rest of the world determined to live in peace.