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Dystopia Now

Nov. 7th, 2006 | 11:26 am

Since deciding to move flat over this stupid sofa business, we've found a few really great flats which should actually save us a bit of cash in the long run and are far more practical in a number of ways to what we have now. The only things I'm really bummed out about are losing the coal fire which I have only recently figured out how to use and also having to call it a day on the front of my great big composting project (I have one of these).

Even if the new place has a garden comparable to the one we currently have access to, I don't really feel like shoveling that huge pile of kitchen waste and fallen leaves into binbags and then relocated it. Ew. Besides, it's been lovingly layered into levels of 'greens' and 'browns' which I wouldn't be able to reconstruct so I'll probably just leave it behind. Maybe in nine months or so I'll come back and jump the fence so that I might see my baby in its truest compost form like one of those women who agree to have babies for someone else but become emotionally attached and wind up with a restraining order.

The BBC aired a Steven Spielberg special of The Culture Show a couple of nights ago. I like some of Spielberg's stuff but I had a Flintstones poster on my bedroom wall as a kid and it read "Steven Speilrock Presents... The Flintstones". He'll always be Steven Spielrock to me.

Among other clips in this career retrospective, there were some from last year's War of the Worlds remake. The bit where a Martian tripod emerges from the water and upsets a boat reminded me of the fact that I actually saw that movie in the cinema. I'd totally forgotten about it and if you'd have asked me prior to my seeing that clip if I'd enjoyed War of the Worlds, I'd have told you that it was a movie that passed me by.

Such is often the case in this popcorny zeitgeist of ours. Children of Men on the other hand, though I saw it at least three weeks ago, is still playing on my mind. Surely that's a hallmark of a good movie: one that repeats on you like a bacon sandwich.

The story itself is a fairly humdrum sci-fi commodity - humans mysteriously stop reproducing - and I am not particularly tempted to read the P. D. James novel on which it is based. But there are certain visual reminders of current politics which makes the way in which the film's government deals with the problem eerie and a little too close to the current state of world affairs for comfort. There are scenes of armed combat reminiscent of what the media feed back from the Middle East. There are civilians being hooded by military men Abu-Ghraib style. There are illegal immigrants locked in cages while London commuters walk guiltily by. There are mass refugee movements akin to what we're warned will happen in the event of not turning back the clock on global warming. Most literally of all, the audience is treated to a scrapbook collection of news clippings compiled (if memory serves) by Michael Caine's character with images of Bush and Blair as precursors to the real apocalyptic stuff. Above all there's this sense of helplessness inspired by corrupt and clumsy governments.

It makes one wonder if indeed we are on the cusp of dystopia or if indeed we are already there. I saw a banner add on the Internet today placed by the BBC's TV Licensing people. "We know you intend on paying your TV License," it read, "We just hope our Enforcement Officers don't get to you first".

Enforcement Officers? Since when are governmental bodies in this country permitted to threaten civilians in such a fashion? Presumably they get away with it because they are talking to the "small minority" of license-shirkers who "spoil it for the rest of us" but I don't think the poor should be drilled just so that Catherine Tate can make more offensive drivel and even though the principles remain, threats of visitations from the BBC's SS Men are uncomfortable to endure.

See also the benefit fraud announcements in which the government represent themselves as Mysteron-like rings of light seeking out and bringing to justice those who cheat their generous benefit schemes.

I recently spent far too much time in Heathrow airport. We queued at the security gates for an hour or so, all the while subjected to looped audio announcements:

"No cigarettes or cigarette lighters"
"Only one bag is allowed. Please note that a lady's handbag counts as one item"
"No liquids or gels"
"No sharp objects"
"No electric devices"
"No pre-prepared food or drinks"
"No touching the walls!"

Red scrolling text accompanied the audio track and uniformed men circulated, barking the same orders and offering out transparent plastic bags so that we might deposit anything not permitted through the gates.

We were eventually frisked and asked to remove our shoes for examination. My friend received a DNA swab. Keep in mind that this was a purely domestic flight from London to Glasgow. I found the taking off of shoes particularly uncomfortable as I wear a small orthopedic lift in my left shoe and didn't particularly want to be questioned about it. I thought about other circumstances in which people might be asked to remove their shoes: Mosques? Bouncy Castles?

And Auschwitz, of course: as soon as the Jews and Political Prisoners checked in, they were asked to remove their shoes as the first step in a dehumanising process allowing the SS Men to treat them as non-human vermin. I realise that the security guys are working for our protection but whenever one makes divisions and one group is given more power than the other, it ends only with repression and mistreatment. See the Stanford Prison experiment. See Das Experiment. See Abu Ghraib.

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