John Ostrander: Choose Your Future!
There’s an interesting duel going on at your local Cineplex – two very different views of the future. One is Mad Max: Fury Road and the other is Tomorowland. The first is a reboot of the classic Mad Max films, set in a very dystopian future, while Tomorrowland is based, in part, on a section of Disneyland. (While that might seem a bit thin a premise on which to base a film, keep in mind that the initial Pirates of the Caribbean was based on a ride at Disneyland and, the initial film at least, was delightful.)
While I haven’t yet seen the latest Mad Max incarnation, I know its predecessors very well and the trailers have certainly more than suggested that it’s the same landscape. Tomorrowland posits a city founded by the likes of Jules Verne, Thomas Edison, Nikolai Tesla, and Gustave Eiffel. In some parallel dimension, they created a utopia where the best and the brightest from all walks of life, art as well as science, can come and are encouraged to do anything they can dream. The four recruit other scientists and dreamers with a pin that has the letter “T” on it. It’s supposed to be science although for all extents and purposes, it’s a magic talisman.
I’m not going to do a review of either film but I am interested in the two contrasting visions of the future. Tomorrowland acknowledges the problems facing this world, any of which could lead to a dystopian future but it maintains that this future is not inevitable. As the villain in the piece, Governor Nix, maintains what makes it inevitable is that humanity embraces that dystopic vision, even runs towards it, because it is easier. All we have to do is nothing. Changing it requires doing something. I think doing something requires belief that the actions will have a positive effect, that the future can be changed, that it all can be made to work.
And that’s where it becomes a problem for me.
Dystopian futures are my stock in trade. Hell, dystopian present is a familiar stomping ground for me. That’s become even more so in the past few years. I look at the world, at the greed and the political insanity and the climate change and the droughts and the intolerance of all stripes, not only religious, and I don’t see it changing. I think humanity, like lemmings, are heading for the cliff and will jump off it.
Belief comes hard to me these days. For example, on the notion of God/god/ghod (pick a god, any god) I’m an agnostic in general and an atheist in specifics. Could there be a god out there? I don’t know. Quantum mechanics suggests all sorts of strange things; maybe within that a notion of god could exist. However, in regards to a specific god – Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, Zeus, Eshu, Thor, Shiva, Vishnu. Hecate and on and on – I don’t believe in any of them. The stories are interesting and can even have moral worth but I don’t believe any of their gods are real. If you do, fine. I’m not trying to correct you and tell you your belief in a specific image of god is wrong. It’s not mine, however.
Nor do I believe that humanity can or will come to its collective senses in time to avoid any of the disasters that seem lying in wait for us. There’s not enough profit, political gain, or perceived power to be had in doing something about any of this even if we could agree that something needs to be done and what that something would be.
And yet. . .
And yet, my heart responds to Tomorrowland. In it, they use the metaphor that we all have a bright wolf and a dark wolf within us fighting for control. Which will win? Whichever one you feed.
I know which future I think is more likely given who we are as a species.
But I want one of those pins with the “T” on it. I want to hope. I want to believe despite everything I think I know.
I want to go to Tomorrowland.