I grew up in the Seventies. It was a real primer for Armageddon.
Hollywood served up apocalyptic visions as often as networks today serve up reality shows. In 1971, Omega Man suggested that in the not too distant future, a plague would wipe out most of humankind and the survivors would battle Ahmish-leaning mutants for control of what’s left. In 1972, Silent Running suggested that in the coming millenium Earth would no longer be suitable for plant-life and the remaining trees and plants would live in greenhouses on spaceships. In 1973, Soylent Green suggested that by 2022, global food stores would be so depleted that the state would sanction suicide and we’d be eating our dead. In 1975, Rollerball suggested that by 2018, after the “Corporate Wars,” the planet would be controlled by international business conglomerates that sponsor roller derby death matches instead of military bloodshed. In 1976, Logan’s Run suggested that by the year 2274 we’d live beautifully and hedonistically in atmospheric bubbles until the ripe old age of 30—at which time we’d be expected to submit to state-mandated termination.
And these grim scenarios all followed on the heels of Planet of the Apes (1968), which featured astronauts leaving earth in 1972 and returning in 3978 to find their fellow humans enslaved on a world ruled by apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), which introduced a telepathic human cult of fall-out survivors who worshipped a nuclear bomb.
If we didn’t see these movies at the theatres, we saw the network premieres. If we didn’t see the network premieres, we saw the reruns. And, as we only had five or six channels to choose from, we were all inculcated by the same doomsday projections.
Now, seven years into the new millennium, I find myself gauging the prescience of these sci-fi classics. I admit that they were often ludicrous and seriously flawed, but some of them may not have been as far-fetched as they seemed at the time.
Ahmish-leaning mutants probably won’t be taking over any time soon, but we are a species ripe for a viral or bacterial cataclysm. Our immune systems are continuously being weakened by innumerable chemical toxins and growing economic, social and political stressors and, to compensate, we are over-vaccinating ourselves and popping antibiotics like Flintstone vitamins. Eventually we’ll face a super-virus or super-bacteria that no amount of inflated health coverage will address, and our prescription-happy physicians will have no one left to over-medicate and our profit-mongering pharmaceutical companies will have no one left to price-gouge.
We’re not sending Daffodils into space yet, but in recent years several bio-spheric chambers have been tested, NASA researchers have toyed with the idea of terra-forming Mars and, according to the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species (released on September 12th by the World Conservation Union), 70 percent of all known plant-life on Earth is threatened with extinction.
We aren’t eating “Soylent Green” yet, but every year the number of communities in the world that permit doctor-assisted suicide grows, there’s less and less room for cemeteries and millions of folks are going hungry or dying of starvation. Global food stores are being threatened by chaotic weather patterns, prolonged droughts, barren soils and a terrifying, new potential doomsday harbinger, bee colony-collapse disorder. We still have fifteen years to maneuver ourselves into Soylent Green‘s 2022 plotline and we may be right on track. In many places, folks are already drinking processed sewer water. How long before someone hits on the idea for recycling human flesh? Bon Appétit!
Roller derby death matches haven’t caught on yet and may not by 2018, but nations like ours are governed by a corporate-controlled, military-industrial complex and giant corporate entities are involved in starting, prolonging and wildly profiting off “corporate” wars. With Capitalism spreading like a plague, there aren’t enough resources to go around, so these wars will soon become commonplace. The planet probably won’t be divvied up by 2018, but a fight over the Artic Circle is brewing and soon no undeveloped or Third World real estate will be safe.
We’re not living in self-contained, atmospheric bubbles, but if the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer continues to grow we’ll eventually need 150 SPF sunblock to mow the lawn. We’re already turning more and more to cosmetic surgery (because no one wants to look like they’re over thirty), we live as hedonistically as our credit cards allow and, once we pass out thirtieth birthday, we rapidly become the kind of dispensable adults we ourselves despised as children. We buy things we don’t need, waste things we don’t have enough of and elect scoundrels and idiots to represent, police, and govern us (With an electorate like us, who needs dictators?). Built-in termination dates would solve most of our health problems, allow us to scrap Social Security and put limits on the damage that lifelong ignorance, existential stagnation and the “good old days” syndrome does to our political system (See the 2000 presidential election; also, see the 2004 presidential election).
What does tomorrow hold? It’s hard to say. But we were warned. Before “remote control,” we were challenged and compelled.
Now remote control is what we prefer. We don’t want to be bothered. The world is going to hell, but there’s nothing we can do. It’s happening to someone else, not us. Someone else needs to do something.
Someone else needs to push the right buttons, because our control is remote.