Whose Planet is it Anyway? Civic-morals in Elysium
Neil Blomkamp’s new movie Elysium succeeds in drawing a sensually accurate and gritty picture of an all too plausible future. The future Elysium depicts is in-fact a near perfect extrapolation of our present social dynamic on the planet: those with means sequester themselves and perpetuate their fortunes at any cost; those without suffer under the brute, impersonal and robotic system of government that the rich have enforced. The two social classes are an atmosphere and the entire weight of High Earth Orbit apart from one another.
What’s striking is the carelessly discarded human potential on Earth. Max (Matt Damon) lives in the sprawling slum of Los Angeles 2154. His friends tease him because he has a job, making explicit the fact suggested by the children and goats milling about the scene, most people on Earth DON’T have a job. Why does this sound strikingly like the latest US job figures? While roughly 162,000 new jobs were added to the US economy in July, the majority were minimum wage positions. That’s not growing the economy, it’s growing the slave class.
As in Elysium, the rich and powerful in this country have abdicated all responsibility for cultivating an educated, engaged and healthy workforce. In doing so they’ve failed to even imagine the paradise that could be created through an inclusive society where everyone produces. Greed is NOT good. Believing in this profits above people mentality is a long-term recipe for poverty of body as well as mind. Our country cannot succeed if we continue to uphold this barbarism as our golden calf. (And to the faithful, do you really think Jesus went around telling people “greed is good”? I was raised to believe the opposite).
And yet, this problem will require reason as well as morality to vanquish. If Corporations are measured by their profits not their employment numbers, it’s because of the system we’ve created. As an employer, I can tell you it’s damn hard to hire someone these days. First off, it is ridiculously difficult to find young people coming out of college with any employable skills. Second, it is a financial and bureaucratic nightmare to employ them. There is no doubt that the government makes it harder for me to employ people, not easier.
All we really need to do is rewrite the tax code. Shouldn’t I be getting tax breaks when I employ people instead of paying more in taxes??? Heck, given that the real cost of not employing someone is all the money they draw from the social safety net – shouldn’t the government be willing to pay me up to 50% of that person’s safety net costs for employing him? And if I now have incentive to hire new people, I also have an incentive to make sure they are smart capable people – corporations could begin to take a more active roll in developing talent while the new workforce is still being cultivated in schools.
The question is, should we wait for the 1% to figure this out? Or do we have moral obligation as the 99% to help ourselves? In Elysium’s ending the world’s corrupt morals are righted by rebooting the software. Everyone on Earth is once again recognized as a citizen. It drew a tear from my eye to see humanity re-oriented towards a greater recognition of, and caring for all the beautiful individuals that make up the whole. In the movie, this system reboot takes just a few seconds. In reality, it will take longer to reboot (or as of 2013 build) an all inclusive system of just and digital government. It will take not just one act of rock em sock em bravery, but many repeated acts of sacrifice and perseverance. But in the end, it is we, the 99% that control our destiny. It is our sense of civic-morality that can reboot the system.