“Living in the future now”: science fiction vs. reality

“Our point of departure was, we’re at an inflection point. The future isn’t some place ahead of us; we’re living in the future at this moment.”

So said Tim Sexton, describing the process of writing the 2006 movie Children of Men with director Alfonso Cuaron, explaining the harsh realism of tone that Cuaron went for. (Though not a success in its time, it’s now considered”a dystopian masterpiece,” and quite rightly so.)

I bring this seemingly random example up because, first of all, this is not the first time a prominent thought leader has said to me in recent months that “we’re living in the future now.” But mostly it’s this idea itself that resonates.

“Living in the future now” seems more real than ever, now that we find ourselves living in a sci-fi movie called COVID-19.

“Children of Men” goes on to offer a moment from the future that quite neatly matches one of our own this month. The difference is that the movie’s vision of this ghastly idea has allure and enticement. The conversation in our public square about it — a kind of self-euthanasia for the sake of the economy — seems crude by comparison.

In the movie, we occasionally glimpse and are made aware of by advertising in the story a serenity-inducing product called Quietus, which in time turns out to be a package offering a painless suicide with benefits. A euthanasia for people without much purpose in life, in need of a graceful exit. This is what the ad looks like in the movie, courtesy of scifiinterfaces:

An advertisement for a self-euthanasia product from “Children of Men.”

It’s topical because just days ago the Lt. Governor of one of the largest states in the country blithely said that old people such as himself would be more than willing to risk their health for the prosperity of “the country.” ,

Explained NBC News:

“Dan Patrick, Texas’ Republican lieutenant governor, on Monday night suggested that he and other grandparents would be willing to risk their health and even lives in order for the United States to “get back to work” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick said on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.'”

At least with the advertised Quietus, the seniors who chose that fate were guaranteed a painless exit and a substantial-if-not-enormous-sum given to the heirs. Funeral arrangements were also part of the deal, I think.

Dignity was the offer. As opposed to a boot out the door.

In other words, the bluntly dystopian science fiction future of “Children of Men” is much kinder and gentler than the Republican Party of 2020, at least as we hear spoken by the Lt. Gov. of Texas. Think of that!

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