Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chapter 16. Who Is Democracy's Jonathan E.?

Anyone who has watched a 1950's "look into the future" will snicker at the predictions of the world of tomorrow, say in the 1970's or 80's, or even the turn of the century. The promises of flying cars and housework-busy robots and moon bases seem quaint and naive in the face of the reality of Communism and unpopular wars and a terror-driven Middle East.

Some predictions, however, while not literally manifested, can inform us about the dark machinations of the human psyche. If some author can imagine the future world, why not a politician, or dictator, or corporate giant? The paragons of 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 are familiar to us as cautionary tales.

Another interesting look into the future is Rollerball, the 1975 film by director/producer Norman Jewison and starring James Caan and John Houseman. The year is 2018, and nations have dissolved by conflict into six mega-Corporations: Transport, Food, Communication, Housing, Luxury and Energy. A few executives on the Directorate make all the decisions. Mankind has rid itself of famine, disease and war.

And individuality.

The deadly game of rollerball pits teams from corporate-cities in a mixture of roller derby (remember that?), football and extreme fighting. Players can be injured or killed, and the masses can return home with their innate human desire for conflict quenched, until the next game. The Game has been carefully designed to encourage allegiance to the Corporations and to its authority.

But as in all utopias, there is trouble brewing. There is Jonathan E. of Houston's Energy team; he is rollerball's best and most popular player, and its longest survivor (ten years). In fact, he's too popular, and has risen above the game itself and its purpose. So the executives "ask" him to retire, and when he refuses they begin making the game and its rules more deadly until at last, at the world championship, there will be no penalties and no time limit, meaning it will continue until all players are maimed or dead, even Jonathan.

There is, of course, only one way for Jonathan to make it through the final game, and you can watch the movie yourself to see what happens.

Well, 2018 is right around the corner. We don't have flying cars, or moon bases or rollerball yet. But we do have a growing public sector that rewards mediocrity and dissuades high individual achievement, as the only way to perpetuate the single truly mega-Corporation in the United States: the government itself.

Watch closely as our contemporary Jonathan's are torn down, simply from their brazen defiance of the Directorate.

Quotient out.

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