Is Mad Max affecting the Health Care debate? Road Warriors, Blade Runners, futursangst and America’s Mindspace
When people bring up these so-called “death panels,” I can’t help but chuckle. I think opposing heath care reform for fscal reasons is perfectly valid, but this ubiquitous idea of death panels seems to rely heavily on individuals’ imaginations; specifically, an imagination weaned on the filmic treatments of future dystopia. I am putting forth here that America is so media and movie saturated that we can no longer imagine the future without using the sci-fi movies of the 70’s and 80’s as reference.
George Miller, the director and creator of Mad Max and the Road Warriorhas said that he first got the inspiration for those films while working in an emergency room in Australia. Car crash victims who had worn no safety belts would come in smashed and dismembered. Somewhere in this pain and carnage, Miller saw a future. A future where the oil had run out, nation states crumbled, and groups of survivors wandered the Australian badlands. It’s a sort of medieval existence, but with beat up cars and leather outfits. And somehow, this vision of the future is one many people now share.
I do not mean this in a literal sense, as I do not believe my brethren see their future generations riding shotgun to Lord Humungus. In the last two decades, however, as climate change has become part of our daily discourse, some greens put forth the opinion that the result of non-action will be a Mad Max-esque destruction of society as we know it. Rather than expect thing to get incrementally worse (or worse in new ways), such reactionary thought expects, and even craves, a sudden deterioration in the fabric of society.
This phenomenon (which I believe affects people across the political spectrum since you can insert your pet issue into any post-apocalyptic fantasy) is a potent and truly modern blend of existential dread and film-inspired reverie. The hypothetical death panels that Republican rabble raisers harp on about seems to me to be straight out of the never-filmed Brazilsequel. To support position of political hysteria, Americans fall back on the fears and art of the 20th century: nuclear annihilation, Philip K Dick, communism, Logan’s Run.
I believe this futursangst is tied to an age-old desire for apocalypse and judgment. We humans, fundamentally vain creatures, want to connect our death to something greater, and what is greater than the end of the world as we know it? Rather than face the fact that our death will be inconsequential to the greater march of humanity, we daydream about the circumstances by which the world would die with us.
Whether it is due to sins of lust or pollution, many see this world as unsustainable. They fear a wrathful intervention by a higher power, or a return to a hunter-gatherer existence, or a future where human identity is indistinguishable from android replication. As alluring as these visions may be, we face the challenge of detaching their imprint on our reasoning; while we may need to apply the creative logic of science fiction to the problems of today and tomorrow, the cinematic nightmares of yesterday are telling, but never informative.*
*I don’t agree with this statement 100%. Thoughtful, well-made science fiction can be philosophically and morally challenging, and informs one’s opinions and world-view. In this age of the Internet and with so much airspace to fill on 24 news outlets, however, certain paranoids are being validated, as if “the aliens are coming” were a legitimate political stance.-