To feel. ‘Cause you’ve never done it, you can never know it. But it’s as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock… ticking.
Recently, I took a look at Demolition Man given our current circumstances and how it seemed to be eerily on point about what we all have been going through during this pandemic state. Doing so brought up another film that has been on my mind for years of a possibility where we could be headed given several social events that have taken place.
Equilibrium is a 2002 science fiction movie that takes place in a futuristic dystopia that has been ravaged by wars and murders where a certain section of society has sacrificed emotions in order to prevent the destruction of human existence. Libria is a totalitarian city-state that was established by the survivors of World War III. The founders believed that in order to stop the wars and chaos, emotions needed to be stripped away from individuals and to do that they created a drug called Prozium. This drug was mandatory for all citizens in daily doses. Anyone not dosing properly or committing any kind of violation of their emotionless law would be considered a “Sense Offender”.
While the leader of the governing council, Father, spews propaganda via large video screens throughout the city, Grammaton Clerics enforce the law in Libria and the Nether. The Nether is anywhere outside the walls of Libria where those who do not agree with these laws live and hide “contraband” like art, music, and literature. The clerics raid these properties, execute the offenders, burn illegal materials, and even kill animals in order to prevent people from feelings which in turn would prevent crimes.
In a raid at the beginning of the film, we see the clerics infiltrate a compound where numerous “sense offenders” are stashed with illegal materials. After mowing them all down with their special brand of fighting called gun kata (martial arts with guns), we get to see what kind of emotionally charged materials these vile criminals had in their possession. Alcohol. Salt. Music. Literature. Famous works of art like the original Mona Lisa. All had to be burned in hopes that they would not cause another crime. Oh, Mona Lisa. How could you start wars, you dirty vixen?
It all seems so silly, doesn’t it? A society so mentally fragile that they can’t control their emotions based on a little old painting? Or books being banned because it has derogatory words instead of teaching our children the true meaning behind it? A generation so incapable of individual responsibility and mental fortitude that anything that offends their precious feelings must be torn down, right?!
But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Equilibrium was not a success by any measure. It bombed at the box office and critics ripped it to shreds. I can’t defend the movie as something great but I do like it. It borrowed heavily from Nineteen Eighty-Four and Fahrenheit 451. However, it speaks louder today than it did in 2002. Do we really want to live in a world where everything that offends or causes emotion must be vanquished to preserve humanity and its future? That is what this movie is saying.
In order to have a future, we must all become emotionless machines who can’t think or control ourselves by removing all individual responsibility because as a society we are too weak to handle things that offend or evoke emotion. This “utopia” is just one big safe place where they have alienated themselves from anyone or anything that disagrees and will not obey. This all sounds ridiculous and absurd but can you honestly tell me you don’t see instances of this going on now in our world?
I’m not here to defend any specific thing that has been torn down or removed because of its “offending” nature. I’m simply asking where does it stop? Once everything that offends is removed where do we go? Who gets to pick the next movie, book, statue, or piece of art to destroy to prevent World War III? Do we all get a vote? I know there are plenty of things I’d love to erase from this world. When everything is gone that offends or causes extreme emotions will we finally be a happy society living in harmony or is that when the drugs kick in?
I for one do not want to live in an emotionless society. I don’t want to live in the gray drab world of Libria where feelings are extinct. The world has been at our fingertips for some time now but it seems like we have simply found our own like-minded groups by blocking or attacking tweets or posts that offend or cause extreme feelings instead of engaging in constructive dialogue to understand one another even if we don’t end up agreeing. I don’t want to become an emotionless robot that feels nothing instead of learning how to control myself.
The government is the big bad of the movie but those who stood by and fell in line are complicit as well. The good guys here are the ones who are preserving history and art while fighting to keep emotions alive and flowing. Equilibrium gives us a glimpse at how easy it is to control people’s minds, how a government and mob mentality can persuade the masses into something that suits it. Propaganda is a powerful tool used all the time to soothe and control as we see in this movie. This is not a movie about future happenings; instead, it is a movie that shows us how to prevent them from happening.
Are we headed toward Equilibrium?