Settling in for an original “Star Trek” TV series episode called “A Piece of the Action,” I was shocked as it seemed more like a mocking commentary on our current crises.Searching for a space vessel lost 100 years earlier, the crew of the USS Enterprise arrives on the planet Sigma Iotia II. The planet has been “contaminated” after salvaging a book from the lost vessel called Chicago Mobs of the Twenties; a book they now venerate and base their civilization on. Conventional government had broken down and society was now a tumult of mob bosses, crime, death, and revenge; it could operate no other way. One can’t help but think what an appropriate Rahm Emmanuel/Barack Obama scenario it was; similar to when Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals contaminated our own civilization.”One book on the gangs of Chicago did all this?” Bones asks. “They evidently seized upon that one book as a blueprint for an entire society,” Spock replies. “This society must become united, or it will degenerate into total anarchy.” What happened next astounded me as I crunched my popcorn. Someone asks Spock to “find a solution on the sociological computer.” After running it through the beeping fictional machine he replies, “it’s futile…there is no record of such a culture based on a moral inversion.” Just as I thought. When asked if he were giving up he replied “No… I’m merely saying the computers can offer us no logical, rational, factual way out of our current dilemma.” Instead of escaping, I was painfully flung back to reality all the way from another galaxy.Perhaps some music will help. I turned to Camelot, a musical adapted to screen in 1967 which I’ve watched many times. This time though, King Arthur and Camelot are America, and their illegitimate son, Mordred (who I am now imagining as a smaller, but just as thin and arrogant Barack Obama), suddenly arrives on the scene, bitter at his own childhood abandonment and bent on revenge. “Revenge, the most worthless of causes,” King Arthur laments. Mordred has come to spoil English democracy and laws by finding Camelot’s weakest link and collapsing it from within. He is successful and they ultimately spiral into civil war and the death of the Round Table. Camelot is no more. No escapism there, it doesn’t even seem fictional anymore.
Now I turn to the old BBC TV series, “As Time Goes By” starring Judi Dench as Jean and Geoffrey Palmer as Lionel; a widow and a divorcee who rekindle their long lost romance. Jean and Lionel are at a party with a much younger crowd. “They all look 12 years old,” Lionel quips. Jean is left alone to mingle for a bit and is approached by a talkative young woman who banters on, eventually asking Jean “Does one breed or not?” “It’s such a responsibility,” Jean answers, “…finding homes for the puppies.” The woman then informs her she is talking about kids not puppies. “There is so much to think about isn’t there?” the woman opines, “breast feeding, global warming… school fees, the rain forests, genetic engineering… I’m green you see, that’s half the problem. It makes you feel good about yourself but it can be awfully depressing. I mean, what does the green child have to look forward to?” Lionel walks up and dryly responds, “blending in nicely with the lawn I should think.” The original air date on the episode: 1992. I guess it should have been no surprise considering the United Kingdom had one of the earliest Green Parties in the world and a Manifesto for a Sustainable Society as early as the 1970’s. If art reflects life, then young Briton’s in the early ’90’s were already so entrenched in the “green” culture, it’s no wonder that decades later “green” has wrestled the world to the mat with a victorious pin.
I decided to turn on the radio where Pink Floyd were singing their refrain, “Hey teachers! Leave them kids alone!” While I’m sure it wasn’t lyricist Roger Waters intention, I couldn’t help but think, “what does the green child have to look forward too? They’ve been brainwashed by teachers and parents for decades.” I sighed and turned off the radio.
I decided to try a musty old book I’d recently acquired titled, Helen of the Old House, by Harold Bell Wright. With a copyright of 1921, I expected a quaint story about days gone by. Instead I got a dynamic story for our times outlining the influx of Communist/Socialist agitators across America after the end of the First World War. Labor union violence was turning formerly peaceful towns into riot scenes. Simultaneously, corporate greed, selfishness, and exploitation of workers for profit is dealt with head on as a perversion of Capitalism in a Christian country. The main agitator at one point declares:
The American people, they are asleep. They have drugged themselves with their own talk of how safe and strong and prosperous they are. Bah! There is no people so easy to fool. They think we strike for recognition of some union, or that it is for higher wages, or some other local grievance. Bah! We use for an excuse anything that will give us a hold on the labor class.
It is as if the book were written in 2012. Like something from the Occupy Wall Street movement, he continues:
…then, comrade, you shall see what will happen to your capitalist vultures and your employer swine, who have so long grown fat on the strength of the working class.
Wright finishes his description of the agitator by writing:
A moment longer he stood as if lost in the contemplation of the glory of that day, when, in the triumph of his leadership, the people of the nation he so despised and hated would rise in bloody revolution against their own government and accept in its stead the dictatorship of lawless aliens who profess allegiance to no one but their own godless selves.
Helen of the Old House is long-lost required reading for all Americans. While I did not find the diversions I longed for, I found instead prophetic warnings passed to us from the most unlikely and least obvious sources. “Escape” will have to wait another day.
Photo courtesy of Will Hoover: http://www.actionfigureuniverse.com/