Getting to Work
The "refreshments" - candy, popcorn, soft drinks - cost more than the movie. I used to sneak a candy bar in with me, then would just eat one beforehand, and now don't eat anything, beforehand or during. I feel pretty refreshed just from breathing these days.
Last week I went to see "The Martian," a film starring Matt Damon, about an astronaut left on Mars by his crewmates, who thought he died in a dust storm. It is not a great movie, but is pretty good. Matt Damon is a good actor, and gives a credible, often funny performance. Not so funny that he should have been in the category of best actor in a comedy, for which he won the Golden Globes award last night. Or the picture, which won the Golden Globe for best comedy. The movie is not a comedy, except in the classic sense that it has a happy ending.
Damon's character, Mark Watney, has to fend for himself on Mars, and uses what materials are left to stay alive and even grow a garden of potatoes. In true Hollywood tradition he eventually is rescued and returns safely to Earth. Predictable, but a pretty good story.
The best lines in the movie are at the very end, when the character Watney is instructing a class of new astronauts, and talks about the danger. He tells them "At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home."
It resonated with what human civilization is facing. Everything has gone south, at least as far as the prospects for survival of the species. This is it. This is how we end. We have delayed dealing with climate change for too long. We have also delayed admitting that our economic system is unsustainable in its growth imperative, and changing course now is also too late. We of course aren't changing now, so when the day comes that we do admit it is unsustainable it will not only be too late, but worldwide chaos will be so far along that having any economic system at all will be a distant memory.
It may or may not be synchronicity that movies are providing metaphors for the times we are facing. Dystopian films like The Hunger Games series, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Star Wars franchise are filling a need. There are many more. Brazil is one of my favorites from decades ago.
Some among us are already getting to work. Climate activists in the state of Washington are on trial for blocking an oil train. Oil trains have been derailing at drastically higher levels throughout the country in recent years. Climate activists at last year's Climate Change Conference in Paris were prevented from attending, in a weird ironic twist. 350.org is doing the most. Bill Moyers mentions a few others. Canadian writer Naomi Klein is now the most important author on climate-related topics.
So here we are, stuck on Mars, so to speak. Not alone, but without mooring in a world facing mass extinction. If we solve one problem and then the next one, and then the next, and then solve enough problems, maybe we get to come home. Home is the same place, but living in harmony with nature - sustainably.
R.I.P. David Bowie. Here's a song for getting to work. Here's one for facing the strange changes. This is the kind of person we will have to be, for more than one day. It helps to be a bit of a rebel. It will take more than young Americans to get the job done.