The year is 2022. The world’s climate is heating up. The planet is massively polluted and the oceans are dying. Millions of people in the US are desperately poor. Hundreds of thousands are living on the streets and in their cars. The government is thoroughly corrupt and has constructed an increasingly repressive police state to maintain order.
That is the 2022 world that was predicted, in 1973, in the classic dystopian film Soylent Green. The reader can be forgiven for thinking I was describing reality as we experience it today.
I am not the first to point out that Soylent Green made a lot of predictions that have come to pass. Nor would I be the first to note that a number of other movies have predicted virulent pandemics like the COVID-19/Delta/Omicron/who-knows-what’s-next contagion.
Nor am I the first to point out that well more than half of the COVID deaths in the USA have been recorded since the “adult in the room” Joe Biden took over as president from the man-child Donald Trump.
The fact that more COVID deaths have occurred under Biden than under Trump got some fleeting notice in a Washington Post article a little while back, but not much more. I hate to sound like a Trumpite, but it sure seems like large swaths of the mass media give Biden a free pass. Can you even imagine the hullabaloo we would be seeing and hearing if Trump were still in charge when COVID deaths passed 800,000?
And everybody knows we are heading shortly to 900,000 deaths and well beyond.
It would be easy to expound upon the failures of the Biden administration, most notably the failure to put any kind of effective COVID testing and contact-tracing regimen in place. Or the failure to provide adequate protective gear, even something as simple as N95 masks. After all, Biden, unlike Trump, had the benefit of widely-available vaccines, even if various insane legislators and courts keep spiking vaccine mandates.
But beating up on Biden would avoid the real problem. It was neither a crazed Trump nor a distracted Biden that has caused the response to the pandemic to be such a disaster. It is instead the result of a failure of our economic and political system. It is the result of the same kind of systemic failure predicted in Soylent Green.
Does anyone believe that our government, whether run by Democrats or Republicans, is even capable of putting the health and welfare of the people front and center? If anyone is putting their hand up to say yes, you deserve a Medal of Honor for Naivete.
This is a country run by people who believe that allowing a free hand to those motivated by the relentless private pursuit of profit, perhaps modified a bit by some “enlightened” governmental regulation, will somehow fix all problems and right all wrongs.
This is a country that worships individualism and the laissez-faire “pursuit of happiness” above all else.
This is a country Balkanized into 50 different states constantly competing with each other for resources and political favors, states that are further divided into numerous city-states and metropolises run by political warlords fighting each other for their piece of a very rotten pie.
This is a country that has the resources that could make COVID vaccines available to every person on the planet, yet sits on those resources like King Midas on his piles of gold, and still believes that we are the bastion of freedom and the center of world civilization.
This is a country run by people so blinded by their belief in our manifest destiny that they can’t see, even after two deadly COVID variants have arisen from poor countries full of unvaccinated peoples, that the hoarding of our vaccine and medical resources is producing blowback after blowback right here in the so-called homeland.
In short, we live in a country run by a tiny class of fools who think that the profits they get from the daily raping of the world’s resources, labor, and people trumps everything else.
In a word, the problem is Capitalism.
Spoiler alert. In Soylent Green, for those who don’t know or don’t remember, it turns out that the rulers are turning dead human bodies into a tasty food for the masses. While we haven’t quite gotten to that point, yet, we do live in a society that is eating its own, destroying our future, and running headlong into disaster after disaster.
Some believe that we live in a democracy, and that somehow that democracy will right itself in the end. Would that it were so.
But, if this is a democracy, then when do we the people get to vote on what the corporate and capitalist class does with their profits—profits that are the products of our labor? When do we get to vote to expropriate Big Pharma and produce vaccines for the world? When do we get to vote to expropriate Kaiser and Sutter and all the medical insurance companies and provide medical care for everyone?
In one of the last scenes in Soylent Green, Edward G. Robinson is lying on a bed, having just been given a suicide pill by some very pleasant attendants, watching a wrap-around video of a bucolic natural world that no longer exists.
Charlton Heston forces his way into this death chamber, sees the video, and is stunned. “How could I know?” proclaims Heston. “How could I… how could I ever imagine?”
Fellow readers, unlike Charlton Heston, you know what we have lost. And, if you try, you can imagine what is coming. The only question worth asking is what are we going to do about it?