After 9/11, director Alfonso Cuarón came to believe that civilization had passed a threshold where humanity's darkest aspects would come to define the coming century. Film critic Abraham Riesman describes that Cuarón had been "reading about refugees, know-nothing reactionaries, and eerie disruptions in biological processes during the early '00s," which led to Cuarón laying out a poignant vision of where the world was headed by making the 2006 dystopian movie Children of Men.
The premise of Children of Men's depiction of the 2020s was that for many years up to that point, humanity had been experiencing a global fertility crisis. This wasn't a serious prediction of what would happen to human biology, but a backdrop for covering what the film mainly sought to portray: refugee crises, xenophobia, fascist propaganda, the deterioration of living standards in late-stage capitalist society, a militarized police state, shootings and bombings of civilians, corporate efforts to profit from crises, and human rights abuses. As if to clarify that the film was meant to be taken as a serious proposal for what would happen in the coming decades aside from the infertility plot, Cuarón had one character say: "Know what? It was too late before the infertility thing happened."
Now that the climate crisis has introduced numerous chaotic factors-including an increased capacity for viruses to spread in a warmer world-society has reacted to these threats in all of the destructive ways that Children of Men foresaw. ICE raids have beencontinuing throughout the pandemic, putting many undocumented immigrants in danger of easy infection within the migrant detention centers. As many countries have closed their borders, global migrants in crowded camps have been facing similar threats. Freedoms have been rapidly disappearing around the world, with governments expanding surveillance while online free speech is being restricted. As unemployment has soared, hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. alone have found themselves unable to hold onto their former livelihoods.
In most of the places where these things are happening, complacency has set in among the populace. People are primarily focused on staying safe from the virus and maintaining their living arrangements. And while labor struggles have been increasing, revolution is still far from happening in most of the capitalist world. The U.S., the U.K., Israel, Brazil, India, and other countries are building up brutal police states. And Washington and its vassal states are working to blame China for Covid-19, instilling the popular consciousness with racism and war fever.
As confusion and fear grip these societies, it's easy for them to become desensitized to the violence that they're committing against the more vulnerable groups. India under the BJP is sleepwalking towards a Muslim Holocaust, with bigoted demagoguery fueling the police raids on mosques, mass detentions of Muslims, intentional demolishments of Muslim homes, and brutal beatings of young and elderly Muslims in public. The equivalent is happening in Israel, where settler violence against Palestinians is increasing while the government destroys Palestinian property during the pandemic. In El Salvador, the country's Trump-like president Nayib Bukele has been using the pandemic to abuse his power by having hundreds of prisoners stripped to their underwear and stacked together in rows.
The U.S., the U.K., and Australia are drifting towards similar horrors through their systematic mistreatment of refugees. U.S. immigration policies in particular are contributing to a trend of ethnic persecution, because it's abusing indigenous people both by putting them into concentration camps and by neglecting their essential needs; the U.S. has deliberately left Native Americans out of its Covid-19 data, and Washington has refused to give any Covid-19 aid to indigenous tribes. Black people and Hispanics in America have also been disproportionately dying from the virus due to their socioeconomic positions.
This internal violence of U.S. imperialism reflects the Trump White House's recently increased bombing campaigns in Iraq, Yemen, and other countries. Washington's tightened economic sanctions against Venezuela and Iran during the pandemic, which amount to acts of genocide against the people of these countries, also parallel the ways systemic violence is being proliferated within the imperial core. The more the empire declines, more its wars are brought home.
Like in Children of Men, where the British government deals with the refugees by torturing them, shooting them, and forcing them into ghettos, the dominant culture and institutions have devalued humanity. At a time when a pandemic is threatening to kill millions, and human lives should theoretically be treated as precious, the die-off is being multiplied by our social systems. The plague of infertility wasn't the main source of death and suffering in Cuarón's dystopia; it was the decisions that humanity made.
"This new contact of populations is I think dominated by two major passions, and these two passions come out of our reaction to our unequality," said the historian Tzvetan Todorov in an extra for Children of Men. "These two big passions are called humiliation and fear. The humiliation is experienced by the powerless toward the more powerful. It encounters on the other side fear. And fear is just as powerful as a source of violence, in fact, if we think of the major violences of the recent times. They all come out of fear. It is because we were so afraid of what will happen that we accepted torture. And if you are really frightened you get accustomed to different transgressions of the rules of normal life between human beings."
How are we to respond to this situation? Not by presenting a misanthropic view like "humans are the virus," and not by looking to population control as a solution to the climate crisis. These are reactionary ideas that contribute to the cycle of cruelty. Humanity isn't the culprit for the evils of the world, the culprits are capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from 100 corporations, and the U.S. military is the world's single largest polluter. Get rid of the capitalist and imperialist forces behind these entities, and the climate situation will be vastly improved. Abolish settler-colonialism in the United States, Israel, and the other settler states, and a vast amount of human rights abuses will stop happening.
To defeat these systems, we need to look to the socialist nations, which have been responding to the crisis far better than any capitalist country has while not participating in the atrocities that prevail elsewhere.
China, Cuba, and Vietnam have had among the world's most effective responses to the pandemic, and there's no evidence that the DPRK has had any Covid-19 cases. These nations have also been helping lead the fight against global warming, and they've cultivated anti-poverty programs which are more reliable than what can be offered by capitalist governments. This is because their political systems are based off of dialectical materialism, which is to say a scientific approach towards building socialism. Their governing parties exist not to serve the interests of capital, but to serve the interests of the proletariat, which exercises control within these countries through workers democracy.
This simple change in governance compared to the capitalist model has been enough to create systems that can humanely manage the world's crises. "In the capitalistic system economical inequality is acceptable," political geographer Fabrizio Eva said in the extra. "It's the engine of production. So, the political organizations and the state have to guarantee this inequality because theoretically inequality brings richness." Replace this with a framework that prioritizes the wellbeing of humanity, and countless evils are avoided.
If the capitalist framework isn't supplanted, the cycle of violence will only get worse. "Global warming delivers its goods, which is a lot of more water in a lot of parts of poor countries," sociologist Saskia Sassen said in the extra. "Which means that people will have to leave, and we can call this a kind of environmental migration, environmentally driven migration. Now mind you many of these things, the environmental question, the economic question, the civil wars, the privatizing of land, the pushing off of people-those things are happening, they're happening all over the world."
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