The dystopian vision of the future in “Elysium”…playing everywhere near you.

This is less a movie review than a comment about the overall look and feel of the opening sequence of a film that, I believe, is in the real making today as I sit here thinking about the myriad ways that the public college I teach at has been dragged down to an abysmal version of itself in just one year.  

This movie is set in 2154.  That’s 141 years into the future and the establishing shot of Los Angeles looks nightmarishly bleak with complete overpopulation and ruin in every way imaginable.  

If you look around you now, it’s not hard to find the garbage overflowing, ruinous potholes for bicyclists and motorists in all major cities, politicians gorging on corporate feed like cattle in the industrial farming troughs, middle class being gutted of any value held in property and the like that we’ve been told invest in so that we set ourselves up for a good life to retirement, and students left holding the enormous bag of debt.  We’re not 141 years away from the horror shot in the opening of the movie “Elysium”.  It sure feels more like 20 or 30 years away from that. Meanwhile, the super-rich get to enjoy the remaining earth spoils before they hightail it for whatever space station Richard Branson will likely attempt to construct in the next decade. 

If I just pose, as an example, the public college where I teach a wonderful and diverse population, I can see the writing on the wall right now.  We normally serve between 85,000 and 100,000 students each semester. The politicians and plutocrats backing the “reform movement” work feverishly to kill those numbers and in this one year alone at this one school (the largest community college in California), everything you can imagine has been transformed and cut-to-the-bone in order to make it completely unworkable to serve the students properly AND with untoward and scurrilous activity aimed at the faculty causing morale at a place that all once loved to work to reach a humiliating low. 

In America, it used to be that you worked hard for 2/3 of your life in order to earn a place of retirement with some comfort. Now, with the short-shift of nothing more than menial, automaton-like, service jobs paying less than $9/hr and with our government deciding that it’s simply not worth it to fund an education for the populace-at-large anymore (first-hand evidence from the large college witnessing purposeful downsizing as noted above), the future doesn’t look so bright.  Education is quickly becoming an aspiration for those who can pay the big bucks to graduate with the hope of obtaining the good jobs.  But, truly, where are those jobs?  Are we not reading that plenty of graduates are applying for McDonalds, WalMart, and any-retail-hell-name-you-wish-to-enter-here because there are no options right now for them?  Will there ever be?  If one does not aspire to be CEO of a multinational corporation will one ever find a place waiting for her/him on “Elysium”? 

About danaj33

writer * department chair of Broadcast Electronic Media Arts and audio faculty at City College of San Francisco * music composer and producer * always in discovery mode, learning, living, loving, and laughing.
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