The world may or may not be ending these days but it’s giving us a good glimpse as to how our leaders would react if it was and the picture so far ain’t pretty.
Republicans until this past month downplayed the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic then pivoted to it’s not that scary it’s just the flu. Now with the economy quickly spiraling the drain, non-essential workers getting laid off in a fairly preventable mess, and essential workers fighting the virus many times without proper PPE, psychos like Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are now asking us to sacrifice our grandparents to make a red line go up.
Lest you believe this is just another “Orange Man Bad” take, plenty of liberals have given tone-deaf responses such as A-List celebrities poorly singing “Imagine” while getting front of the line virus testing, tucked away safely from society in their McMansions. And just in case anyone needs reminding just because Andrew Cuomo can speak in complete sentences while holding office in close proximity to a crisis he is still not your friend…
If the past
three years ever
weren’t eye-opening enough as to how our leaders largely ignore the desperate
cries of their constituents in need then this past month and a half should.
It’s become increasingly clear these people, who help create humanitarian
messes like this, will not only get away with it but emerge from these
disasters largely unscathed.
All this has made me think a lot about my favorite Stanley Kubrick film lately, “Dr. Strangelove,” and though its subject material is largely a satire of Cold War tensions it’s nonetheless a reminder of how hilariously powerless one can feel in the face of governmental incompetence.
“Dr. Strangelove” needs little introduction. Considered by many to be one of the greatest dark comedies ever, Kubrick’s film is a brilliant satire of the hilarious limits of the Cold War policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (appropriately acronymed as MAD). It’s a story about how everything that can go wrong will go wrong when governments and their militaries are at consistent odds with one another, with Kubrick appropriately describing metaphorically the blue-balled nature of the war-hungry military characters of the film with plenty of phallic imagery and innuendos.
Kubrick set out to dismantle this insane death cult-like foreign policy by showing how hilariously wrong it could go. With the US government practicing MAD policy of massive retaliation upon even the slightest provocation by the USSR and vice versa Kubrick saw the tremendous hole in such a plan and sought to create a story that appropriately dismantled the foolishness of such a foreign policy.
I was reminded of the movie as our leaders and various, mostly right wing, pundit heads downplayed the ever-increasing casualty list of the pandemic. What was just “15 people” then it’ll be “over,” turned into 100-200 thousand best case scenario with plenty of the aforementioned dummies from above saying that’s enough of a green light to reopen the economy. It bared all too eerie a resemblance to this famous quote by General Buck Turgidson played the great George C. Scott.
This rather darkly humorous line exchange shows how we’re not people in the eyes of a lot of our leaders; we’re numbers. Sure, some care for sure, but we are ultimately expendable to many of them. When jackass pundits like Glen Beck echo the conservative doctrine of “the cure can’t be worse than the disease” when it comes to saving our country by sacrificing “some” people for the “greater good” he really means us cause while we would have to return to our jobs, shop at stores, and participate in society to get it running again the richest and wealthiest can afford to wait out the storm in their affluent castles while we literally cough money back into their wallets. Like General Turgidson, their lives aren’t on the lines in these catastrophes and it allows them to weigh ours on rather cold scales.
This cold indifference has a real term attached to it and its rather hilarious titled “Megadeaths.” It’s a real term coined military strategist and physicist Herman Kahn in his book “On Thermonuclear War” who Kubrick consulted with in making the film. Kubrick makes a bleak but nonetheless funny reference to this as General Turgidson fiddles around with a folder in the famous war room of “Dr. Strangelove” labeled “World Targets in Megadeaths.” While it may feel too on the nose for some, with Kahn’s notes it becomes apparent how accurate it is to reality. Kahn’s indifferent use of the term gave Kubrick a rather bleak look into how government compartmentalizing its people into a cold numbers game and it feels all too relevant here.
The world’s inability to function at the worst of times has a dark sense of humor to it that is largely echoed in this Kubrick classic. As individuals we do what we’re told, go to work, participate in society, try to live our lives, then entrust them to the folks we, or others, vote for and then act shocked when this happens. Our government’s piss poor response to this crisis is a product of decades of being misled into having the worst possible administration head the most powerful nation on earth during the worst viral outbreak in 100 years. And with a lot of the power the people have in this regard stripped away there isn’t much left to do except laugh.
“Dr. Strangelove” plays on this hilarious melodrama with every conceivable thing going wrong enroute to Russia’s doomsday machine going off. Peter Sellers is of course a joy playing three of the film’s major characters between English military liaison Colonel Mandrake, President Muffley and Dr. Strangelove himself delivering much of the film’s iconic lines. The aforementioned George C. Scott is perhaps a bit underrated at General Turgidson chewing the scenery and exemplifying the US military’s hardon for war and destruction. And of course, nothing brings the melodrama hilariously together more than this iconic sequence with the great Slim Pickens as Major T.J. “King” Kong.
“Dr. Strangelove” ends of course with the world erupting in nuclear holocaust set to “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn completing the humorously moribund nature of the film. Now I’m not saying this pandemic will bring about the end of the world. At some point we’ll return to some kind of normalcy but no one should forget how we were treated when the chips were down.
Our government downplayed our concerns, pretended it didn’t exist, and when it finally couldn’t be ignored anymore allowed the country to fall apart with many going without health insurance or UBI in the middle of a pandemic and pending recession. Yes as I’ve said before we are all rather powerless in the face of these disasters when our leaders hold all of it BUT that doesn’t mean you stop holding them accountable and certainly doesn’t mean this ends once the crisis is over.
They are still here; they are still in control for now. Fight like hell to ensure they don’t have it again next time disaster comes our way.
Just make sure you don’t fight for it in the war room. There’s no fighting there.