“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”, the statement has been making rounds in many elite circles, especially, the cultural critique of modernity and commodity fetishism.
It is being told to us, and quite often, that we are living in a ‘post-ideological’ world where free trade, individualism, secular and democratic form of governments and resolving conflicts through mechanized global institutions are the best way to inhabit the planet. Any form of human emancipation will be derived from individual self and consuming more is a virtue and an immortal flag of progress.
But all the current geo-political adventures, shifts in socio-political dynamics and cultural trends suggest us that truth might not be the one we are constantly told and reminded of. From the rise of Donald Trump to the cultural shift within democratic party, from Boris Johnson to the rise of right-wing in France and Germany, from illiberal democracies of Poland, Hungary, Turkey and India to capitalism with Asian values in China, from Bolsonaro to Putin to Netanyahu, it is very seductive to go with the liberal discourse of coming back of authoritarianism and insecure people throughout the globe looking for messianic personalities in their leaders rather than believing in their self.
They quite often accuse the masses of subverting their freedom and serving it on a plate to populist leaders in exchange for illusionary solace and unworthy security.
So the two big questions that arise from this analysis are – why is this insecurity generated and what happens when masses start acting against their interests in a democracy. Answer to both these questions lies as much as in the in-depth understanding of the liberal discourse as in the one liberal advocates have been promoting, which is mostly surrounded by the moral gibberish of how populist have fooled the masses and turned them against each other.
The truth lies in the psyche of the individuals for whom the elite liberal culture is becoming bewildering day by day, which mocks his economic vulnerability after he realises that the game is rigged and the rules are designed in favor of the tiny elite and no amount of cultural liberty will be able to reverse it.
We can understand the discourse by looking over two dystopian fiction movies trying to depict the future of humankind. One is James McTeigue, V for Vendetta, in which authoritarianism has taken over all the institutions of a country and an ugly psychopath rules it through treachery, deception, debauchery and with an iron fist, through police and military-industrial complex. Here people are questioning things but they lack the tools to transfer this self-doubt into a coherent political force. So, a messianic figure has to rise, who himself was the victim of fascist upheaval, to liberate them from the chains and clutches of their illusions, leading them to an uprising for the overthrow of an Orwellian system and to establish the liberal order once again.
The second movie is Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men, which was released just one year after ‘V for Vendetta’. Authoritarianism has taken over society here too, but with a little twist. The trick here is that the authoritarian measures that are put in place everywhere are working effectively within the notion of the democratic state. So populism is accepted but not without a touch of late capitalism, the so-called ‘post-ideological’ world we are supposed to be living in. Some environmental catastrophe or a terrorist attack, most presumably a biological one has caused mass sterility and no children have been born for a generation.
The world of ‘Children of Men’ does not take place in some parallel universe or far-flung galaxy, rather it is just a continuation and prolonged exasperation of our modern societies. The movie raises a very frightful but timely question that is it possible to strip back all public spaces of the society and leave the work of the state to its core police and military functions?
The tragedy here is that this world didn’t begin with a blast, and won’t end with a bang either. So anything that does provide hope is rendered useless because we are accustomed or rather programmed to think that this is the only world possible, that there never was a different one and within the complexities of the world one can hardly even imagine the return of some messianic figure. So in a bewildered world where nothing makes sense people resort to superstition, religion and identity formation, so as to give meanings to their life.
‘Children of Men’ connects us to the suspicion of our everyday lives that the end is near and the future harbors only conflicts and consumption, nothing new can happen, and with the death of culture the focus shifts from the next big thing to the last big thing.
So are the young really incapable of producing new culture, and if this love for nostalgia is basically the incompetent social structures and death of hope for future then it’s high time we look at the ‘why’ of things and leave behind the vortex of ‘it was always like that’’. One thing ‘children of men’ does succinctly is to challenge the notion of ‘post-ideological world’ in cultural terms.
So when most of the moral gibberish of the liberals depend on the notion that the world of ‘V for Vendetta’ is rising and people should stand up to challenge it, but most often fail to answer that what will happen on the next day in the world of V for Vendetta after people have taken power in their own hands, the dream on which they have put all their hopes in.
One thing is for sure, it’s high time we ask ourselves – are we done with the ideology? If the answer is yes, then one must bow down to all the alienation, catastrophes, rootlessness and nothingness of everything and if not then we have to find a way out of this predicament, and watching, examining and debating ‘Children of Men’ would be a good enough start in the direction.