A Thought Or Two on Don’t Look Up. This is just an editorial on the Netflix film, Don’t Look Up. It won’t be my normal schtick, walkthrough, dismantling, theories, explanations… none of that. Just a thought or two on this thing called being human in the modern age, and how irrelevant that happens to be. There might be a comment or two about politics. Trump might be mentioned. Biden, too, might be mentioned. But this will be apolitical all the same. Or, it should be anyway. Unless you decide you want to make it political. I sure as hell won’t be making this editorial political. Alright?
If you haven’t seen the movie – you really aren’t missing anything – and you definitely don’t need to see the film to read this write up on it. I’ll spoil it, spoil it all, but trust me, you won’t be worse for wear.
Quick overview for context: Don’t Look Up tells the story of two scientists who discover that a comet is heading directly towards earth. It happens to come to be, that it’s their job, to inform the world that it only has 6 months to live. Why? Because this particular comet will be a planet killer. But the task is harder than they imagine it to be. Why? Because the world doesn’t want to die apparently. Most will concentrate on the Trumpist right and how they like to deny science. But there is an equally obtuse thread here that wants to pantheon the news… you know, like glorify this moment of impending death like a scientific herald from the halls of physics on high. Both responses are incorrect. And one of these scientists loses his way as he is caught in the maelstrom. He loses the sense of what is most important. Loses the thread of what is real and what really is most important. And as the globe tries to stop the impending doom, the world takes itself out at the knees – and in the end, the world explodes into a fiery fury.
Right? There, you’ve seen the movie, in all of its terrible long-windedness and self aggrandizement.
I’ve stumbled in my own personal thinking as I was swept up in the technology, and the enlightenment of what humanity has become. I had sort of come to believe that humanity had learned to transcend myth, superstition, false spiritualism, and non-data driven analysis of everything we do. That we would live and die by the scientific method. That we would postulate theorems, and then test them… and that it would be these various definitions of truth that would help us to navigate the reality of the world around us, to chart a path between the killer comets, and the precarious cliffs, in order to inform the realities of our lives. But this is false. Humanity has been a stark raving mad lot for millennia, and will continue to be until the very last human has been wiped off the planet.
I mean, humanity has done horrific, and just inhumane things to one another… on the thinnest, and worst logic imaginable. She’s a witch, because… we heard from the cobbler, that he saw her… talking to herself… chanting to herself… no, actually, she was muttering satanic curses to herself. That’s it. Satanic curses… and someone on the other side of town combusted. It was the miller… she was upset with him. He’s recovered, thank goodness. But still… she’s a witch. Wait, what? We all are hoping that humanity will wake up and become logical – but this is the real falseness we should burn at the stake. You think that humanity is capable of actually being logical? Paying women the same rate as men? EH? You think that African Americans should be able to get a fair evaluation for their house? You believe that everyone is able to believe in whatever higher power they prefer to believe in? I mean, and you honestly think you are the sane one here?
So the movie works hard to talk to the scientific truths – and convince those that don’t believe, of the science that is coming their way. It’s like a sort of global warming metaphor. Got it. But I see it as a deeper truth that is happening – and that is why this is an apolitical conversation. Because humanity will never be sane. It cannot be sane, solely because we are a broken and fractured people, inherently. We are harmed through our lives, and the chaos this world brings, and we will always be unable to think clearly about this world that we live on, and the science that we are hoping to attain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not glorifying science as an enlightened state. Actually, I’ve sort of realized that while yes, science is intriguing, and capable of amazing things (just yesterday, the James Webb telescope unfolded its enormous sun shields, and completed its unfurling… if there is a single moment that heralds the glory of what science is capable of, that is definitely it) it is also capable of its own blind-sidedness as well.
Remember when, a long time ago, we had 3 channels… 13, 11, 5 (oh and U… I guess there was craziness going on over there on U.) And we had Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings? We had real news… we didn’t have commentary, we had unadulterated, unspun news. Right? Remember back before Fox News tossed that all out the window? Stop. This is an untrue reading of our news history… Dan Rather was seen as the liberal option. And Peter Jennings? The more conservative one. Even back then. My family wouldn’t be caught dead watching Dan Rather Biased giving us the news. See? No matter what, we have perpetually succumbed to the assumptions we already hold. The question is, are we doing a better job of fooling ourselves now than before? Are we doing a better job at acting like we are open to various different datasets… are we pretending like we are ready to learn? Because, we really aren’t. The human species is dreadfully incapable of accepting information that will imply or enable change.
Life is tenuous enough already. The best laid plans of mice and men after all. I’ve worked my ass off to construct, and control, and pile, brick by brick, a life that will mean that my family will be cared for. Similarly, politicians, and those in power, have assembled, brick by brick, a bastion of power, and the losing of a single brick will mean a loss of that power edifice. Knowledge is power. Thus the key phrase here in this movie – don’t look up. What does it really mean? I mean, sure, it means don’t look at the comet… but more importantly it means, don’t let the other side win the knowledge war. Just today I read a great piece over on reason.com talking about who is defining truth and why it matters:
“Governments realize that they are in an existential battle over who controls information, who controls the narrative, and they are waging a frontal assault against independent journalism around the world,” Joel Simon, the exiting head of the Committee to Protects Journalists (CPJ), told CNN’s Brian Stelter.
“This is the information age, and we are in a kind of millennial battle over who controls information,” he added. “Who controls it? That’s the power struggle. And so, governments recognize—repressive governments, but even democratic governments—that this is an essential tool that they need to maintain power and journalists are their adversaries.”
And regardless of side – because both sides do this to some degree or other – this is the main, meta truth. That those that define truth, define reality, define the narrative, they are the ones that are controlling the power. Not just slogans (“Right to life” vs. “Right to choose”) but also the literal truth of incoming comets, increasing planet temperatures, Covid hospitalization rates, accidental gun death rates, percentages of population homosexuality rates, etc., etc., etc. And abstracting away from the item du jour helps to understand more clearly what is happening here. It’s just about power. It has nothing to do with whether one side of the debate really believes a comet isn’t coming… but rather that admitting that the comet is coming yields the debate to the other side… it yields the entire conversation to their opponent’s argument construct. And when I realize that the thing we are arguing about isn’t the thing that we are arguing about, I only then begin to understand the real truth happening here.
Back to the Movie Don’t Look Up
I watched this movie with my family and the first half was enjoyed, generally, by everyone. It was funny, and it was laughable in a bizarroworld sort of – WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING – sort of way. And then our intrepid heroes lose their way, get eaten whole by the news-media industrial complex, and then they fail in their mission to save the planet. It’s as if the movie is trapped in a Cassandra Complex and they don’t even know it. They can tell us the prophetic truth, but they are cursed in that no one will believe them. It’s like Isaiah, the prophet, and what God called him to do…
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?’ And I said: ‘Here am I. Send me!’ And He replied: ‘Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'”
Talk about the worst job in the world. Go, tell someone something… but be forewarned, they aren’t going to listen, nor will they believe even if they hear you in the first place. Good times. WHY? Why wouldn’t the people of Israel listen? Because it would mean yielding to the truth that God is in control. Someone other than themselves are in control. Similarly… yielding the fact that there is a comet in the sky admits the idea that someone’s truth, other than their own, is the real deal. Which, says VOLUMES about human nature and how we like to avoid truths. Personally I avoid truths… this is obvious. But to see it at a collective, humanity level, is just mind-blowing.
But again, the sooner I can let go of this idea that Humans have evolved, or been enlightened, the better. I mean, look at the collective zeitgeist of the world at the turn of the 20th century. So exuberant. So evolved and über enlightened (or so they thought anyway.) That is, until the Great War hit the planet and millions upon millions died. That did dampen this whole idea that humanity had really stepped its game up, had overcome the infinite problems that had historically plagued mankind for millennia. That is until we created bigger and better screw-ups than ever before. Oh, and not to be outdone by the Great War, we thought we’d take a run at a sequel, World War II, wherein we were so enlightened, and so gloriously educated, we thought we’d try and eradicate Jews and Gypsies from the planet. At which point, something like 85 million people then died. What is that, like 3% of the planet’s population perished? But I digress. I think my larger point here is that I shouldn’t be surprised that there is a struggle for the control of knowledge, and truth. Humans will avoid giving up all vestiges of control, and they will die to do it. That is about all I know at this point.
I will say this though – that I found the ending of this movie poignant. I’m sure many found it cliche. But I did not. A group of friends and family, all partaking in dinner together, laughing and enjoying their time together, especially seeing as though it required grace. It required forgiveness in order to share in that combined experience together. And obviously, this table of communion had literally nothing to do with Trump. It had nothing to do with Biden. Nothing to do with politics or any semblance of anything as simple as the government. Rather it has everything to do with the obstinacy of humankind – both in general, and specifically – me. I’d love to figure out how to let go enough to be open to new information, to truly look for ways to better myself through the intake of new data. But, oh, well… Don’t Look Up.
Edited by: CY
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