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Life in the Movies

October 19, 2010

Thomas Halper and Doug Muzzio wrote an incisive article entitled “Hobbes in the City: Urban Dystopias in American Cities,” about the display of dystopian societies in the movies. They said of dystopian societies, “urban dystopias fall into one of two categories: the city as chaos or the city as under rigid, comprehensive control” (Halper and Muzzio 3). I think their concept is a valid and interesting observation, where people fantasize of the dystopian future looming, as portrayed in the movies. Granted, the purpose for their address is different than mine here, but still, they got me thinking. I believe that the hard news and real perception of the public have taken on an element of dystopian fantasticalism.  One thing we can specifically address is the Tea Party movement and their perceptions of what Obama will turn this country into.

Let’s look at it this way: Glenn Beck, whether one agrees or not with his analysis, did an episode of his show on this basis:

Judging by the size of Glenn’s Tea Party gathering on the mall, one can indeed surmise that there is a very large contigent of people in the camp that believes that a socialistic dystopia, a combination of chaos mixed with a bizarre tinge of extreme governmental control.  Whether this is a plausibility or not, one must consider the fact that these precepts do indeed exist.

Halper and Muzzio address the Hobbesian form of government, which Thomas Hobbes wrote of as a great, omnipotent ruler (he referred to as a Leviathan in the title) which holds absolute power in order to protect the people who appoint him. The Tea Partiers fear that a Hobbesian model is on the way, claiming that government’s utter inability to do anything in its current form serves only as a reminder that if it were to grow to extraordinary proportions with a Leviathan-like leader, it would be a cataclysm to freedom. One could say that they refer to the freedoms allotted by the Constitution as an assurance against such an occurrence. A gigantic, wannabe-omnipotent government is their greatest fear, as they see their freedom in direct conflict with a growing government. 

From this emanates the Tea Party’s future vision of dystopia that mirrors the movies. They hold that government is, at its zenith, a necessary imposition of the smallest degree, but should have little visible presence. They only see in government a body with too much power and size for its own good. Their vision is rather the opposite of Hobbes, instead believing that there is no feasible means for the government to hold as much power as Hobbes would have without becoming a giant, emasculating, ineffectual sloth.

Interestingly, perhaps the Tea Partiers have seized on something here. For example, the government expanded when it took on such programs as Social Security, which it claimed would be stored in a safe lockbox. That lockbox (more like porcelain piggy bank) was long ago raided. Now it’s a massive $14.6 trillion liability, according to Medicare? Another expansion of government by Johnson in the 1960s; it’s a nearly $77 trillion liability (also according to The government hasn’t been able to responsibly manage anything monetary. The Tea Partiers have a point when they say that government hasn’t given us much of a reason to give it any more power.

-Brandon Tomlinson

One Comment
  1. October 19, 2010 4:13 AM

    Interesting points! Perhaps you could send me the article of Halper and Muzio?

    I do should want to comment on the contents of your article. Namely, Hobbes argues for a omnipotent sovereign (a monarch in his case), much like Zamyatin’s Benefactor. However, in Hobbes eyes it would be a utopia. You posit that the Tea Party opt for a government much on the background of society. However, what then regulates what is good and bad – ie increase equality and acertain freedom for all? If government influence is a matter of degree, I’d argue that has become more Hobbesian than Benthamian because of the failure of the latter’s utilitarian ideas. What Americans and the rest of the (Western) world should not forget is that we ‘should give up part of our freedom in favor of security’ (Hobbes, Leviathan) – whether it is a government, a monarch or public perception, this is what we have been doing all along.

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