Morbius: Why’d you jumble that combination?
Adams: What ever you know and hear, your twin self out in the tunnel knows, too.
[Morbius attacks Adams.]
Morbius: I’m not a monster, you …
[Adams gains control quickly, but Morbius continues to struggle.]
Adams: We’re all part monsters in our subconscious! So we have laws and religion!
Morbius: Let me go!
Adams: You’ve got to listen! We don’t have much time!
— Walter Pidgeon (as Dr. Edward Morbius) and Leslie Nielsen (as Commander John J. Adams) from Forbidden Planet
If you haven’t seen the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet, and you’re any kind of science fiction fan, consider yourself duly reprimanded. (If you’re not a science fiction fan but willing to put up with some retro eye-candy, there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and thirty eight minutes.)
Long before the late Leslie Nielsen became famous for his over-the-top character Detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun movies, I first ran across a much younger and more serious Nielsen as Commander J. J. Adams of the United Planets Cruiser C-57D.
Beyond being a classic, the film does us a service in that it dramatically reminds us of a fundamental truth of who we really are. In our Ids — the Freudian term used in the film for the primal portion of the subconscious mind — whether we’re Liberal or Conservative; Black, White, Brown, Yellow, or Red; gay or straight; or Alpha Male or part of the herd, we’re all part monsters.
The Chosen and the Damned
I was taught when I was very little — as most of us in this self-important, recklessly breeding organism called the Human Race were taught at some point — a very easy way to be a monster.
We do it by polarizing our environment.
We live in a dualistic world, a world of polarities. Up and down, right and left, hot and cold … it’s built into the framework of our physical existence. But unfortunately we have developed the ability to create polarities where none naturally exist.
- Us and Them.
- Mine and Yours.
- On a global level: Communism versus Capitalism. America went toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union over this one, playing an unconscionable game of nuclear brinksmanship for decades. Today, several nations — North Korea at the forefront — want to play this one, too. (Obviously, Kim Jong-il learned nothing from our mistakes.)
- The Divine and the Earthly. (In the European Middle Ages, untamed nature was in fact considered evil.)
- And my personal favorite: The Chosen and the Damned.
As soon at the opposition can be identified and categorized as something beneath our worth, communication is broken, metaphorical (or actual) walls are built, then laws, “codes” of behavior, or cultural shifts follow to balkanize the “other” (even to the point of demonizing the “opposition”), and the polarization solidifies. Conflict, naturally, has to ensue.
The more time we spend demonizing the opposition, the farther we push away any possible meaningful resolution to the conflict.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the final goal of demonizing the opposition is its removal. The final form of removal would be genocide.
Consider that this is really at the heart of Fundamentalist Christianity — that if you’re not with us, you’re against us. Thus, you’re demonized. Same with radical Islam.
As someone raised in Christianity, it is clear to me that the prophecies of the Rapture and the final Judgement are based on this same desire.
Why would a Christian be comfortable with a God that’s that petty?
My answer is that this is what this Christian would want, deep inside, to see everyone but their particular chosen blotted out from the Book of Life, so to speak, and condemned to eternal torment in the ugliest Hells the human imagination can create.
No, no, no (you might counter), these are extremists.
I will counter that any truly reflective Christian, recognizing this ugly strain of their religious tradition, will reject it and reform or leave the churches that support this kind of polarizing doctrine.
(We don’t see this happening en masse, do we?)
Garden Variety Polarization
I think this strain runs deeper than just about everyone cares to admit.
Popular entertainment is filled with stories of bad guys getting destroyed. Broadcast television stacks cop shows over the prime time hours like so much cordwood, and we love it when the bad guys “finally get theirs.” If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t see it repeated endlessly in film, television, fiction, comic books … and the endless advertising revenue and direct profit from the entertainment forms couldn’t be supported if there wasn’t this market.
(I will confess that one of my favorite television programs is Dexter, the adventures of a serial killer we never want to see caught, because he only murders the bad guys. No, I’m not immune to this.)
We hear the stories of gang violence based on the most trivial of differences, differences that escalate into murder.
We all know what the term “going postal” means, and we all know its unhappy origins.
And, of course, there’s the violence by neglect committed by our elected leaders who have raised political gridlock to a nation-paralyzing art form.
It would be a simple (and tedious) matter to catalogue the violent things we see in everyday life that we accept. The eighty pound shepherd or pit bull that could easily tear a child apart that its owner allows to leap against the yard fence and snarl at and threaten anyone and anything it sees. The road rager that comes this close to taking off a piece of your fender and starting a chain reaction freeway pile up. The boom car music that is so loud it shakes the license plate of the car producing it, assaulting the drivers nearby with deliberately offensive decibel levels, which in turn make it impossible for the driver and occupants to hear emergency vehicles and can’t help but permanently damage their hearing.
Trivial to Earth-shattering, it’s everywhere.
Save those people who have a deep level of spiritual awakening, we’re all part monsters.
Some, yes, more than others.
What do we do about it?
Freedom starts in copping to it, and — in this curmudgeon’s opinion — it is the rare American that is actually willing to do that.
Adams: So you took the brain boost, eh?
Ostrow: You oughta see my new mind. Up there in lights. Bigger than his now.
Adams: Easy Doc.
Ostrow: Morbius … was too close the to problem. The Krell had completed their project. Big machine. No instrumentalities. True creation.
Adams: C’mon Doc. Let’s have it!
Ostrow: But the Krell forgot one thing.
Adams: Yes, what?!
Ostrow: Monsters, John! Monsters from the Id!
— Warren Stevens (as Lt. “Doc” Ostrow) and Leslie Nielsen (as Commander John J. Adams) from Forbidden Planet
We need to outgrow this, or we will destroy ourselves. Maybe not today, but some day.
As Commander Adams said: You’ve got to listen. We don’t have much time.
• • •
Copyright © 2010, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.