Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The Twilight Zone (4/4) Mason Riley G2 H01
The Obsolete Man
Romney Wordsworth is summoned into a court, a court in the possible future had any dictator survived and taken over the world, or at least had total autonomy over their own people. They revel in the destruction of human freedom, despise logic, and obfuscate truth. Wordsworth is up for extermination because he is obsolete, being a librarian in a time where all books have been obliterated.
He is laughed at when he reveals his occupation, and the chancellor tells him that without books, there is no reason for librarians to exist, just as there is not reason for ministers to exist since "the state has proven that there is no God."
Wordsworth counters that "there is a God" and that the state cannot merely "erase God with an edict." The chancellor tells him that he is obsolete because he has no function, while Wordsworth defends that no human is obsolete, that "truth cannot be destroyed by burning pages," and that simply existing allows humans to create ideas that remain long after they are gone. The chancellor rants on that the state is strong, has no use for non-functioning partitions, and that all literature is meaningless because it is without substance and significance in society.
Wordsworth is found to be obsolete, so he must be "liquidated." He has the option of choosing his form of death, and can choose any time in the next 48 hours. He chooses to have an assassin that will have to keep secret his method of death and also to have an audience, through television, that will watch his demise. The chancellor is happy to do so, getting excited over the prospect since mass executions have, in the past, had an "educative effect on the population." The people of the state agree because they want to show the world how this "obsolete man, this librarian, dies." The chancellor goes to Wordworth's house minutes before his planned death to prove that the state has no fears. The chancellor says that Stalin and Hitler had the right ideas, but that they did not go far enough because too many undesirables, the old, sick, and deformed, were left to form resistance groups and eventually overthrow the state. The chancellor condescendingly tells Wordsworth that he should feel free to display emotion for his viewers, and do whatever he feels the need to, knowing that it will make Wordsworth look weak.
Wordsworth then reveals that he only called on the chancellor to prove the point of whether the state is as strong as it claims to be, by locking the chancellor in his room and observing his reactions. Wordsworth says that he will use his remaining time to read his Bible, the possession of which is a crime punishable by death, so it is the only possession which has any real value to him. The chancellor yells for help and calls for guards to open the door, but a mandate that he put in place himself has isolated the two, since no one is allowed to stay around the one who is being put to death. Wordsworth also tells the audience that helping out a high ranking elected official would make the state look weak, so he is on his own now, and that only death, the great equalizer, will show how little difference an obsolete man and an official who has garnered many accolades have "in the eyes of God." Wordsworth selects verses and reads them off for the public audience to enjoy while waiting for his demise.
Moments before his selected time, the chancellor breaks down and pleads to be released "in the name of God," a request to which Wordsworth gladly carries out by allowing him to leave the room, promptly before being decimated. The next day, the chancellor has been found to be obsolete, since he was a coward on television and made the state look weak. He is dragged away by his former subordinates and torn to shreds. Rod Serling ends the episode by stating that any states, entity or ideology that fails to recognize the worth, dignity, and rights of man are obsolete.
Machiavelli would have lauded such a state, but very obviously, this state yielded absolute power and many people suffered for it, merely by doing their job and that job becoming unnecessary. Doing anything necessary to gain power may be nice for those on top, but all the people that were stepped on or killed along the way far outweigh the importance of ruling absolutely. Although this dictator most likely precisely followed much of Machiavelli's teachings, this type of world seems much more of a dystopia to me than a utopia.
Much of Hobbes' teachings are included in this episode also, as the leviathan, or all those in power ruling over the others, can make any decision they want, without fear of repercussions. All those in favor of the state are allowed to live, and anyone weak or in opposition to it are killed. The people under that rule have only one freedom: to live until the state determines you should no longer do so. Granted, this is taking the leviathan theory to the extreme, but history has come close to this type of government before.
Rousseau also believed in ruling by the will of the people, or what is best for the state, and obviously what is best for the state is not always what is best for each individual. What is best for the whole community, preventing war and social upheaval, is not best for the people, as all freedoms are removed if the will of the state is followed. This only leads to being forced to live together and get along, instead of doing so by choice or necessity.
Finally, Marx and Bentham both believed in equality and making sure that the rights of all are considered, with everyone having equal say and no one being above anyone else. However, these views are easily twisted, as evidenced by World War II and the subsequent years after it. Hitler, a man who brought great prosperity to his people, was elected fairly by the people, and convinced them that they would have better lives if he was elected. He proved himself by doing exactly what he promised, but at a cost: jobs were created as people, mostly Jews, were either killed or pushed out of their jobs. The people, however, either oblivious or uncaring, were merely happy to have an income and freely pledged loyalty to the fascist state that had provided in their time of need. On the other end of the spectrum, Stalin also promised to better his country, the
USSR, and did so at the cost of
millions of soldiers and workers through expansion of the infrastructure and boundaries
of the Russian Motherland. This
communist state promised to give everyone equality, but equal poverty is not
what the people had been looking forward to. Unable to abscond from his vise grip, the
people of the USSR
had to suffer with little to survive on and bleak prospects for the future. Both these examples exemplify how dangerous
any type of system or person can be if they have absolute power, as anything
can be taken away or any person killed on a whim.
Word Count: 1216
Total Word Count 1951+=3167