Idiocracy!

The President in Congress
Mr President calls for quiet in Congress. (Twentieth Century Fox)

Living in a democracy isn’t perfect – no political system is, but I’d prefer it any day to living in an idiocracy!

As a film, Idiocracy (dir. Mike Judge, 2006) is part sci-fi, part comedy, part time-travel and like some of Mike Judge’s other creations veers towards the uncouth, tacky and tasteless lifestyles of its characters. Yet it has a message that speaks directly to our Western society. It may not be a film that thinking people would watch, but it is a film that thinking people should watch.

For those who haven’t seen it, the film’s premise is the dumbing down of society taken to extremes. Five hundred years into the future the majority of society has given in to instant gratification, while those with wisdom and intelligence have been sidelined and ignored, and have eventually died out. The end result being a society in chaos that irrigates crops with fizzy drinks and whose president is a male pornstar wrestler. This scenario provides plenty of opportunities for comedy, but also for pathos, for instance when a vending machine denies a desperate mother food she has bought for her children. Caught in the middle is a sincere US soldier of average intelligence, who finds himself transported in time to a society where he is the most intelligent person alive.

Idiocracy echoes the decline in Western values, where appearance is more important than substance, in fashion, entertainment or even in house building for example, and the value of human life has been downgraded, whether that’s tobacco companies promoting cigarettes in the Third World, the tragic cases of disabled people who demand suicide rather than palliative care or the unborn who don’t have a choice. In the film, the dumbing down of humanity came through population growth, but in reality it comes through the choices we make and the paths we follow as a society. Governments are often made up of intelligent people (unlike in the film!), yet tend to side with the loudest voices and amend legislation accordingly, rather than keeping to foundational values which have kept society stable for hundreds of years.

But it isn’t all bad news, there doesn’t have to be a dumbing down; standards don’t have to decline. Even today British crime figures were published that showed that rates of murder and violent crime have fallen more rapidly in the UK in the past decade than in many other countries in Western Europe. As individuals we don’t have to follow the crowd or base our values on popular thinking. As King Solomon once said:

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honour in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.” (Proverbs 3:13-18)