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)

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Finding rest

Sunset over a lake
Have we no time to stand and stare?

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Jeremiah 6:16)

So wrote the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah circa 600 BCE. Today’s busy, 21st Century lifestyle precludes time to rest. Instead Western society panders to our materialistic desires, leaving us unsatisfied and spiritually thirsty. In Jeremiah’s time there was a spiritual aspect to life that, on the whole, we have lost. Yet even then the Creator needed to speak through Jeremiah to point people to the source of true and perfect rest. Consider for a moment the words of this well-loved poem by Wm. Henry Davies (1871-1940):

LEISURE

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if,  full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

By not slowing down, we lose so much. Almost three thousand years ago, King Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) It is when we take time to rest that we can most fully appreciate our spiritual side.

Look again at Jeremiah’s words; it is only by following what is good, being unfettered by conscience or anxiety, that we find true rest. It was Jesus who said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11 v28-30)