22 September 2009

District 9 busts the myth of good and evil

This year, from an unexpected quarter of the world, comes a film that takes head-on, and then shatters, the myth of good and evil. That film is District 9 and it comes from South Africa. What’s more surprising is that District 9 is a sci-fi thriller that deals with aliens on Earth; but, interestingly, steers clear away from the United States (the favourite invasion ground among aliens) to take its roots in, and over, Johannesburg.

District 9’s director, Neill Blomkamp, adopts an ingenious news broadcast-like technique to tell us the story, jumping cuts and cameras and viewpoints here and there to give his film-viewers the feeling that everything is happening in real-time. If that isn’t enough, Blomkamp keeps the adrenalin flowing with suspense, action and an incredible skill in storytelling.

Early on, in the mid-eighties, we learn that a huge alien spaceship arrives over Johannesburg and becomes immobile, perhaps due to a technical fault. A mission, when sent up to the spaceship, finds a huge population of weak and undernourished aliens, and rescues them by bringing them back on Earth. These aliens, which look like large prawns on land and are given that nomenclature by humans, are quarantined in a colony of their own just outside Johannesburg. This colony is District 9.

Twenty years later, with a total failure in integration between the humans and the prawns, matters come to a head between the two populations, and the South African government decides to relocate the prawns farther away from Johannesburg. It enlists the services of a large multinational company, MNU, which is also the second-largest weapons manufacturer in the world. When MNU forces, led by a mild-mannered Wikus van de Merwe (played by South African actor Sharlto Copely), enter District 9 to inform the prawns about their forced relocation and serve them eviction notices, things get out of hand.

During the operation, Wikus becomes accidentally infected by a mysterious alien fluid from a canister which he confiscates from a prawn. A genetic metamorphosis sets in in Wikus, and he slowly, and then rapidly, begins to turn into a prawn. When his metamorphosis comes to the MNU’s notice, MNU jumps at the unexpected opportunity of using a part-human-part-prawn to learn how to use prawn weaponry which they were, so far, unable to do as the weapons are genetically coded to prawn bio-technology.

As MNU scientists and doctors prepare to cut him open for medical experiments, Wikus escapes from MNU’s grasp and is then on the run as a fugitive. Rejected by his own people (including his wife) as a freak, Wikus hides in District 9 and ends up befriending a prawn leader when the prawn leader suggests that it can reverse Wikus’ metamorphosis if it could go back up to the spaceship hovering above Johannesburg. To make this possible, says the prawn, it requires the mysterious fluid in the canister which is in MNU possession. So, the two of them attempt to get that mysterious fluid back from MNU headquarters.

Scorched by Wikus’ daring mission to attack MNU headquarters and escape again, MNU soldiers step up their chase. Wanted alive for his unique bio-technological importance, Wikus is now hunted not only by the MNU, but also by the Nigerian mafia ruling District 9. The Nigerians believe that if they eat Wikus’ flesh, his alien powers will be transferred onto them. So begins a hunt for Wikus… right until the gruesome end of the film.

Although disturbing to watch and, in places, heart-wrenchingly emotional, this is where District 9 excels. Director Blomkamp turns the concept of good and evil on its head, showing us the predatory nature of humans and the greed that resides within us. The viewers of District 9 end up believing that being human is, perhaps, not such a good thing after all.

15 September 2009

Good and evil

In war, if there is no geography, no physical ground or territory to conquer and to bring under one’s control, it’s difficult to claim victory.

In war, if there is no individual enemy – i.e. an individual person or a group of persons acting collectively as an entity (such as a party, a movement or a nation) which can be called enemy – to conquer and to bring under one’s control, or perhaps to eliminate altogether, it’s difficult to claim victory.

For, in war, victory comes when the enemy, in its tangible and finite form, is identified, located, engaged in combat and defeated.

In a cosmic war, where the forces fighting each other believe that they are both acting in God’s name and are freeing the world of and from evil – in other words, when the war is declared as a war between good and evil – the situation and the enemy become difficult to comprehend, and the strategy and solution even more difficult to conceive and execute.

Perhaps, the only way to win a cosmic war, as Reza Aslan suggests in his book How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, is to win over the hearts and minds of the people.

11 September 2009

A new geography

What fascinates me about a Cosmic War is that it defines the battleground at a new spatial level. And no, I’m not talking about the mystical ‘war in the heavens’ I mentioned in my previous post. I’m here on Earth… or so I think… talking about something far more dangerous.

The thing is, in a Cosmic War, geography is no longer mapped on land and sea – and defined by latitudes and longitudes as we know them. A Cosmic War leaves all such mundane matters behind… to enter the human mind. And, it is here that a Cosmic War creates its battleground.

For, a Cosmic War is really about controlling the human mind. It is not about geography or politics or religion or the military. Since it is in the human mind that thoughts, desires and actions originate – and are determined – whoever conquers and controls the human mind controls the Cosmos.

06 September 2009

Cosmic War

Recently, on Fora.tv, I watched an interview of Iranian-American author Reza Aslan by Phil Bronstein, Editor-at-Large Hearst Newspapers and the San Francisco Chronicle. In the interview, Aslan discusses his latest book How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror.

Through subjects such as Islam, jihadists, the al-Qaeda, medieval zealots, the Crusades, and evangelism in modern America, Aslan explains that the Cosmic War, in essence, is a conflict over identity... a conflict between good and evil, where the battles are fought on Earth as much as in the heavens.

Aslan suggests that, in a Cosmic War, there is no compromise, no negotiation, no settlement, no neutral ground... and, therefore, the war can be neither won, nor lost. He proposes that the only way to win the Cosmic War is by not engaging in it... by refusing to fight in it.

How feasible is this idea? You be the judge. Watch the Reza Aslan interview here.

[Citation: How to Win a Cosmic War, Reza Aslan interviewed by Phil Bronstein on Fora.tv]