Backwater Planet

Backwater Planet

There is something disturbing about how much progress humanity has made in science and technology, yet how little we have progressed as a human society. A common notion is for western or western-oriented societies to style themselves as progressive, tolerant and enlightened, while African, or Middle Eastern or Asian societies are often looked down upon as backward, intolerant and often primitive. The Middle East especially is presented to us in the CNNs, BBCs and France24s of this world as a distant sand planet where savage brown alien monsters wrap their females up like mummies and treat them like cattle. And so for the past decade and a half it has been the general consensus reality that in order for you to free the sand planet, you have to bring war and destruction to the sand planet.

Libya, though not in the Middle East, is one such prime example. The prevailing international dogma declared Libyans a people subjugated in tyranny by a lunatic despot. “He is killing his own people.” Libya today, after its generous “liberation” by Western military might is worse off today, than Somalia was in the Blackhawk Down ’90s. Inside a week, a sovereign nation was reduced to a lawless realm of ongoing despair, terror and carnage. The Blitzkrieg is alive and well.

And I assumed at least the lighter shade of this Earth’s population was safe from “freedom”, but then look at Ukraine.

We humans are a species of fear. Our mental and emotional foundations are built from deep-seated, seemingly inescapable fear. Like a shadow that, try as we may, we cannot leap away from. Our fears are like passwords, publicly readable in plain-text. Since the dawn of human civilization, we have not taken one step away from fear. It appears the terror that lives within us is a hard-wired demon that lends itself so easily and continually to mass hysteria, hive mentality and mob violence. We are misled by our scientific and technological progress into thinking the Western human is more enlightened or developed than say the African or Arab human. Strip away all the shiny high-tech toys and scientific “miracles” and what are you left with? From the Salem witch trials, to the Holocaust, to the Rwandan Genocide, to the lies that fed the War on Terror, to systemic police brutality and mass incarceration, we are still doing the same things to the same people, over and over. The weak will continue to burn in the fires of the fears of the mighty. This has been our way since Cain slew Abel. Will we ever change? Will our progress ever evolve from the scientific and technological, to the social, emotional and intellectual?

The animated short film, The Backwater Gospel, is about a small desolate town in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by a brutally savage and terrified population who do horrific things to each other, out of fear of otherness. It might seem easy to you, maybe, to see yourself as apart from that, as somehow above such base human tendencies. Again, strip away hashtags, smartphones and interplanetary probes …. are we really that different from the townspeople in The Backwater Gospel?


Image credit: Violence: Media 1.0, by captain-archdandy (License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

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