Children of Men – the coming anarchy

“The Muslim community demands an end to the Army’s occupation of mosques.”

“The Homeland Security bill is ratified. After eight years, British borders will remain closed. The deportation of illegal immigrants will continue. Good morning. Our lead story…”

These and other disturbing news headlines are sprinkled throughout Children of Men, the 2006 dystopian British movie based on a 1992 novel by P D James.

It wasn’t a good idea to have watched this movie on my flight from Doha to London. I arrived to find London’s Heathrow Airport more crowded and chaotic than I’d ever seen in 15 years of arrivals. Is this a sign of things to come?

In all likelihood, it was just a routine Saturday, but the (fortunately well behaved) crowds made me think again of the coming chaos that Children of Men predicts will overwhelm Britain in just a generation.

As the movie’s official synopsis puts it:
The world’s youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set in and around a dystopian London fractious with violence and warring nationalistic sects, Children of Men follows the unexpected discovery of a lone pregnant woman and the desperate journey to deliver her to safety and restore faith for a future beyond those presently on Earth.

And this is how a fan summed it up on Internet Movie Database (IMDB):

Set in 2027, when no child has been born for 18 years and science is at loss to explain the reason, African and East European societies collapse and their dwindling populations migrate to England and other wealthy nations. In a climate of nationalistic violence, a London peace activist turned bureaucrat Theo Faron, joins forces with his revolutionary ex-wife Julian in order to save mankind by protecting a woman who has mysteriously became pregnant.

When P D James wrote the original novel, she placed the story 35 years in her future. When Alfonso Cuarón directed its movie adaptation, starring Clive Owen, Sir Michael Caine, and Julianne Moore, the world had moved to just two decades within reach of 2027. And, ominously, the concerns of immigration, law and order and environmental degradation had all grown worse.

The movie portrays a dark and depressing near future for our species and the planet. This isn’t the imagination of writer and film-maker running amok: the ingredients of that dystopia are already evident, and we’re flirting with the sympoms while the trends evolve into status quo.

We have been warned.

Feeding Oliver Twists of the world…and delivering UN logos with it!

“Please, Sir: I want some more!”

These simple yet evocative words were etched into our memories by Charles Dickens, who created the story of Oliver Twist (1838), the poor orphan struggling – and suffering – in 19th century England.

Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of the time by surrounding the novel’s serious themes with sarcasm and dark humour. The novel may have been inspired by the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose account of his hardships as a child laborer in a cotton mill was widely read in the 1830s.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The world has seen unprecedented creation of wealth since those dark and miserable days 180 years ago. But sadly, there still are hundreds of millions of children who share young Oliver plight — or worse: many go to bed entirely hungry in a world that does not have an overall shortage of food anymore.

Fighting Hunger 2007

Today, 13 May, thousands of people in different parts of the world will walk wherever they can as part of a global campaign in support of ending hunger – one lingering great shame of our time.

Fight Hunger: Walk the World
is a global fundraising and awareness event that takes place every year in all times zones with one sole purpose – to call for an end to child hunger.

Fighting hunger website tells us:

Hunger is more than having an empty stomach. Hunger means not getting the necessary daily nutrition to lead a fully active, productive and healthy life.

Hunger affects more than 800 million people around the world. A child dies every 5 seconds because he or she is hungry.

This year, the organisers – led by the UN World Food Programme – had a viral video contest. It asked anyone, anywhere to do a short video promoting the event – and the issue of hunger – and upload. Some interesting videos have been received — even if some are blatantly in-your-face propaganda for the UN WFP.

That’s my big, long-lasting complaint about the UN family of agencies addressing and tackling the world’s ills. After a while, they allow their worthy issues to be eclipsed by their own self-promotion, public relations and spin. I wrote last month about how the entire MDG campaign has been subsumed by needless volumes of spin.

If only the World Food Programme and its sister agencies can resist their temptation to see every campaign, issue and programme as a logo-delivery mechanism, they will do a whole lot more good.

For that reason, while I will privately walk and think of those in hunger today, I will not contribute any money to the bloated bureaucracy of the United Nations World Food Programme. I would also ask that they go before a mirror today just before they step out to go walking with the world — and sincerely ask: do you see part of the problem or part of the solution?

Thank you, WFP, for delivering food to tens of millions of people worldwide who would not otherwise be fed, or fed adequately. But try and deliver a little less of your image and your logo, if you can. (We saw so much of this happen in the days and weeks that followed the Asian Tsunami disaster, and it was simply disgusting.)

Both hunger and hypocricy thrive nearly two centuries after Dickens and Oliver Twist. We must walk today to end not just one, but both!

Happy walking, everyone.

Watch the winning and commended videos in Fighting Hunger online video contest

Read UN WFP fact sheet about hunger worldwide