I treated myself this weekend to a trip to the cinema and saw ‘Chappie’, the movie by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) about a future where robots are policing the streets due to the rise in violence and police officer deaths.
‘Chappie’ is a “bullet magnet” police droid which operate within set parameters but their creator, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) dreams of the droids becoming something more. When Chappie is to be decommissioned, the creator sees an opportunity to trial his artificial intelligence program, with mixed results and is where the movie really takes off. What makes us human, what makes us who we are?
Chappie ends up being ‘brought up’ by a gang of thieves to assist them in completing a big heist. Chappie’s creator tries hard to tell him that this life style is wrong and makes him promise not to commit any killings. The battle for Chappie’s soul is interesting as the creator and the gang try to shape him in the mould they want. One scene shows the creator with Chappie trying to teach him about his potential by teaching him to paint, the next shows his criminal ‘Daddy’ showing Chappie the brutal reality of the ‘real world’ out on the street when he dumps him in the middle of nowhere unable to protect himself from people who have grown up to hate the police.
‘Chappie’ I thought was a wonderful film that touches on a number of the big, philosophical questions that plagued humanity since we became self aware; why do we die? What is it that makes us who we are? If God exists, why would he make us so fragile and easy to die? Are we destined to take certain paths through nature or nurture?
These questions are all wrapped up in a quirky movie that is both touching and inspiring. Without getting bogged down in the religious questions raised within the movie, I would focus on the question of the role environment plays on our development. The journey of Chappie from infantile robot to ‘number 1 gangsta’ illustrates vividly the role our environment plays in our development and help to see that no future is set in stone if we can create the right environment from which people cn flourish.
Neill Blomkamp has made a movie which everyone should see, not quite a family movie, but certainly one that could be used to highlight to teenagers that there is no fate but what we make and to show us adults that no one should be thrown on the scrap heap just because of the rough start they might have had in childhood.
The Mayor of London cited the recent court case of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the men found guilty of the murder of Lee Rigby last year, as an example of what he called the potential for children to “learn to become killers or suicide bombers.” Boris must have casually forgotten that the two men he used for his sound reasoning and such delusion were actually born and raised Christian by Nigerian parents. Where will we draw the line for this? Did anyone from the government come out to say that when Emma West made her Nazi rant on London’s underground with her son on her lap? Her punishment was a 24 month community order under supervision, no mention of her children being taken away from her by Boris Johnson for his potential radicalisation, side man Nick Clegg or anyone else. So is Boris deliberately trying to drive a cultural war that they are getting extremely good at fanning the flames for? What about Tommy Robinson, the former EDL leader who’s group have previously expressed desire to blow up Mosques, will they be taking his children from him too for radicalisation? What about removing Catholic children from Irish parents in case we see a rise in the IRA?
No, Boris is quite clear when he talks about radicalisation, he means Muslim parents teaching their children about a peaceful religion, Islam.
If Boris is so keen to deal with radicalism in the UK and indeed the world, then perhaps he wants to steer parliament away from the military industrial complex puppet masters and away from their agenda of imperialism and globalisation. If we really believe that the way to peace is to send unmanned drones to bomb women and children in Pakistan and Yemen, to wage shock and awe bombing campaigns on Iraqi citizens and to destabilise governments we aren’t happy with, sending countries into a vicious spiral of civil war that threatens to engulf the world, well then we are lost. We can bomb this world into pieces but we will not bomb it into peace. We need to create an environment where radicalism cannot breed and this is the issue Boris so poorly fails to address – the role of environment.
What the Lee Rigby murder trial highlighted, as details of the pairs life was recounted, are the key roles society and environment play in our development from cradle to grave, Adebowale, the younger of the two was said to have had a history of mental illness and they point to a number of events that occurred in their lives that lead to that fateful day in May 2013. In fact, it is argued that we our susceptible to environmental conditioning from the moment we have one to be influenced by and this starts as early as our mothers womb, where we are at the mercy of their daily lives and chemical balances. It is here we first develop predisposition for addiction etc. The documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, the third by Peter Joseph, had a 15 – 20 minute introduction on the role of genetics and predisposition which centred on the role environment plays in our development and is worth taking the time to watch if you haven’t or to revisit even if you have.
This does not excuse any of the numerous things that we humans do to each other every day and we are all guilty when it comes to the radicalisation of children/people because we allow environments to fester whereby hatred is the order of the day, but we are the ones that can change that, we are the ones who can demand an end to illegal wars and the sale of arms to people today who tomorrow we will be at war with for New Democracy. What is certain is that knee jerk, popularity seeking soundbites from people like Boris Johnson, who is only in it for himself, that only deal in symptoms and not the root causes of our problems are not the way to change things for the better. I will finish off with a quote from Nelson Mandela who captures this last point best.