I just finished watching Equilibrium, a film the critics hated, but I thoroughly enjoyed. The basic idea behind it is that society, in order to stamp out war, tries to stamp out emotions. Through the use of emotion inhibiting drugs and a Fahrenheit 451 style war on art, they destroy everything that makes us human, including other humans who are “sense offenders”.
But I’m not going to go into the movie, this post isn’t about that. Ever since I was introduced to stories like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, V for Vendetta, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and now Equilibrium, I’ve had a fear. This fear has always sat in the back of my head, just beneath the surface. It creates an almost love/hate relationship with stories of this type.
I have always feared that I would find myself in the position of a character from one of these tales; in a dystopian society as part of a resistance force operating in cells, fighting for freedom. It exhilarates and terrifies me at the same time. I can’t think of anything more romantic than being a freedom fighter in a small group, mutually pledging to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
But what if I’m not quick enough, clever enough, smart enough? What if I make a bad call and watch my friends die because of me? I’m so afraid that I won’t be able to keep up with the mental mind games of my hunters. They will outsmart me, lure me in with some bait, perhaps torture the ones I love. We might be infiltrated. I might wrongly place my trust in someone who’s a double agent. How am I supposed to succeed against such a highly organized, technologically advanced, well funded enemy?
And then I begin to think of the different types of resistance forces. One type is the guerrilla fighters hiding out in caves, setting off bombs, conducting hit and run raids. How would I work in a group such as this? I could never consent to indiscriminately killing unarmed people in a market place, so as long as we don’t sink to that I would be ok.
Then there are the infiltrators. These do just that, they infiltrate the system, helping out secretly where they can. But could I do this? How long would it take? Most of these people are somehow involved in the groups that hunt the resistance fighters. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was helping kill my comrades. There would be times when I would be a bystander watching my fellow fighters be tortured and executed; I would be powerless to stop it without running the risk of revealing myself. I’m not sure I could take that.