Morlocks and Eloi
In the 1996 movie Ransom, Gary Sinise’s character chillingly recounts a key part of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, in which he describes a future humanity divided into Eloi and Morlocks. The fair and beautiful Eloi live a life of safety and ease aboveground, with food in abundance, clothing and shelter provided by technology, and all their earthly needs tended as though by magic. In fact, they are so unchallenged by existence that they are ambivalent about nearly every event in their lives. Wells’ protagonist even rescues a drowning female while other Eloi look on in disinterest – and the would-be victim exhibits no gratitude or lasting distress from the near-death experience.
The time traveler soon learns that the Eloi lifestyle exists because the Morlocks – hideous underground dwellers – create and maintain their artificial paradise. They run the subterranean machinery that provides the technological wonderland on the surface. And they do not do it for love, or duty, or pay. They do it because they are ranchers – and the Eloi are the cattle. And every now and again a Morlock will come to the surface and snatch an Eloi or three for eating, while the other well-tended Eloi merely look on and shrug because, well, that’s just the way things are.
We are becoming that society. We read, almost daily, about acts of tyranny, abuse, and legal chicanery – and then lose ourselves in Facebook. We shake our heads at stories of lives ruined and, at most, mutter, “That’s terrible. They should do something about that.” Then we check to see if American Idol is on tonight. We accept political corruption and abuse of power as “the way things are,” but then shrug it off because it somehow makes us “safer.”
We are becoming Eloi - well-tended human cattle who turn a blind eye when our comfort and security is paid for by the blood of our own.
Citizens’ assets are stolen, seized by law enforcement on “suspicion of being suspicious,” sometimes without arrest much less conviction. We call it “asset forfeiture” and express relief that the War on Drugs is keeping children safe.
The “Affordable Care Act” became without those voting for passage even reading it. But this malfeasance by our employees was overlooked because it was for a kind cause. “Someone had to do something to provide insurance.”
Then, when that law was challenged to the highest court in the nation, plain-English verbiage was ignored or reinterpreted on-the-fly. That which was called a fee to gain the passage of a bill was now called a tax to make it fit the definition of constitutionality before the court. More recently, the phrase “established by a state” was dismissed as “effectively ‘established by a state or by not-a-state’ because we’re sure that’s what they meant to write.”
We are “protected” by people who grope our grandmothers at airports but can’t find 95% of “test terrorists” during evaluations. We are “kept safe from terrorists” by being treated like them, with our personal communications intercepted, monitored, and stored. Our phones and home computers are infected with spyware before ever reaching consumer shelves. But it is met with a shrug because, well, that’s just the way things are.
We are now a nation of warrantless searches, secret courts, and sealed indictments and arrest warrants so that we don’t know we’re being watched, can’t face our accusers, and can’t know the charges levied against us. We can be subject to indefinite detention without due process – being “disappeared,” as we called it when Central and South American dictatorships did it – for the vaguely-defined “aiding terrorists affiliates,” despite the fact that this could be interpreted any way the state desires – deliberations are secret! And when judges we can see and confront can reinterpret the simpler words of the English language, what assurance do we have in the integrity of “secret” ones?
Have we become so anesthetized by our modern conveniences and distracted by contemporary panem et circenses that we cannot see the danger in what’s happening? Or do we see it and simply not care because we, personally, feel comfortable and safe in our Eloi world?
This will not stop - and will almost certainly worsen - until we can prevail upon those in power to make it stop, through any means possible. But they are the Morlocks – and we are tasty. I fear that there will not be enough public outrage to be effective until we all know at least one sacrificial Eloi – or are one ourselves. And by then, it may be the Morlocks’ turn to not care.