"Children of Men" somehow gets it right 



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By Jack Cashill

January 11, 2007

Infertility leads to illegals leads to terror leads to police state

In the book I am just completing on California, I came across a particular form of social myopia so widespread that I felt the need to create an acronym for it. I call it the ABETTO factor—as in, “a blind eye to the obvious.”

Illegal aliens, fatherless children, balkanized populations-- problems? What problems? Ignorant of the past, our friends on the left don’t have a clue as to causes. Blind to the present, they don’t see the need for solutions. Easier to dress these pathologies up in fancy new euphemisms—undocumented immigrants, alternative families, multiculturalism—and pass them off as signs of progress.

Given their blindness to past or present, progressives make perfectly inept futurists. In the film industry, their ineptitude can reach comic proportions. About ten years ago, for instance, I attended a video awards show for which the grand futuristic theme was the “Final Solution.” Among the dozens of people involved in the planning and execution of the high tech evening, not a one caught the spectacularly inappropriate historical reference. (If you don’t know, look it up). Nor, for the great part, did the all too enthusiastic audience.

These are the same people, alas, who get to project their ignorance into multi-million dollar movies. See last year’s futuristic “V for Vendetta” to see just how mindlessly than money can be wasted.

My expectations for Alfonso Cuarón's “Children of Men” were thus not terribly high. I watched it, in fact, for no better reason than to see how preposterous a twist the filmmakers would put on the future this time. As the film progressed, however, I began to rethink my prejudices. The scenario actually made sense. Given that Cuaron was one of five screenwriters working off a 1992 novel by P.D. James I do not know who is responsible for making a movie this thoughtful, but I will give Cuaron benefit of the doubt.

The movie is set in the England of 2027, the one nation that still “soldiers on” in a grimly dystopian world wracked by terrorism, disease and, most despairingly, infertility. Not a single human has been born since “Baby Diego” in Argentina in 2009. The movie opens with news of Baby Diego’s assassination in Buenos Aires by a deranged fan, an event that is greeted with the kind of silly breast-beating that marked the death of Lady Di. To his credit, Cuaron, does not shy from making the parallel, the first sign that he may be wiser than the people around him.

As the plot unfolds, a cynical and dispirited bureaucrat named Theo—Greek for “God” by the way—finds himself charged with escorting the world’s one pregnant woman to an elusive, life-affirming program known as the “Human Project.” To do this, he must evade radical gangs, Islamic terrorists, and even the police, all of which hope to exploit the young woman and her baby-to-be for their own ends.

Although the critics generally like the movie because it is well paced and visually compelling—plus, the director throws them some bones like an amiable old hippie and bullying police--they don’t quite understand what Cuaron is up to. “Paranoia about illegal immigration and references to Islamic terrorism,” writes the BBC critic in a typical review, “sit uncomfortably with the plot's central crisis of infertility.”

Among the dozen or so reviews I read not a single one saw the infertility problem as more than some fanciful plot device. “Infertility is but a metaphor that enables Children of Men to entertain the possibility of No Future,” gripes the Village Voice reviewer.

In the world where the ABETTO factor rules, overpopulation is still the problem. The fact that Europe is rapidly heading towards demographic meltdown hasn’t yet dawned on our progressive friends.

In his excellent book on the population crisis, America Alone, Canadian Mark Steyn describes the increasing failure of the developed nations to reproduce as the “single most important fact about the early twenty-first century.” Other than the United States, no country in the developed world is achieving the fertility rate of 2.1 necessary to sustain either its population or its typically generous social security systems.

Many aren’t even coming close, Steyn’s Canada included. Italy clocks in at 1.2, Spain at 1.1. “The progressive Left can be in favor of Big Government or Population Control but not both,” says Steyn. “That mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse.”

Back home, the American left is practicing the kind of demographic hari-kari that would impress even a European. San Francisco has only 14 children under eighteen per 100 people, the lowest such figure in the nation. California’s smaller “People’s Republics”--Berkeley and Santa Monica come to mind--also register scarily low on sperm count, meaning sperm that counts. The humble, mid-American Modesto produces more kids per 100 than Berkeley and Santa Monica combined. For the most part, it is the church-going families in the United States that keep our numbers in balance.

In Europe, where almost no one goes to church, the accounts are being balanced with immigrants and their children, many of them illegal or ungrateful or both. The most popular name for baby boys in any number of European cities last year was “Mohammed,” not necessarily a good omen.

When those children turn to mischief, like say blowing up the London subways or burning down the Parisian suburbs, the authorities have no choice but to crack down. In “Children of Men” the reason England remains the last viable country is precisely because the police have cracked down on illegal immigrants. To his credit again, Curaon presents the British police as they would likely behave under those circumstances, usually civilly and only occasionally brutally.

In the film’s climactic scene, the largely white radicals and the Islamic terrorists they have liberated square off against the British military in what looks a street scene from last year’s Parisian banlieus. In Kansas City at least, the audience instinctively pulls for the military.

During the mayhem, the increasingly responsible Theo helps the woman deliver her baby. When the mother and child emerge from a shell-wracked building, the soldiers treat them reverentially, literally. Several drop to their knees or make signs of the cross as they pass. In fact, this may be the most consciously pro-life moment in a movie since John Wayne in Three Godfathers.

Children of Men was not the only movie this year to tackle large themes in at least a half-way intelligent way. Queen, Babel. Blood Diamond, United 93, Apocalypto, The Departed, even Borat and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center suggest that not all of Hollywood is brain dead.

Today, in fact, the reviewers may be more of a problem than the filmmakers, who, at least, have their money on the line. Left of center almost to a person, the critics seem unable to make the connection that Cuaron is making for them. Were he to make it too clear—either in the film or in interviews—they would likely treat him much the way they have Mel Gibson.

For the record, in its survey of top film reviewers, Premiere Magazine cited Passion of the Christ as the 80 th best movie of 2004. You can imagine the other 79.



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