The Downfall of Civilization
Rollerball was a futuristic movie made in 1975 that had multiple layers of deep meaning far beyond the brutal sport it portrayed. It depicted a future, supposedly the year A.D. 2018, in which global corporations rule the world. Countries no longer exist. The sport of Rollerball was designed by the corporations to defeat individuality.
James Caan played the lead role as a Rollerball player who becomes the sport's leading star. The corporate executives don't like him because he is becoming bigger than the game itself, which was created to numb the masses into a corporate mindset of teamwork and cooperation.
To make matters worse, the Rollerball star begins to question his role in the grand scheme of life. He even visits a facility that houses the world computer system in an attempt to learn how the corporations had come to power. According to the man in charge of the computer, they are having a problem with history because they can't find the 13th century. The man in charge of the computer doesn't seem too concerned, though, as he claims the only important things about that century were Dante and a couple of corrupt Popes.
Unable to get any coherent answers from the computer, the Rollerball star wonders why so many people prefer creature comforts to freedom. The corporations provide things that everyone seems to need; yet very few people appear to be contented with their existence.
When the corporate executives attempt to get the Rollerball star to retire from the sport, he refuses. He realizes they have controlled his entire life and he isn't about to give in to them. He stands alone, an individual in a society of human robots, defying the very authority that helped make him rich and famous.
While the game of Rollerball had some exciting scenes of excessive sports mayhem, it only served as a backdrop for the larger issue of the human tragedy of choosing comfort and security over freedom and individuality.
This will be the next great struggle in America, as we will soon be issued national ID cards and continue on a slow descent into becoming a police state in the name of national security. And when those in power discover that the ID cards don't work well, we will all be required to have a "mark" placed in our right hand or forehead. And those who refuse the mark will be outcasts, unable to participate in society, with only their dignity intact.
Benjamin Franklin, one of our leading founding fathers, once said that anyone who would give up some of their freedom in the name of security was entitled to neither.
Ironically, the Energy Corporation of Houston was the team James Caan played for in the 1975 movie. That bit of movie magic has a familiar ring to it as Enron Corporation of Houston is presently going through the largest corporate bankruptcy in history. Ben Franklin also said that the love of money was the root of all evil. If he were alive today, he would probably say, "told ya so."
Another version of Rollerball hit the movie screens this month. Larry Ferguson, one of the writers on the project, is an old friend of mine from my days in Los Angeles as a struggling screenwriter. Larry won a Golden Globe for the screenplay of The Hunt for Red October. He is also the screenwriter of such movies as The Presidio, Beverly Hills Cop II, Alien III, Highlander and many others. When I knew him well, he was always heavy on action and mystical experiences. But political ramifications and insight into the human condition were not his strengths. I haven't seen his version of the movie yet, but there will probably be lots of bloody gore and not much focus on the future consequences of a self-indulgent society.
By the way, global corporations are not the problem. They exist merely to serve the appetite of the masses. If they have enslaved us, we have enslaved ourselves.
Human complacency in the face of declining individual liberty will be the downfall of civilization.
Too many people prefer to be treated like farm animals, safely corralled and well fed, than to be free.