Snowpiercer train

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I did not expect an eternal train ride, yet that’s exactly what Snowpiercer gave me.  Then it took a look at the plight of the less fortunate and the caste system that keeps those undesirables in the back of the train.  I didn’t expect action sequences that amazed me in their freshness and scope.  I saw a fantastic apocalyptic future look that had me guessing what would happen as it had me laughing and had me enthralled.

(If I wasn’t so spoiler adverse and had read CJ Bunce’s review of the graphic novel Snowpiercer then I might have expected the train ride to last forever.  However, reading his review now and checking out the graphic novel at Skylight Books after the movie tells me the two versions of the material explored separate stories.  Even with differences, I didn’t even check out the preview and looking back at the controversy on whether or not it would get a U.S. release, I have no clue how 20 minutes could have been removed from anywhere in the film.)

As good as the movie is, the setup keeps me thinking about the movie.  I love the beginning explanation for the apocalypse. Global warming threatens to destroy the earth.  Scientists desperate for a solution try to cool down the planet.  They succeed too well.  The planet is now a land of ice and snow and the only people left alive are aboard the aforementioned train.

Snowpiercer class car

The human race leaving troubling issues to the next generation and the generation after that until they become dire wouldn’t surprise me.  It’s what we humans do best.  Until we have to do something, until we’re up against a deadline, until we’re forced to make a decision, things can wait another day.  Immigration.  A budget.  Unemployment benefits.  Global warming.

As a former student of economics, the teachers taught the reason for this kind of procrastination comes from pricing.  As long as the price is low, there is no incentive to change.  Because of gerrymandering, there’s no stress in much of the House of Representatives to do anything about a budget or laws on immigration.  Sticking to one’s guns for the sake of one’s district for two and a half terms or five years is all a Congressman/Congresswoman needs to do to ensure that he/she gets a salary and vested access to a government sponsored health and retirement plan.  I’d like to say I’d be an idealist, but $174,000 a year could probably convince me to be an immovable object in the face of an opposing party’s desires.

As long as a member of the House has his or her finger on the pulse of their electorate and the hot button issues their constituents consider important, he or she just has to follow the popular path.  (“To act, or not to act, that is the question.  Whether ‘tis nobler to compromise or hold firm to ones position.”)  For all other things, Representatives follow another incentive – the monetary contributions of people and corporations, which are also technically people.

How does a person get to keep getting a salary?  Getting reelected!  If a person keeps getting elected, what will they keep receiving?  Campaign finances!  How does a person get campaign finances? Making others happy!  How do they make other people happy?  By doing or promising to do what the contributors want them to do!

If you run a corporation and the board of directors ties your current salary/bonus structure to your current profits, what are you going to do?  Maximize profits!  How do you do that?  Higher revenues and lower costs!  How do you keep costs low?  Fewer regulations!  How do you get fewer regulations?  Fewer laws!  How do you get fewer laws?  Congresspeople that don’t pass any laws!

Snowpiercer arbor

Yes, this is an extreme simplification.  However, in order to do something about global warming, the United States government would need to regulate emissions on the energy consumption of many different industries.  Factories, power stations, fossil fuel suppliers and carmakers would just be the beginning of those that would feel that pinch.  The U.S. government might also create rules on keeping forests and green areas to offset emissions.  Lumber companies, ranchers and companies that depend on using land and the natural resources upon it would not like this kind of regulation.  There might be recycling requirements and requirements to use recycled materials.  Any office building would now have to probably hire a special recycling position and change their office supply buying patterns to higher priced items.  Once we start brainstorming, there might be many other ways to help combat global warming and many other ways those requirements would affect our employers and us.

All of those ways to help slow the effects of global warming mean an increase in costs now.  An increase in costs now means lower profits, lower stock prices, lower pay for CEOs and probably lower pay for many other people in the company and that leads to lower amounts of money to contribute to campaign election funds.  That means that in order to make the future better, we have to take our lumps now from a representative to an office drone, a company CEO to a farmer.

Unfortunately some distant nebulous “later” isn’t much of a deterrent to change behaviors now.  A meal, whether a simple grilled burger and loaded baked potato for the last hired worker at a company that would be first to get a layoff notice, or a steak, lobster, caviar, Dom Perignon dinner for the board of directors of a company, is right now.  It tastes so good.  We need that food to stay alive.  Thinking about a diet, a bill or anything that distracts from the glorious meal in front of us can wait until tomorrow.  We’ll worry about the diet, the credit card debt, and the environment tomorrow.

Waiting to start is easy.  Maybe it’s also the way to an apocalypse.  I guess we’ll find out.  Get your train tickets now.

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