Neill Blomkamps’ District 9 reminds us that God has trapped us here at the edge of the galaxy for a reason.
There’s no way we’re ready yet to join “The Interstellar Community”!
Wikipedia does a great job of summarizing the film, so I’ll just refer you to their site if you need an update. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_9
District 9 is the story of our first encounter with visitors from another planet. Aliens from outside the solar system arrive in a gigantic ship, which hovers over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The aliens are incredibly, revoltingly ugly. When they are interred in District 9, they are treated by the South African population almost as if they are vermin.
(Blomkamp’s District 9 may be science fiction, but the attitudes depicted are not. There actually was a District 6 in South Africa during the era of Apartheid, when the ruling white population separated the black population and made them live in a ghetto. District 9 is Blomkamp’s reminder to us all that NEVER AGAIN! needs to apply universally to all people everywhere.)
In the film, the Afrikaners nickname the aliens in DISTRICT 9 as “prawns”. The South-African government hires a private military company (MNU) to keep the aliens in check, and the MNU exploits their advantage over these “alien refugees” by conducting experiments (including vivisection) to try to discover the secrets by which the aliens are genetically enabled to fire their extremely advanced and powerful alien weapons.
I’m assuming you’ve watched the film and like it. I’m not here to do a movie review, but to try to make as quick, as accurate and as many analogies as I can. So I’ll dive straight into the film in no particular chronological order. I’ll start with the end of the film.
The film is pretty shocking for its violence and graphic detail. But what shocked me most at the end of the film is the realization that I had completely misunderstood the aliens. They are not really what I first saw them to be. They are not ugly vermin. They’re not ignorant, backward, uncivilized sub-humans. (If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean. If you’ve not seen the film, I won’t spoil it for you.) But I warn you— to produce the intended effect, Blomkamps had to be intentionally graphic and violent. It’s not a film for weak stomachs. The ugliness is for a reason.
UGLINESS FOR A REASON
I think there are many compelling analogies in District 9. My purpose here on the Analogyman site is to take what you KNOW and use it to illustrate a concept you may know nothing about it. In the case of District 9, the film manages to address an issue which has been of deep concern to those of us who have read the Bible: the problem of human nature.
The Bible talks about some very difficult subjects, which everybody ought to know about, but because these topics are often hidden in great amounts of detail (the Bible is really a library of 66 books written by 44 authors over a period of 1500 years,) the topics often need a lot of explanation and illustration to put them in perspective.
I guess the most obvious truth repeated throughout the Bible is God’s attempt to warn us about our fallen human nature. Repeatedly we are told that we’re going to need a transformation before we can safely interact with his Universe. Romans 12:1&2 hints at this: “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. The word transformed in the original Greek manuscript is metamorphoo (μεταμoρϕόω) from which we get the word metamorphosis. (bug to butterfly). Then in 1 Corinthians 15:51 we are told that eventually, “we shall all be changed”. Further along in the same passage we are given more detail: “and as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” What this means is that while we have all had earthly bodies that wear out and die, God intends to give us new bodies, immortal bodies (he calls them “heavenly bodies”) if we’re ever going to go off-planet.
This is another one of those “best kept secrets”. When Christians talk about being “born again”, people think we’re weird. What people who have never read the Bible don’t understand, is that when a person is “born-again” or “saved” they experience several transformations. First they’re given what’s called “a divine nature”, then later they’re actually given a new body. (2Peter 1:4) “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”. This is quite a mouthful! But it means our old “sinful human nature” is joined internally by God’s holy, divine nature.
Stuff like this is hard for straight people to swallow. But when you see a film like District 9 you begin to get the general idea. In the film, Wikus van de Merwe is infected with alien DNA and is transformed into a prawn.
Wikus van der Merwe , MNU executive
We need to realize that when the Bible says we need to be TRANSFORMED, it doesn’t mean we are immediately transformed physically. We are first supposed to be transformed spiritually. (The physical transformation comes later.) And the initial spiritual transformation doesn’t mean our personality is eradicated. Wikus, after he is transformed, is still Wikus. He’s just got a new body. I know his new body is kind of gross, but it’s only gross to humans. In the sequel (which I hope Blomkamp will make) Wikus may even catch a ride to Aldebaran (or wherever the prawns come from) where he will meet some pretty beautiful people!
And of course don’t be thinking that when you’re saved you’ll be transformed into an alien prawn.
Remember, I’m just using the film as an analogy to let you realize that the Christian Bible talks about some pretty extraordinary things, and one of them is the idea of transformation. District 9 illustrates the idea of transformation: that’s the first comparison I want to make.
BLOMKAMP HITS THE JACKPOT
My first impression when I saw the movie was to shout, “Neill Blomkamp, you’ve hit the jackpot!” He may not have intended it, but he made a movie which allows us to see a whole lot of things we’d never be able to see any other way. For instance, there’s never been a better illustration for why the Creator has relegated us to this tiny little planet on the edge of the galaxy. We are here to learn the lesson we absolutely have to learn before we can be let out of our little cage.
Yes, cage. We are so incredibly finite. We are so incredibly vulnerable. We are so fragile. And yet, we are so terribly destructive. Our history is almost one of continual warfare. Is that why we’re kept out here away from contact with other galactic civilizations? Like we’re in a cage?
Have you ever wondered about this? Have you ever wondered why the human race is stuck in a place where we can see an immensely big and beautiful Universe, and yet for the past 6000 years the rest of the universe has been just out of reach? (Sure, our children may one day make it to the stars, but that’s not going to happen to us, in our lifetimes.)
Could the reason be that after 6000 years of fighting we still have not learned our most basic lesson? We’ve still not been able to get hold of our own human nature? We still don’t seem to understand our most basic problem? Could it be, in fact, that we’re so used to considering ourselves normal, we project our own worst characteristics on others?
For instance, we assume that if there are other alien civilizations out there, they’ll have exactly the same attitudes we have. If they’re strong, we assume they’ll come to take us over. That’s what we see in the film Independence Day. But what if they’re weak? The prawns arrive weak, victims of some disease, starving. Automatically we take advantage of them. Isn’t this odd? We are fearful and defensive of those we perceive to be stronger than us, and yet we are ruthlessly inconsiderate of those we consider weaker.
District 9 exposes the fatal flaw in our human nature.
OUR PROBLEM AS HUMAN BEINGS
The Bible tells us squarely our problem is SIN. In our society, even talking about sin is TABOO. This forbidden little three-letter word gets everybody running and hiding whenever it’s mentioned. Ever wonder why? Sin is the biggest problem in the whole world. Sin is the real reason we are confined here to our “third rock from the sun.”
The Bible says in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The whole human race is under the curse of sin. Sin is what makes us always tend to do the wrong things, rather than the right things. Sin is what makes us all our own worst enemies. When you think of lying, cheating, stealing, killing, that’s sin. It’s this selfish, destructive, paranoid behaviour that has made the history of the human race a history of constant warfare. “We are here as on a darkling plain,” wrote John Donne in 1867, “Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
The Bible says in James 4:1 that it’s the sin nature that causes war: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts (sin nature) that war in your members?” Constant warfare! We’re so used to it, we think it’s normal. In fact, we all seem to be looking forward to a glorious future where we will “battle amongst the stars” (“Battlestar Galactica”) and wage never-ending “Star Wars”.
But is eternal warfare really exciting to you? Is it really the only option? Will the human race really have to “fight to survive out there beyond the stars?” Our standard view of the universe seems to indicated that to survive we’ll have to be belligerent… and if there are any aliens out there, they’ll be belligerent back. We earthlings have even concocted some pretty elaborate “scientific theories”, like the Theory of Evolution, a theory which justifies why “only the fittest will survive.” This perspective of life—that life is supposed to be an eternal struggle for survival— seems to be the reason why we human beings fight over every nugget, every crumb, every drop, every plot of land, everything… it’s like we’ve got to get it before the competition does.
The reason we have this attitude is because we are looking at life and the universe from the perspective of our fallen human nature.
But there’s another way of looking at life and the Universe: the Bible perspective. You’ve probably never heard of it. (It’s another one of Earth’s best-kept secrets.) The Bible teaches that one day the sin nature will be eradicated, and that the God of this Universe will re-make the Universe so there’ll be no need for dog-eat-dog existence. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” it says in the New Testament, (2Peter3:13) and “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind, ” it says in the Old Testament, Isaiah 65:17.
Of course, there’s lots more detail needed to flesh out this incredible Bible promise. For now, let’s just keep it simple. We’ve got a problem here on Earth, which is why we treat each other like we do—and why we think all other citizens of the universe, (if they exist at all), will treat us the same way. What if they’re not like us at all? We’re just assuming all other “people” throughout the universe have the same problem. We’re assuming it’s a universal problem. But what if it isn’t? What if we’re the only ones?
Could it be possible that unless we fix the problem HERE, there’s a good chance we’re going to spread it all over the Universe?
District 9 allows us to see this problem in the flesh.
The “prawn” Christopher & his son
When the ‘prawn’ “Christopher” and his little son activate the control console in the alien command module, we suddenly realize how badly we’ve misjudged these “creatures”. We see that what we at first presumed to be vermin, a subspecies, turn out to be members of a far more sophisticated and advanced race of humanoids than we Earthlings.
We also see the whole truth of the circumstances. These “prawns” were “shipwrecked” in our solar system. They were just barely able to make it to our planet. They actually came to us for help.
Why did we not see this? By an incredible piece of directing, Blomkamp allows us to see how blind we human beings all are. It’s not until the end of the film that we realize what should have happened.
What could they have done instead of herding these creatures into ghettos?
They could have tried to help them. They could have tried to understand them. Genuinely tried to communicate with them. To find out what they needed, and help them to get it.
In fact, to help them to get back home.
WE NEEDED TO HELP THEM GET HOME
As the audience, we don’t see this throughout the film. We realize this at the end of the film. Why? Because in the same situation, we probably would do exactly the same as these South Afrikaners.
It’s only at the end of the film that we realize where the alien Christopher and his son went― where they’d been trying to go all along—to go home to get help.
And it’s at the end of the film that we are confronted with our endemic– epidemic—racial problem.
I’m not talking about a racial problem. I’m not talking about whites hating blacks, and Europeans hating Chinese, and Arabs hating Jews. I’m talking about the HUMAN RACE.
The whole human race has got a racial problem. We have what the Bible describes as a “corrupt nature”. The whole thrust of the Bible is to warn us that this corrupt nature will have to be eradicated and converted to a divine nature if we’re going to become respectable citizens of God’s Universe.
We are all what the Bible calls “sinners”. We are under the curse of sin. And sin isn’t just “doing wrong” or “breaking a moral code”. It’s doing WHATEVER WE WANT. It’s GETTING OUR OWN WAY. It’s an ATTITUDE primarily defined by selfishness. This means that we have a selfish view of life, of others, of the universe, and of God. We actually believe that we know what we’re doing, that we don’t need God’s guidance and instruction. We actually believe that we can careen around the Universe doing whatever we want. That is DANGEROUS. This is what the Bible warns us about.
And it’s for this reason that we’ve been confined to this tiny little planet by the Creator…until we (each and every one of us) recognize the problem and get cured.
NEED FOR A SEQUEL
I will talk about the cure in the next episode, but before I close, let me mention something that hit me right away when the movie ended. I thought immediately that there was going to have to be a sequel.
There just had to be!
In fact, I wrote out a rough screenplay for the sequel, and I tried to find a way to get it to Neill Blomkamp. Unfortunately this is virtually impossible. This is one of the main reasons I’ve started this Analogyman blog. I’ve discovered that communication with the makers and shakers of this world is almost always a ONE-WAY street. Great men can give us great ideas, but those of us on the sidelines have no way to give them any feedback.
Mr. Blomkamp needs to know that he’s almost accidently hit on one of the greatest opportunities in HISTORY to do something that will help us ALL!
District 9 allows us to see the actual human condition as it is portrayed in the Bible…. and a sequel could give us an opportunity to see what we could do about it— what we could do to change.
So those of us who like Science Fiction, and respect Blomkamp for what he has been able to achieve, we need to encourage him to take District 9 to it’s full potential. He needs to bring it past just showing us the problem, to showing us the solution.
He needs to do a District 9 PART TWO.
(Maybe a “DISTRICT 10”?)
I’ll try to explain further in the next episode.