South Campus Elysium

By

Leonard Zwelling

            Great
art needs no explanation. It has a universality about it. Hamlet can be
appreciated on many levels by many different kinds of people. The same is true
for Van Gogh, Calder, and Wyeth. It’s also true in film. Cinema takes you places
you have never been so that you may understand the place where you live. No
film has given me so much over so many years than David Lean’s Academy Award
winning Lawrence of Arabia which took me to a place that was 36 years in my
future, the Arabian desert, while showing me the deceit and smallness of
people, even those trying to do great things.

            Neill
Blomkamp’s latest movie, Elyisum, is not a great film. His previous effort
District 9 was far more daring. But Elysium, set in 2154, still speaks to the world
in which we are all living right now. This is the world of the haves and have
nots.

            The
United States has seen an amazing redistribution of wealth over the past 50
years. More of it is in the hands of fewer people and those without money have
less power over their own lives than ever. Their kids have fewer prospects than
lower- and middle-class children of my generation had, for I was one of them.
The public education system is worse. Health care is not a right. Wars from
Vietnam to Iraq are still being fought by the poor whether they are drafted or
volunteer by necessity as a way out of their lower class existences or because
they cannot afford college. I understand that FAIR is the four-letter F word,
but this is ridiculous. We seem to be fighting battles that I thought were long
over with regard to race, immigration and equality. And most importantly, the
salary differences between the highest and lowest paid employees in large
organizations has never been greater. This can’t be the American way.

            In
Elyisum, the rich inhabit an orbiting world high above the squalid, and
overpopulated Earth. The likelihood that anyone living or working on the
surface can ever ascend to the spinning Mercedes symbol in the sky is about
zero. The rich hold all the good things in life and the 99% live below, ignored
by the 1 % unless they occasionally try to slip through the space wheel’s
defenses in a rogue shuttle. If that occurs, Jodie Foster, the Defense Minister
of the space world, ruthlessly shoots the ship down. She straddles Elysium like
a rapacious raven dressed in white or silver (looking and sounding like Christine Lagarde) keeping out
unpleasantness as her constituents live in a world of permanent grandeur,
outdoor parties in Aspen-like environs and a cancer-free existence of perpetual
life. There is no disease on Elysium.

            The
invading shuttles are full of the ill trying to make it to the healing machines
on Elysium. They come from all over the Earth to risk life and limb and their
small accumulated wealth to seek the healing power of the Lourdes of artificial world in the sky.

            Sound
familiar?

             The machines may be on the north campus
in the hospital or in the proton center, but the Elysium-like center where
cancer will be a thing of the past and the wealth of MD Anderson is
concentrated is on the South Campus. Elysium is IACS.

            I
won’t spoil the movie by telling you what happens, but I will say that our
Elysium is growing and the wealth is becoming more concentrated there. That
wealth is generated by the Earthlings called MD Anderson clinical faculty for
the use of the Elysiumites to the south.

            If
you think I have this wrong, please let me know . Personally, I don’t favor
either the Lourdes of Houston or the Elysium of the South Campus. Soon, I am
taking the next space shuttle to the Montrose where some humanity still exists.

            In
the film, most of humanity has given up and settles for life in poverty and
violence in a Los Angeles run by gangs with hospitals overrun with patients and
too few doctors and nurses. I find this unacceptable and will try my best in my
remaining years of work to assist those who share my passion for correcting a
totally unfair health care system. In Houston health care, Elysium is the Texas
Medical Center. Earth is every place else. I am going back to Earth because I
don’t think the current system is either fair or sustainable. It’s also not
good for any of us.

            Consider
where you really live. And where you might like to.

            There
is no need for Elysium if we all work to make Earth habitable and there is no need
for IACS if all of Anderson is pulling together.

Leonard Zwelling