Preparing us for the Era of Displaced Peoples: District 9

District-9-Wallpapers-Alien-Motherships-Guns-Helicopters-district-9-7039035-1920-1056District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s stunning directorial debut, is an intelligent science fiction movie, a disturbing Apartheid metaphor, but it might also be, unintentionally, a good look at the coming Global Diaspora and the problems of moving a whole nation of people inside another nation.  

The film asks what a country does when they are inundated, suddenly, with refugees or displaced peoples.  Johannesburg has a huge mothership hovering over the city, malnourished aliens trapped inside, and the city must make a quick decision.  To help or not to help?  They help.  But the problem of fitting a nation within nation becomes more than what the people can handle–more than what they want.  Long term care.   The people on the ground don’t want a whole nation moving into their world–people so alien.  The government had no precedent for what to do.  I know that Blomkamp is aiming for an Apartheid metaphor, but the sins of Apartheid will become our sins if we don’t come up with a plan on what to do with displaced peoples in the coming decades.

If Climate Change is occurring–whether man-made or not (the arguments shouldn’t stop precautionary measures)–Tuvalu, the island is sinking, and so are a number of other islands.  Their sinking isn’t the only problem.  The more water on the island, the more threat from disease, the more threat from storms, etc.  A very real scenario is that island populations will be forced to find other places to live–on the mainland.  That’s not a science fiction solution–that’s a practical prediction.  These migrations are not a bit of immigration for one country.  With the number of island nations we have in the world, this will be a LOT of immigration for every country.  

How do you put American Samoa inside Kansas, let’s say?  A nation within a nation.  WIll there be sovereignty issues to think about?  Yes.  What control do Samoans have over their life if they are in Kansas?  Or the Japanese inside Mainland China, or more likely, Canada?  

Climate change isn’t just about some places getting hotter or wetter; it is about changing the map entirely.

District 9, then, plays as a fable of what NOT to do, what CAN happen if governments are unprepared to consider wider immigration revision, sovereignty issues, incorporating whole cultures within nations, relocation plans.  I believe in the next thirty years that this will be a reality—that we will look at the country we’re living in and find separate, but integrated, countries within them, that people who lived on islands will have to choose new homes, erect temporary governments.  They will need everyone’s help.  

We can’t make it look like the photo from District 9 above.  But we have to have infrastructure prepared for a global movement of people.  I wonder when countries like ours in North America, China, Russia, with large land mass, and whole sections with low population, will realize that they may become the destination of a nation.  Johannesburg in the movie was caught off guard.  We don’t have to be.  We can be ready for large scale movements of people, ready to know how to integrate cultures.  

Canada has had some good prep already.  Known to be a country which allows new immigrants to keep their cultures intact, and a country that has been negotiating Land Claims and First Nation Sovereignty issues, they might start looking at ways they might use their plans for the Final Agreement on Land Claims to accommodate millions of new people looking for a home.  

I know, it’s freaky to think about, but I don’t think it’s far down the road.  

Immigration is about the resettlement of one or two families at a time, not whole cultures.  Refugees from Darfur come closer as a model.  Look at how that played out.  4 Million people were displaced in Sudan, and into Chad.  People escaping destruction.  They are still recovering, even as half of those people have returned home.  But what happens when it’s the whole nation and they can’t go back?  What do you do about their governments, their cultures, their possessions, integrating them into the workforce?  Can we wait to think about this?   Or will we have to build our own crudely-constructed District 9?  We are used to solving these problems by solving the political conflicts within a country—but water doesn’t recognize diplomacy.

2 thoughts on “Preparing us for the Era of Displaced Peoples: District 9

  1. Kater September 7, 2009 / 9:59

    I just saw this, since you recommended it so highly. I loved the documentary aesthetic. I had to remind myself that they were actors.

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