The Politics of Desertworld
Patrick Wall’s Theories
The three "Mad Max" films all give a different
perspective. The first one (“MAD MAX”) was pre-apocalypse, although it is
obvious that things are breaking down and crime and terrorism is out of control.
The second one (“THE ROAD WARRIOR”) seems to occur immediately after or during
the war, and people are in transition between the old and new world. In the
third one (“BEYOND THUNDERDOME”), we are now fully aware of the devastation of
the war, and also how people have adapted without oil (pig
What we see in "Beyond Thunderdome" are some very interesting society rules developing. Trade reverts back to barter and disputes end in the Thunderdome in Bartertown so as no more big wars occur. Also, the plane wreck children show us how new religions (Walkerism!) are born - and how new messiahs are followed as beacons of hope.
Many many futuristic films have been made: "Star Wars", "Star Trek", "Terminator", "Bladerunner", etc. The latter two in part set in a post-apocalyptic world, but there seems to be space age weaponary. "Mad Max" doesn't go for all that - instead it goes for a society more brazen and lawless ("Mad Max 1") and the possibility of post-world war III survival ("Mad Max 2 & 3"). All are realistic. In "MM1" people live the same way, have the same methods of transport and have all the same weapons, etc. No Mars colonies or superfast space ships. It predicted 2000 (which it is meant to be set in) quite well.
The oil war is very interesting from the point of view of the current terrorism thing. The horrible events of 9/11 showed how attacks on cities can occur. In 1981, when the film was made, the Iran/Iraq war had started and one could presume that eventually America would send in troops to support Iraq and Iran would include the Communist (Tudeh) party (originally a part of the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah) in coalition with the Islamic Republic government in return for Russian help. That could have lead to WW3 then. In 1991, it could have been a Russian siding with Saddam Hussein. Now, things have changed - the threat is not so much states but terrorists taking over and going nuclear.
It's prediction that the next major conflicts would be from the Middle East were very accurate. Whether they will be post-apocalyptic is not yet known. But 9/11 was certainly the most apocalyptic event of all time thus far. What
was once a major world symbol is not there now.
Again, "Mad Max" (unlike the "Terminator") scores in another important way. We are told that the war is over oil, but are not specifically told who the two warrior tribes are. In 1981, you think "USA versus USSR war sparked off by something like the Iranian revolution (who many of my Iranian friends interestingly believe was initially helped by the US to be islamic so as to keep the communists at bay, but later the US and islamic government fell out because of a true "Mad Max"-like scenario I'll later discuss), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran/Iraq war". Now, you think USA versus the terror organizations.
One other theme of interest in "Mad Max 2/3" is that of lack of government. In "Mad Max", it is in a modern 1st world nation (namely Australia). Of course, this sort of scenario has always existed in the third world - like Somalia for instance. However, we have in the last two decades seen it happen to other countries that it was never in before. The most obvious at present is post-Saddam Iraq. However, it is also in Afghanistan and 1980s Iran. Government versus hardline thugs and having to compromise to thugs is something that often happens in warlordism. That's PRECISELY why the new Iranian regime and the US fell out. Thugs took hostages, caught the new regime offguard. The new regime, still finding its feet and spurred on by the thugs to either support us or crumble, have to thread the line to try
and keep the angry US at bay and yet satisfy these thugs so as not to lose power. Eventually, it had to bow to the guys at home and became enemy No. 1 to the US. This is what happens when you have a weak, unstable, rather
inexperienced government who have come to power by means of extremists, academics, liberals and communists. Only in recent times, has stability returned to Iran and something like a stable government emerging. Iran has had its 1977-1988 apocalypse of civil war, inexperienced and amateur government, elderly leadership and war with a neighbour and communications breakdown. It also suffered chemical and bio-weapons attack. It has had the
apocalypse. It has had the post-apocalypse. BUT it is now a beacon of hope - with a democratically elected government still struggling to overcome the warlords who are still in power.
In "Mad Max", we see similar leaderships emerge - people who were before the apocalypse, often with no more governmental experience than the 1979-1983 leaders of Iran. Or the Taliban. Or many of the current warlords of
Afghanistan. The Lord Humungus is the ultimate warlord nightmare that no one would like to live under - Aunty Entity is much more practical and, at the back of her sometimes strict laws, lies a woman of integrity and certain fairness. She has a lot of good points and she has achieved something - and knows value (she says that Master shouldn't be killed in the final revenge;she also seems to have an admiration for Max and decides not to kill him at the end). People like Wez and Ironbar Bassey are the kind of heavies that would make good bouncers or private army henchmen in the pre-apocalypse. They know nothing but killing and pillage. They have to be reigned in by superiors often. And they are Max's foremost enemies.
The Mad Max saga shows us an example of how mankind can
adapt to changing circumstances. Here is an example (this is 100% based on the
modern history of Iran - probably the closest country that went from
pre-apocalypse to apocalypse to post-apocalypse to
Unemployment, poverty, overpopulation lead to anti-government riots. Oil price instability further drive anti-system feeling.
Everything gets out of control. A revolution starts. The government falls. Warlords loot and pillage. Different people want different things. The remaining goverment tries its best but folds in within weeks of trying. An old preacherman (Ayatollah Khomeini) was and is the symbol of the revolution. He enters the country and sets up a provisional government. That government tries to control the country but it is all the time fighting itself - there are extremists and warlords, liberals and pragmatists. Religious and communist. All deciding what to do.
The ordinary people have no proper services, they don't know what laws they have, they keep on changing. Riots continue. Uncertainty is rife.
Then, a state is set up. A liberal President (Bani Sadr) installed. The preacherman becomes a supreme leader. Hardliners battle liberals, try to blacken the president and try to alienate him from the preacher. Thugs continue their pillage and lawlessness, trying to enforce strict laws to oppress the people in every village. People are afraid and sick, suicidal and desperate. Depression and insanity is rampant. Strife is all over the country.
Thugs eventually take hostages of another tribe they want to vent their anger on and make things very difficult to the feeble government. The preacherman is weak and in hospital. His sermons are fiery but it is obvious that he is not completely in control. The liberal President is ganged up on and has to go. Now, the warlords are in power. The preacherman has to go along. He changes many of his beliefs, but has enough beliefs to share with the hardliners to do a deal. A new President comes to power. He eventually comes to be supreme leader after the preacher dies.
War initiated by a tribe next door proves to bring catastrophe and chemical and biological apocalypse to certain communities. Poverty is rife. People are increasingly tired and helpless.
Two liberal Presidents are elected after the death of the preacher. They battle with the warlords - who the people do not want and who do not want to lose power. The warlords try to buy the people sometimes, while other times they hunt people down with motorcycles if anyone threatens their illegal 'government'. However, they are weakening all the time and their laws are becoming increasingly obsolete all the time. Besides, many disobey their laws by paying corrupt officials enough money to do so!
Finally, the warlords are defeated by a popular uprising. And all is happy again.
This can be applied to the post-apocalyptic scenario everywhere. As this shows, things do get better after they get worse... and there is always someone who will fight against the dictators. Mad Max is the ultimate rebel leader.
The fourth Mad Max film is meant to be out next year. I believe that the first few years of apocalypse (be it nuclear, world war, destructive/factional revolution, etc.) are probably the worst. When people adapt, things get better. But, without communications, warlords could get away with a lot more than they could in today's world.
"Waterworld" is a direct coming of "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". This film echoes the environmental theories of global warming (which was basically a major theme in the post-cold war pre-9/11 era as a popular future cause of
the apocalypse). More interesting is "The Postman", which reveals a plot also similar to "Mad Max" (based on a lot of elements from MM 2 and 3). This one also showed the warlordism. And the way fascists seem to thrive on instability (history has shown Hitler, the warlords in Afghanistan and 1980s Iran, the warlords in Somalia, and others all got to power via instability). Bethlehem in Postman is probably overdone as Hitler #2. However, Humungus is much more believable as a fascist warlord who is not modelled on anyone but himself. Fascists would certainly flourish in a post-apocalyptic world.
Finally, what makes most interesting in "Mad Max" and its copycats are the existence of people who were aware of the future and those that were not. Sometimes, the latter long for the old days more than the former. Max has to explain to the latter about the old world. Also, some - like Aunty Entity - have done better in the new world than the old. So, the total black and white vision of the apocalypse is not true in "Mad Max". Firstly, it is of benefit to some people. Secondly, there is hope: people can still survive, are not dying of radiation sickness/cancer anytime soon after the war (“MM3” is set 15 after “MM2”), can create fuel, have food, do not look malnourished,have plenty animals. There is a message of hope given out.
The American Connection
The Mad Max Trilogy clearly lays down the theme that oil has been the cause of WW3 and oil is still the thing people fight over in the post-apocalypse. I have a slightly different perspective of how things got the way they did. Yes, the war in the Persian Gulf has already begun - caused by 9/11. Yes, Iran is going to be a valued secular ally to the west in the near future. Yes, islamic fundamentalism will engulf Egypt and other countries like that. Yes, the west will go to war against any/all of the countries involved in islamic revolution so as to safeguard the oil. And yes, it is only a matter of time before one gets nuclear weapons [These events are probably certain to happen - the rest is an explanation of the Mad Max environment]. I have a slightly different perspective of what happens in America. Nathan Holn (from David Brin's "The Postman" novel) is someone I see who initially popular because he stands up for US farmers who are not getting a fair deal due to an economic depression caused by war. He rides the anti-war tide and his popularity increases. However, as he gets more powerful and enters government - becoming state governer - he becomes increasingly paranoid and erratic. He blames black people, party politics, etc, etc. for all the US problems. He starts to run his state as a dictatorship and eventually sides with Al Qaeda against his new hate, the US government, that blocks his power ambitions. The US goes to war against the middle east, eventually going nuclear. A nuclear war in general takes off once a fleeing US government tries to defend itself from a nuclear armed Holn and Al Qaeda. Both sides want to destroy each others' oil reserves and communications. Holn eventually dies of cancer after the nuclear war. His followers, lead by General Bethlehem (an assumed name) take over the US. Al Qaeda have Asia. In Australia, South America and Europe, governments try to survive but anarchy takes over. Terrorist attacks eventually destroy what little is left of civilization here. For instance, one nuclear terror attack by an Indonesian terror group destroys Sydney. Pollution from the nuclear fallout, a nuclear winter and the complete breakdown of civilisation destroys all communication. Eventually, the Al Qaeda empire falls apart due to fiefdomism and feudal rivalry. The world now just a group of isolated villages that are ruled by either bikers, ex-Al Qaeda, other terrorists, Holnists and - in many parts - no one at all. Some villages contain people looking for peace and prosperity. Eventually, such communities fight for fuel and when fuel runs out anything else. Bartertown is the end result. Some countries, like the US, emerge in 2043. Europe and South America do reasonably okay too. Asia seems to be one large post-Saddam Iraq-like zone. Africa remains strife ridden. But, Australia seems to have done the worst of all - with a population living almost in the stone age. Mad Max is the light.
A Possible Historical Scenario
A Mad Max future - one possible explanation to tie today's events into the story behind what is “Mad Max”. For over 40 years, there has been tension between the West and the Oil Rich middle east. A 1979 revolution in Iran is a foretaste of events to come - but the regime there is actually secular compared to the true islamists that would follow. However, after the Soviet empire falls, the USA discovers a new and lethal replacement. An organization known as The Base (or Al Qaida or Al Qaeda). They appear harmless at first - indeed a US ally against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, a war against Iraq in 1991 played into the hands of Al Qaida, angry now with neglect after the US and USSR cease to exist. 1989 sees the fall of communism. 1991 the Soviet Union. The new fear indeed is terrorism. The Soviet nuclear arsenal into terrorist hands. However, for many years, things are contained. Then, on 9/11/2001, the terrorists strike at the US (the Twin towers and Pentagon). It is the worst terror act of the pre-apocalypse. It leads the US to war against two weak enemies: Saddam Hussein and the Afghan Taliban. Since Saddam was not involved in 9/11, anti-US sentiment takes hold in the world. Riots occur. That is the fact. Now, this is the possible explanation of the worst case scenario future: The near future sees the US make some headway. The Iranian people (with US help) overthrow their government and set up a power sharing executive of the ex-Shah's son, moderate clerics and the Majlis republic. The Shah's son is not a monarch but a President. Iran becomes a US ally. Its people (fed up of 30 years of islamic dictatorship) remain behind the US. However, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and (most seriously) Pakistan fall to the Taliban. The Al Qaeda are now a nuclear power (Bin Laden is not heard from - nobody knows where he is). It has a new leader, now, more evil and more powerful. The US, Europe, Australia, Iran, Russia and China all join forces. Iran, the central Asian republics and still-restive Iraq is the major source of Oil for the west. The other Arab states all oppose the west and do not share oil with it. Fuel is scarce and running out for both, leading to recession and war. The US and its allies continue their war against terror as major cities are attacked by terrorists. It is not long before it becomes nuclear. Pakistan strikes Iran and Iran with US help strikes the Saudi fields. Kuwait gets obliterated in between. Meanwhile, a militant racist farmer named Nathan Holn rises to rebel against the US government (as the US government has been relluctant to stop asylum seakers from entering the US - evil Holn says that blacks should be exterminated because they support Al Qaida). Holn has found support from an exacerbated military by promising to end the war quickly by nuking most mid east nations. The US President does not want to extend a nuclear war that so far hasn't affected much of the earth. However, Holn now has nuclear and chemical weapons from defectors. He also has promised people a better future. However, he divides people to love or hate him. A second US civil war arises. And it is nuclear. With that, the US collapses. Russia and China now have to confront an Al Qaeda with emboldened ambitions. Holn apparently dies and is replaced (like Bin Laden) by some successor - who fancies himself as General Bethlehem and models himself on Hitler. In Australia, law and order has finally broken down. Nuclear fallout and terror attacks have destroyed much. Bikers rule and warlordism is rife. Al Qaeda and Holnists rule over vaste fiefdoms. People live isolated apart. Australia has been luckier than most. Europe? No one seems to know about. It could be the 'lost paradise' or does it exist. People do not really remember anything anymore. Apparently, the USA (or at least some of it) gets back on its feet sometime around 2043. Australia seems to be a land of barterism and nomads. Mad Max is the last great hero.
WRITTEN BY PATRICK
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