Thursday, February 02, 2012

In Time

Time is money. In not so distant future, in an alternate universe depicted in the film, 'In Time', in 2161, it is literally so. Here, money, as we know it, is obsolete. Time is the mode of exchange. You want a cup of tea, pay two minutes; you can also save your time in a bank, or take a “time-loan”, like two years with six months interest. In this universe, time is on your hand, literally. On your left hand, there is a verisimilitude of a digital clock, where your time ticks, and on your right hand, there is some nerves or something that can transfer time, from one human to another, or from a human to a machine. It's all very cool actually, if you have a lot of time. Okay, it's not so cool, for anyone can assault you on the road and waste, I mean steal, your time.

It’s a Hollywood film; you don’t expect it to explain everything. Following the breakthrough success in genetics in the future, mankind has found its way to immortality, and everlasting youth. In this universe, you stop ageing after you are 25, physically at least. This explains why the protagonist Justin Timberlake’s mother looks like sexy Olivia Wilde. Another thing happens after you have turned 25. A glowing, greenish time-piece appears on your left arm, containing slots for 13 digits. From this time onwards, you have only one year to live, unless you work hard to earn some more time, or steal time, or do whatever it takes.

In this universe, the country is divided into zones, people with less time live in a ghetto like Dayton, whereas people with eons at their disposal reside in a posh neighbourhood called New Greenwich. It’s a classic Marxian model, the rich needs the poor work for them, and the poor must die young so that the rich can live forever. And there’s a police-like system where “timekeepers” keep a tab on the usage of undue time.

It’s a Hollywood thriller. So you know what happens. The protagonist is given a task, and he uncovers secrets, and fall in love and so on. Then the film travels to the ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ territory, without the protagonists dying of course.

Never mind that. What I was more interested in the film was the social mores, the taboos. Since time is money and it’s tattooed on your hand, how normal would it be to show your hand to a stranger. He’d instantly know how rich you are and when you are going to die. It’s a secret worth-keeping. So, does your left hand becomes the most private part of your body in this universe? And since the time can be transferred just by touching hands, you’d have to be extra careful whom you touch and how.

I remember the alternate/parallel universe described in Phillip Pullman’s wonderful ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. There, in Lyra’s world, the soul resides outside the body, in the shape of an animal, which is always of the opposite gender of the person, though there are exceptions. They are called Daemons. Now, it’s an ultimate taboo in this world to touch other person’s Daemons. You can touch only your Daemon and no one else’s. So, what happens during lovemaking. Your Daemon may touch your partner’s Daemon, but not you. The whole thing gives the word “soulmate” a whole new meaning.

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