Arthur Meiselman

On The Beach

There is still time brother!

Those stinging words are in the final chilling image of Stanley Kramer's On the Beach.

Released in 1959 in the hot ice of the Cold War, if not the first, it is one of the first apocalyptic, dystopian films created for the Hollywood screen. Based on Nevil Shute's novel, On the Beach is a star-laden melodrama (Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Tony Perkins and Fred Astaire, in his first dramatic role). It was made without the cooperation of the U.S. government and set in the future of 1964 (as were Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe). From the mind and the fingers of Kramer, a maverick, independent producer, the film is a powerful, disturbing entertainment that has remained so down through the years. (A remake in 2000 isn't worth mentioning.)

Amidst the fear and ignorance of the death-wished irreversible use of nuclear weapons, Kramer succinctly juxtaposed people trying to understand, grasping for hope, fading away from hope, not understanding.

Now, 57 years later, amidst the proliferation of the death-wish from the U.S. and Europe, to South Asia, China, North Korea, the Middle East and the spectre of miniature, portable devices in the fists of jihadist crazies and their home-grown copycats, understanding and hope are fading into a mirage. It is a dark dream that is permeating, leaking through into conscious reality.

How long will it take for you and me and our brothers and sisters to accept what is no longer a dream? And when we do, what will we do? Create a vaccine to deny the effects of all-consuming radiation. Not in this century! Call Pandora to pack it back into her box and shut the lid. She's no longer on the planet! Launch a traffic-stopping, all-world conference at the UN and demand that all things nuclear be forever destroyed.

Dream on my sibling dreamers dream on.

What was once a terrible possibility is now inevitable. It's going to happen. As we foreplay with our smartphones, and make-believe that gathering more stuff and goods will insulate us, that the goodness of the heart is impervious to the badness of the gamma ray, the clock ticks, the stockpiles grow, the controls loosen, it's going to happen: life and all of its species are going to disappear from the planet Earth.

In what little time we have left, there are just three choices to get the monkey-of-hope off our backs:

Dig deep into the surface of the planet, hollow out an appropriate space, create a self-sustaining habitat, stock it with humans and other species, seal it off. A dull, depressing option but a survivable one.

Or, in case there are no other humans in the extant universe (which I don't think is true), create a self-sustaining space vessel, stock it with life, and aim it to the nearest habitable earth-like planet.

Or, do nothing.

Standing on our evolutionary beach, we are a tender, primitive species that may be worth saving.

There is still time brothers and sisters!

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Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and
produces for Aemagefilms.
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©2016 Arthur Meiselman
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April 2016

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