One night last week I dreamed that I was on a college campus that was being terrorized by small (about man-sized) blue dinosaurs. They looked like upright alligators, a bit like Albert the Alligator in the Pogo comic strip, except that they were blue, a rather pretty light shade, rather than green, and not at all cute: more like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They were running around loose and chasing students. I didn't see a dinosaur catch a student, but the presumption was that when and if that happened the student would be messily devoured, as an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon puts it. The campus was not any that I've known in the real world. Well, maybe it looked in a very general sort of way like parts of the University of Alabama in Huntsville campus, where I had my first job in technology: very open, very "modern" in that the buildings were simple brick or concrete affairs, nothing at all Greco-Roman.
It was night, and I was walking around, a little worried about the dinosaurs, but only a little, because I witnessed one of the dinosaurs chasing a screaming student without being extremely disturbed. I wasn't really fearful for myself (which is not at all realistic) but rather was concerned about the students and the general problem of What To Do About The Dinosaurs. I may have been part of a Dinosaur Action and Awareness Committee or something, because I felt a definite sense of responsibility.
Then suddenly there was a shift, like a scene shift in a movie that's also a time shift, the sort of thing where text across the bottom of the screen says "Five years later" or something. Things had changed significantly. The dinosaurs were no longer terrorizing students, no longer chasing them. In fact they were students themselves. They had been integrated into campus life, and on the surface it seemed that everyone was getting along. But there were subtler tensions. Aside from lingering concerns about being eaten, on the one side, and about being unjustly accused of eating, on the other side, there was just a sort of cultural barrier that made things difficult. It was not clear whether the whole dinosaurs-eat-humans thing was just a big misunderstanding, or a real problem that had somehow been resolved. But in any case dinosaurs and humans just felt a little awkward around each other, or maybe more than a little, and so tended to keep to themselves. I guess I should say reptile-persons and mammal-persons, because both species were persons.
In this last bit, I was with some mammal-persons, in the campus cafeteria, and there were reptile-persons around. We, the mammals, were sitting together, and there was a sense that we should make some kind of gesture of welcome or at least non-hostility to the reptiles, but we didn't know what to do. Then the mammals I was with left, and I was sitting at the table by myself. In a couple of minutes I was ready to leave, too. But there was a reptile sitting at a nearby table, also alone, and I felt awkward. I thought he looked uncomfortable (don't ask me how an alligator looks uncomfortable), and I wondered if it would be a nice gesture if I went and sat with him, but that might have been unwelcome, and anyway was maybe a bit condescending or something. But then if I just got up and left, which I would otherwise have done without thinking about it, would he think I was avoiding him?
While I was considering the situation, I began to wake up. Sometimes when you're waking from a dream there's an in-between state where you are still in the dream but are beginning to be aware that it is a dream. Or at least it happens that way with me. When I reached that point, I realized that the whole thing was very funny, and by the time I was fully awake I was laughing.
Our difficulties involving ethnic diversity are not quite as bad as that. At least we all belong to the same species.
Unfortunately they're not very funny, either. Even with good will all around, it's not easy to bridge cultural differences. There are many awkward situations. Natural inertia leads everyone to avoid the effort, just because it is an effort: much easier to just stay with one's own. Misunderstandings arise, and may lead to hostility. Or the groups may differ so much that they simply not get along all very well, and are more cordial at a distance. What we're doing in the United States is not easy, and hasn't been the norm for most of the human race for most of history. We've managed it in the past, but it remains to be seen whether we can keep it up, with so many centrifugal forces at work.
I watched the Netflix series The OA last weekend and last week. I don't especially recommend it. It was gripping at first, but grew tiresome, and I think there are some pretty major problems with the plot. It's about a young woman who disappeared for seven years and has suddenly reappeared under strange circumstances, and refuses to tell anyone anything at all about what happened to her. There's a complicated and very New-Age-y plot involving her recruitment of several other people for a mystical task. All are outsiders in some way, and all but one are teenagers. There are a number of scenes where they're all sitting around by candlelight in an abandoned house, with the young woman telling her story and leading them in very weird dance-like movements which, when perfected, will have supernatural effects. There's a bit of an encounter group quality to these sessions, as they all become more open and loving, getting past...I almost said "their hangups"... all the damage done to them by their parents and the generally mean old world.
Part way through this it suddenly dawned on me that these group scenes reminded me of the 1960s, and of my own youth: the longing for community and meaning, the impulse to seek those things in flight from the normal world. And it seemed very sad.
If you decide to watch it, be aware that there is a sex scene in the first episode which appears without any prelude whatsoever and is pretty much soft-core pornography. I assume someone threw that in as a reliable attention-getter, because it's completely unnecessary. There's another sex scene in a later episode, and a few scenes of somewhat disturbing fear and violence. All that also owes something to the 1960s, I guess.
Another film from Fairhope Film Festival: Lamb, "the first Ethiopian film screened at Cannes." I expect most of us have neglected the Ethiopian cinema. But don't think the presence of this movie at Cannes represents any kind of condescension, because it very much deserves the recognition. It's a small, gentle affair, about a boy, Ephraim, who has a pet lamb to which he is very attached. The boy's mother has recently died and his father has gone to Addis Ababa to look for work. Ephraim is sent to live with an aunt and uncle, and, not surprisingly for poor rural people, their view of the lamb is decidedly businesslike: they expect it to be the main course for an upcoming feast (was it Easter? I can't remember). Ephraim naturally intends to prevent this.
From that description you might some kind of Disney-fied sentimental thing, but it's not that at all, and the resolution is not what I expected. This review in The Guardian goes into more detail without giving away anything important. As the review says, a great deal of the appeal is in the picture of the lives of the people and of the land. You can get a sense of that from the trailer.
Lamb is listed on Netflix in the DVD section but is not currently available, so maybe that means it will be.
So much of what's wrong with America is exhibited in this: