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Juliana Rosentsveyg

The Andromeda Strain

By: Juliana Rosentsveyg
College Now Course - SCI 1

Dante Alighieri once said, "For where the instrument of intelligence is added to brute power and evil will, mankind is powerless in its own defense." Humans have always searched for ultimate control, grabbing everything they could into their clutches. They have abused every gift that has been given to them, from scientific advancement to the Ten Commandments. As humans evolved, their desire for power did also. It is true that knowledge is power, but there is a limit to the amount of control that somebody could get. Is knowledge really the road to power or is it the path to its loss? The Andromeda Strain focused on what might ultimately happen to the world when the human population goes too far in their search for sovereignty through scientific awareness. The movie focuses on the government's dogmatic search for supremacy, their misuse of the power that they achieved, and the general fear of the unknown.

The United States government did everything they could to have supremacy over the rest of the world and did not really care much about the consequences. In the first place, the government created the Scoop army satellite and sent it into space without really knowing what its potential was. They just thought that the satellite could bring back a biomedical breakthrough that they could take advantage of. The government ignored Dr. Stone's warning when they initially sent up the satellite that it might bring back something that they could not handle. The federal government just spent the $19 million for the high-tech, underground facility to calm the scientists down. The government was so ardent on finding an alien virus that would allow them to dominate germ warfare that they did not realize what would happen if they could not manage what they found.

The government's hunt for power led to their misuse of it. Throughout the movie, viewers were constantly surprised by all of the things that the government did to keep people from finding out about Project Wildfire. When the armed soldiers came to collect the scientists on the team they arrogantly came into their homes without being asked first. Then, when Dr. Stone left without telling his wife why, she called her father (who was in the military) to find out what was happening. The telephone line was cut before any information could be passed. Mrs. Stone's telephone was being monitored and her conversations were being listened to! Now that is definitely going against all that democracy stands for, and yet there was nothing that Mrs. Stone could do about it, but worry even more. Furthermore, the highly advanced five level laboratory that the alien virus was studied in was hidden from the public eye. Even Ruth, one of the scientists, did not realize what it was until she was told. They astutely built dirt roads in the middle of nowhere that no sane tourist would go down, and they put together the laboratory under the ground of a small so-called agricultural agency. Everything the government did was in a code language and nobody knew who really worked for the government. It is as though the government is this large, invisible cloud that moves with you when you walk down the street, talk on the telephone, or watch television. The government controls the air that you breathe and gives you the food that you eat. The government is above the law; it is the law and that is a particularly alarming thought.

Ironically, the government portrayed in this movie was not even one that an average person would want as his or her leader. They were audacious and thickheaded. The government called the scientists "germ people" when the scientists were the ones who were trying to fix the mistake that the government made. They rashly called the jet crash "a fluke" when it was really a fundamental part of the problem. They blamed all of the mistakes on the scientists and took all the credit for discoveries themselves. When the scientists advised blowing up Piedmont as soon as possible in order to keep the virus from spreading, the president delayed the bombing. Instead he ordered the National Guard to watch over the small town. Obviously, the Andromeda strain could not be stopped by the National Guard, but the federal government did not think of that! The government was always more concerned about expenses than the people who would be helped by them. They complained about the laboratory even though it saved the country from complete obliteration. Their very attitude towards the scientists was harsh and condemning. The government is not very smart or thorough, and yet they control the lives of everybody in the country. Their eyes are blinded by dreams of domination, and so, they let the microscopic things that will lead to their ruin go right by.

Nonetheless, one cannot help but wonder whether the United States government is doing the right thing by keeping secrets from the masses. What would happen if the state of Nevada found out that there was a lethal virus being studied feet away from the homes that they lived in and the schools that their children went to? They would definitely not be pleased and would most likely protest. People easily fear things. Elias Canetti once said that "There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown. He wanted to see what is reaching towards him, and to be able to recognize or at least classify it. Man always tends to avoid physical contact with anything strange." If the people of Piedmont had known that there was a fatal satellite floating above their heads, then they would be afraid and would cause chaos and destruction. Some people might say that if the people in Piedmont had known about the satellite in the first place then they would not have opened it, and the virus would not have spread. However, even though the virus would not be spread, the people would probably devastate themselves with the bedlam that would result first. Roosevelt did say that the only thing to fear was fear itself, and fear would consume the Piedmont citizens faster than the Andromeda strain would. Overall, humans as a whole need a ruler to control them so that they do not destroy themselves. The problem comes when the ruler abuses his or her power so much that he/she endangers the very people that he/she protects.

There is so much that humans do not know. The more information we find out the more we find out that we really know very little at all. Science and technology holds so much potential for advancement. The movie was made in 1971, and already the technology was startling and astounding. How far can we advance and stay safe? In the movie, the federal government went too far and put the entire world in danger. Although they barely saved the Andromeda strain from killing everybody this time, there is no telling what they will do next time. In the end a scientist asked the government what they can do if this happens again, but nobody really knows. Space explorations have so much capacity for greatness, but they are also extremely dangerous. There is something out there in space, no doubt about it. It leaves us alone either because it does not know how to get to us or because it has no interest in us. However, if we go meddling in business that we do not know about, then whatever is out there will do anything to keep it safe. The Andromeda strain thrived in outer space because of its crystalline structure, but when the humans brought it onto earth it had no choice, but to feed off the people that they met in order to survive. The humans brought on their own destruction because of their inability to stop searching for what could be out there. Then, they had to destroy the very thing that they brought onto earth in the first place, because they got scared of the peril they inadvertently put themselves in.

Even so, it is obvious that as the government searches for absolute authority the innocent and callow people suffer most. Sixty-eight people died when the satellite crashed, and the federal government did not even care about the people themselves. They were more interested in finding the satellite that fell than finding if there were any people who still survived. Mark Hall was really the only scientist who kept saying that they had to search for survivors, but even he was more interesteded in the way they died than saddened at seeing them dead. To the rest of the team the people were "subjects" who had to be studied and tested. The poor baby and the sick, old man was treated just like rats in the laboratory. They were sealed in a sanitary room even though they were healthy and sanitized. Once again, they were just test rats that the government needed, to find out more about the virus. The people who died were just causalities and nothing more. More subtle consequences that the people faced were from the families of the scientists. Dr. Stone's wife had to watch helplessly as her husband abruptly disappeared from a simple house party. Another scientist's wife and grandson confusedly gazed at the man who could not even tell them whether he was coming back. The loved ones of the Wildfire Team had to suffer because of the government's blunder, and they were helpless in doing anything about it.

Although the government's abuse of power was only shown in this science fiction movie, how does one know that the movie is really science fiction at all? How do the citizens of the United States, meaning us, know that the government that we think we chose to keep us in order is not keeping secrets from us that are vital to our survival? The government has grown and expanded to control much of our daily lives. They have organizations and standards for everything. There is really nothing that we can do if the government decides to turn our so-called democracy into their own machine for even more power. When our government was first created after the American Revolution, our forefathers created a weak central government that really could not change anything by themselves. As time passed, the government was strengthened and took control of, not only politics, but society as a whole. For all we know, our tax dollars are feeding the government's quest to control us even more. They spend millions of our dollars building highly advanced laboratories and satellites that we don't even know about, but could hurt, or even kill us. The masses are so ignorant and naive. We take in whatever the newspapers and governments tell us and rarely question it. Meanwhile, the government could be doing horrible things behind our backs. If people do not watch out, their road to complete sovereignty will really be the road to ultimate destruction.