Being Made an ‘Obsolete Man’ by the Modern State

Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, saw our future. If you are not familiar with the series that was popular in the 1960s (156 episodes in the original series) then you are missing a great deal. A good many display an understanding of unbridled State power and the loss of liberty. “In 2013 TV Guide ranked [The Twilight Zone] #4 in its list of ‘The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.’”

The State is everything in the futuristic drama titled “The Obsolete Man,” starring Burgess Meredith (Romney Wordsworth), who plays a God-fearing librarian, and Fritz Weaver, the State-appointed Chancellor.

Once the State is given authority and power to define what’s true, important, meaningful, and necessary, there is no stopping its slippery slide into tyranny.

“This episode was meant to highlight the dangers of totalitarianism. Wordsworth once compares the Chancellor to Hitler and Stalin, and asks ‘Does history teach you nothing?’ The chancellor’s reply is ‘On the contrary, history teaches us everything.’ The Chancellor then argues that Hitler and Stalin were not evil, and that on the contrary, they refused to go far enough. The episode is also meant to put emphasis on the importance of art, philosophy, literature, freedom of religion, and free speech in a society (all of which are taken away by the State).”

As in all the episodes, Serling offers an introduction.

“You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future; not a future that will be, but one that might be. This is not a new world: It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advancements, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He’s a citizen of the State, but will soon have to be eliminated, because he’s built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in the Twilight Zone.”

The shortened video (below) shows the opening and ending parts of the episode. Keep in mind that there is a middle section that explains why the Chancellor has also become obsolete. In closing the episode, Serling says the following:

“The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any State, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that State is obsolete.”

If you want to watch the entire episode, go here. The script for “The Obsolete Man” is found here.