Discussing Concepts From The 2011 Film “In Time”
My experience with money is consistent with the “In Time” screenwriter’s assessment: When you have money, you get to choose how you spend your time. The film “In Time” is an intelligent science-fiction metaphor examining poverty and wealth distribution. One of the cruelties of not having money, in addition to being unable to address health issues, is often the inability to choose how to spend your time.
I was born wealthy, but I was raised by a low-income single mother. My father was wealthy, creating his wealth from constantly working several jobs – the pursuit of wealth almost always in his worries. He came from generations of cowhands and farm workers, fruit pickers. My mother worked 2 jobs and gave me a wonderful, carefree childhood.
So, when I heard about the Andrew Niccol film “In Time,” I found it immediately intriguing. The film asks the questions: What would a poor person, who grew up understanding the disadvantages, fears, and dangers of being poor, do if they received essentially unlimited wealth? What would they do with their time?
Growing up, I hid the fact I was wealthy. I grew up in a middle class suburb, wearing ordinary clothes, and driving an ordinary car. If you saw me in high school, college, or even today, you probably couldn’t tell I have financial wealth. To this day, I try to hide it. I don’t wish for it to be a part of my social definition. I will suggest to my children to do the same.
I have financial reserves, so I can choose how I spend my time. Therefore, how I spend my time clearly reflects my choices and priorities. With my time, I choose to make available ideas and suggestions that may help anyone become healthier mentally, socially, financially, or physically.
Real wealth is not so much about having many assets as it is about having the knowledge how to maintain enough assets, how to determine what assets will likely continue to create cash flow, and how to share that knowledge with people around you. There’s little point in being wealthy if the people around you are not wealthy – because if they don’t have wealth, then they don’t have much time to spend with you.
At some point, I realized I had some good knowledge about several important areas of life. But it was ridiculous to write or discuss these things with my friends. Too didactic. Too intimate. Too frank. At some point, I realized I could write the same things anonymously, where only people who wanted to consider the ideas could choose to read. With the advent of the internet, the widest way to share ideas was to put them into the “available anywhere and anytime” internet stream. It was the best way I could conceive of sharing the wealth of ideas others have given to me.
There’s a scene in the film where the lead character, Will Salas, from the ghetto, visits Sylvia’s (the rich girl’s) mansion on the beach. In this fictional world, the rich can only die from violence and not from old age. So, they don’t take risks because they can live forever as long as they stay healthy and play it safe.
Will takes off his clothes on the beach to go swimming in the waves.
Sylvia: “What are you doing? We don’t go in. You’re insane.”
Will: “You have this . . . in your backyard . . . you never go in? And I’m insane? Well, what are you waiting for?”
I feel that way about people around me all the time. People don’t understand the joy and wealth that is constantly around them, or available to them if they’d only take initiative and participate. I want to scream in crowded, stifled rooms. We have so much capacity for pleasure and joy, and most people tap into very little of it.
Will Salas sees the inherent unfairness of some people being born with great wealth, while others are born with next to nothing, constantly living in fear of death, literally day-to-day. After Will’s mother needlessly dies, he seeks justice to change the unfair system.
When confronted by a policeman, known as a “timekeeper,” the timekeeper says: “You’re talking about justice. I am a timekeeper. I don’t concern myself with justice. I only concern myself with what I can measure: seconds, minutes, hours. I keep time.”
Poverty causes many people to focus on time and not justice. Poverty disarms many from having time or energy to focus on things other than accumulating an hourly wage.
Rich people may never fully understand the fear and legitimate threats poor people associate with losing money. Rich people can lose money and know their reserves will keep them safe – or believe they could create their wealth again. Poor people know if they lose what little they have, then “how they spend their time” will likely become far more limited and unpleasant.
Critics, for many varied reasons, generally didn’t like “In Time.” On Metacritic, it received only a 53 out of 100 score, based on the average of 36 critics’ reviews. But I really liked this film. Andrew Niccol is the same writer/director who created the excellent 1997 film “Gattaca,” another excellent film about the ethical decisions people make when faced with social, economic, and attribute limitations.
In what ways could you more widely share the wealth of interesting ideas others have given to you?