27 de diciembre de 2018

Sara Martín Alegre

Work and drugs in space

Sara Martín Alegre

Work and drugs in space

Filtrat per:

Atmosphere Zero

Outland (1981) is a modest British science fiction film that presents a remarkably realistic vision of what future mining could be. Hyams, director and scriptwriter, had conceived his work as a western inspired by High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952) but decided, before the success of Alien (1979), to connect the plot with the spatial colonization. If in the Zinnemann film, Gary Cooper plays a sheriff waiting for the arrival of a vindictive malefactor determined to kill him, in the Hyams Sean Connery is a federal marshall waiting for the assassins who must silence him. The scenario is a mining operation on Io, a moon of Jupiter.

The Con-Am 27 mine, where titanium is mainly extracted, is a franchise granted to the corporation Con Amalgamation by the League of Industrial Nations. 2144 people work, although while the miners (1250) seem to be all men, women are used in administration and maintenance (180 people), and support tasks (714 employees) such as cooking, healthcare and prostitution. A conversation between two miners highlights their harsh working conditions, complicated by the need to work in the zero atmosphere of the title dressed in space suits. The workers complained that the shifts are carried out with less personnel than they should and that the temporary automation of some tasks is already final.

With the worsening environmental conditions, the staff is advised that they have only one year in Io, with the exception of the General Manager, Mark Sheppard. The film narrates how the arrival of the new marshall, O’Neil (Sean Connery), interrupts the normal functioning of Con-Am 27. According to O’Neil, the two apparent recent suicides are part of the fifty deaths caused by the side effects of an amphetamine-type drug. Sheppard, accustomed to buying the silence of each new marshall, does not understand why O’Neil intends to dismantle the drug trafficking operation that he controls because it is basic to the high productivity of the mine. A conversation with his superior suggests that, far from being atypical, Sheppard’s crafty management is the usual one throughout the mine network.

In fact, Hyams narrates two parallel labor conflicts. On the one hand, O’Neil carries his obligations as guarantor of the law to Io to such an extent that his family life, as well as his own existence, are in danger. On the other hand, and this is the most disturbing factor in Atmosphere zero, Hyams suggests that drug addiction is part consented to the exploitation of labor: the workers are drugged not only to alleviate the monotony but also to withstand their overwhelming working conditions, that they accept to be well paid. His complicity with Sheppard in this system of self-exploitation reaches such a point that, as O’Neil discovers when the Manager threatens to kill him, no one is willing to defend him.

It is a pity that Hyams is more interested in the masculinity of his hero than the labor abuse. When Dr Lazarus, the leading female character, interrogates O’Niel about his reasons for insisting on incriminating Sheppard, he shares a personal conviction: he worries that he has been forced to accept jobs in increasingly degraded and problematic environments because he is a little valuable man. With self-esteem at minimum levels, O’Niel seeks to compensate for his underestimation as an employee. Hyams assumes without deeper thought, that the bloody deaths are tolerated as accidents, perhaps because judging Sheppard could lead to the closure of the mine and O’Niel, once with satisfied with a seat that didn’t wound his vitality, opts to rebuild his family life, indifferent to the fate of the miners.

CAT —

A la mina Con-Am 27, on s’extreu principalment titani, és una franquícia concedida a la corporació Con Amalgamation per la Lliga de les Nacions Industrials. Hi treballen 2144 persones, tot i que mentre els miners (1250) semblen ser tots homes, les dones treballen en administració i manteniment (180 persones), i en tasques de suport (714 treballadores) com ara la cuina, la sanitat i la prostitució. Una conversa entre dos miners subratlla les seves dures condicions laborals, complicades per la necessitat de treballar en atmosfera zero enfundats en vestits espacials. Els obrers es queixen que els torns es realitzen amb menys personal del degut i que l’automatització temporal d’algunes tasques és ja definitiva.

Les complicades condicions ambientals aconsellen que el personal només estigui un any a Io, excepte el Mànager General, Mark Sheppard. La pel.lícula narra com l’arribada del nou marshall, O’Niel, interromp el funcionament habitual de Con-Am 27. Segons descobreix O’Niel, els dos aparents suïcidis recents són part del mig centenar de morts causades pels efectes secundaris d’una droga tipus amfetamina. Sheppard, acostumat a comprar el silenci de cada nou marshall, no comprèn per què O’Niel pretén desmantellar el tràfic que ell mateix controla perquè és bàsic per a l’alta productivitat de la mina. Una conversa amb el seu superior suggereix que, lluny de ser atípica, la gestió facinerosa de Sheppard és l’habitual en tota la xarxa de mines.

De fet, Hyams narra dos conflictes laborals paral.lels. D’una banda, O’Niel porta les seves obligacions com a garant de la llei a Io fins a tal extrem que perilla tant la seva vida familiar com la seva pròpia existència. D’altra banda, i aquest és el factor més inquietant a Atmosfera Zero (Peter Hyams, 1981), Hyams insinua que la drogoaddicció és part consentida de la pròpia explotació laboral: els obrers es droguen no només per alleujar la monotonia, sinó també per suportar les seves aclaparadores condicions de treball, que accepten per estar ben pagades. La seva complicitat amb Sheppard en aquest sistema d’auto-explotació arriba a tal punt que, com O’Niel descobreix quan el Mànager amenaça de matar-lo, ningú està disposat a defensar-lo.

La llàstima és que a Hyams li interessa més la masculinitat del seu heroi que els abusos laborals. Quan la Dra. Lazarus, el principal personatge femení, interroga O’Niel sobre les seves raons per obstinar-se a incriminar Sheppard, ell comparteix una confidència personal: li preocupa que s’hagi vist obligat a acceptar llocs de treball en entorns cada vegada més degradats i problemàtics perquè és un home poc valuós.

Amb l’autoestima a nivells mínims, O’Niel busca rescabalar-se de la seva infravaloració com a treballador. Hyams assumeix sense més que les cruentes morts es toleren com accidents, potser perquè jutjar Sheppard podria comportar el tancament de la mina i O’Niel, un cop recuperada la seva virilitat ferida, opta per refer la seva vida familiar, indiferent al destí dels miners.