Babel and the Confusion of States

Babel is an interesting and ambitious film about various people in different parts of modern day Earth, and how their stories all interconnect. It's sort of a Grand Hotel themed movie for the globalization era. The characters are depicted in three different countries other than the United States; notably, one of each of the three kinds in Thomas Barnett's strategic theory.

The countries include Japan, part of Barnett's Functioning Core, which has an advanced or successfully developing economy that is actively integrated with the global economy. Another is Morocco, in the Non-Integrating Gap, which has failed to connect successfully with the global economy, and is part of what we once might have called the Third World. Finally, there is Mexico, considered a Seam state, geographically on the boundary between the Core and the Gap, and also somewhere in between in economic integration. The characters in each part of the world face conflicts which vary according to these categories.

In the Core country in this film, Japan, the characters' problems are related to ennui, or a bad case of affluenza. They are morally adrift in the post-modern milieu of an advanced society. Meanwhile, in the Gap, a vacationing couple from the Core experiences an endless emergency. They are physically adrift in a primitive, disconnected society. At the same time, Gap natives are caught up in a justice drama compromised by the relations of their country with the U.S. vis-à-vis the War on Terror. For the characters in the Seam state, the difficulty is in the transition - in moving easily to and from the Core (the United States).

As the stories unfold, the inequities inherent in a system of states at so many different levels of development and connectedness become starkly apparent. Many of the characters do make poor choices, but in the context of constraints imposed by a planet consisting of poorly integrated societies.

It is not certain whether the film's creators are familiar with Barnett's work. But when they picked the countries to use as settings, it is not surprising that they chose ones which Barnett classified as having differing levels of global connectedness. That way they had plenty of sources of confusion to introduce into their tragic plot.

Year: 2006
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Generation X peer, born 1963)
Writer: Guillermo Arriaga (Boomer Generation peer, born 1958)


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