by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & 'm a sucker for utopian sentiments. I like to believe that, if we work hard enough, human societies are perfectible. It's a nice buffer against reality.
I'm also a "Greatest-Love-of-All"-ist. I believe the children are our future. It's easy on the conscience (and the workload) to believe that, as my parents' generation fades and as I stagger past 26, idealistic kids will start working to make the world (specifically, my life) better than it's ever been.
Obviously, then, I've been dying to see Kid Nation, which puts 40 kids in a ghost town and asks them to create a society. They'll have to navigate a crude class system and compete in occasional group challenges to decide who lands in what strata. Beyond those few strictures, though, the kids are free to create their community -- and to succeed or fail -- however they choose. At the least, Kid Nation seemed capable of getting real Lord of the Flies, real quick.
Things haven't gotten dire yet, though there are problems. Before filming, a four-member town council was chosen by the producers. They're all smart and geeky or loud and overbearing -- total student government types -- but they seem used to getting their authority from whatever teacher is in the room supervising. None of them can control a crowd, either with rhetoric or intimidation.
Mike, 11, seems especially used to parliamentary decorum and expects the town to fall in step behind him. That's problematic for the Droogish Greg. The Neanderthal-browed 15-year-old hates authority and resents younger kids. He makes a point at every opportunity of showing up Mike, to the point of getting physical. And with no justice system, the town is totally unequipped for rogue violence. If he wanted to, Greg and his homie Blaine could set up a military junta.
There is, though, one leader among the plebeians -- a real Bobby Kennedy type.
Twice when the council seemed on the brink of losing control, it was a non-council member who restored order. "You do realize," said the mop-headed Michael, "you're not just representing yourselves. This is to prove kids of all ages ... can work together cooperatively and without greed." The town immediately fell into line. Michael's played a small role so far, but if anyone's going to change the world (as CBS promises), it'll be him.