I, for one, will be pulling for True Grit to win Best Picture tomorrow night – not because it’s the best film of the year (since I haven’t seen all the nominees and know very little about film anyway I wouldn’t be a very good judge), but because I think it most accurately captures a sense of the current moment we find ourselves in as a people.

This is ironic, since True Grit is a remake of a John Wayne Western originally shot in 1969 that depicts Arkansas in the 1870s, whereas two of its competitors – the Social Network and Inceptionare explicitly designed to tell the story of our present and future.

True Grit’s prescience lies not in its portrayal of modern technology or culture, however, but in its examination of morality and truth in a disorderly world.

From the film’s first moments, Maddie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfield, who steals the show) encounters a violent world, which violent men take by force. As Maddie herself observes, “You must pay for everything in this world, one way or another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” When she reaches town to find a U.S. Marshall that might aid her cause, she encounters a coffin salesman interested only in making a sale, relatives who provide little emotional comfort, and a banker that tries, and fails, to squeeze extra profit out of her dead father’s estate.

In spite of her surroundings, Maddie maintains a laser focus on capturing her father’s killer and bringing him to justice. This leads her to Rooster Cogburn and, ultimately, on an epic journey into Choctaw country to pursue Tom Chaney.

Our world bears increasing resemblence to Maddie’s wild west. Previous generations could outsource understanding to a variety of institutions and dogmas that stood ready to provide a sense of certainty and explanation. Science, politics, economics, and religion all thrived on the claim that they could tell the right story. In science the gospel of ‘rational choice’ asserted that humans existed simply to pursue a predictable self-interest. This gospel spread to politics, where theorists like Joseph Schumpeter argued that democracy was simply the aggregation of fixed individual interests that could be predicted; to economics, where Milton Friedman argued that a company’s sole responsibility was to increase its profits; and, to religion, where neat linear theologies presented simple steps for achieving salvation. The individual’s job in this world was simply to sign-on to a few of these stories and tell them with conviction.

But these foundations have come crumbling down. New discoveries about human beings are disturbing our complete faith in rational choice.  Democratic movements abroad and at home are reminding us of the limits of government institutions’ ability to provide order. A singular focus on profit and self-interest in the private sector is sowing the seeds of corruption, greed, and decay.

Slowly, people are again starting to see themselves, and the institutions they erect, as inherently fallible, an outlook more consistent with the 19th century than the 20th. In this modern wild west, like the old one, good must be done by people themselves, if it is to be done at all.