Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Monday, January 9, 2012

Orwellian echoes

I had the somewat unusual distinction of graduating college in 1984. At that time, as I recall, many political observers felt obliged to take stock of how far we in the developed world had "progressed" towards George Orwell's dystopia, imagined in his famous novel set in that year. The year was chosen by Orwell in 1948 by merely flipping the 4 and 8. This was supposed to make us feel better about our dubious honor of becoming the "class of '84." I remember breathing a sigh of relief that, according to intelligent observers, we had only moved part of the way towards Orwell's dark vision-- and, according to the most optimistic at least, we might never get there in our lifetimes.

Even the miseries of Reagan's second term couldn't shake my generation's firm belief that the U.S. would never slide into a totalitarian regime. The collapse of the Soviet bloc, was, except for hard-core Stalinists, generally taken as evidence that humanity was sailing off on a new course, away from the harsh realities of our parents' experiences fighting fascism abroad and McCarthyism at home. Sure, President Reagan's firing of the air-traffic controllers was very disturbing to those of us concerned with workers' rights, but we were confident that organized labor would begin to recover some power with the election of Bill Clinton. How much we wanted to believe President Clinton's assurances that NAFTA would turn out to help working Americans after some initial dislocations! Yet some of us noticed right away that even Mexican labor wasn't sufficiently cheap for the global capitalist elites. "Outsourcing" jobs to Bangladesh, Vietnam, and wherever else men, women, and children would work for less than three dollars a day, proceeded at a tremendous clip. Don't worry, class of '84, a new golden age of plentiful hi-tech careers was upon us! Those of your neighbors and friends with less education could retrain and find good work at computer help desks and other fun places like that. And, for a few years in the '90s, there were Americans happily answering phones for Apple, I.B.M., and Microsoft. By the end of the decade, however, these jobs too had been "outsourced."

Well, O.K., the American middle class was firmly under the heel of the global capitalists: wages were falling, and folks were leveraging their home equity to take on massive debt and keep consuming at accustomed levels. Vague worries that things were going south were replaced with very specific outrage over the Supreme Court's coronation of President Bush II before all the Florida votes were counted. At least we could still speak our minds freely and travel without undue restrictions. Right?!?9/11 and the Patriot Act changed all that. Before long, once proud Americans were meekly accepting unnecessary and ridiculous humiliations in their daily lives. Soldiers with machine guns at airports, train-stations, bus terminals. Grin and bear it! 3-oz. maximum tube of toothpaste, take off your shoes and your belt, look "foreign?" then follow me, Abdul! Long-cherished 1st Amendment, and 4th Amendment rights were quickly thrown aside in the new "war on terror." Indeed, we were told, we should be terrified, and our taxes should be spent to bomb cities in Iraq so that we'd be "safer." Don't like killing innocent, men women, and children? Sorry, but we can't avoid "collateral damage" in the struggle against "islamofascists." The terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is killed, yet we don't even pause in our worldwide "war on terror." Could it be that killing thousands of innocents throughout the globe might be creating new generations of terrorists? Don't ask that question, Ulysses, your facebook posting privileges might be revoked...

2012 dawns with a new "indefinite detention" policy the law of the land. The military can take you and throw away the key with no questions asked. Quaint notions of innocence before proof of guilt, due process, habeas corpus, freedom and liberty are destroyed overnight. Here's how George Orwell had Winston paint the picture in Chapter 3 of 1984:

  • "He knew in advance what O'Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O'Brien said this he would believe it....

    • The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites....
    • We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

    It may have taken an extra 28 years, but the global Party of the 1% has succeeded in destroying our political, economic, and personal freedoms. Legislation that will allow the Government to prevent me or anyone else from pointing this out in a blog is already pending in Congress. "Homeland Security" has replaced "Home of the free and the brave." My ancestors sacrificed much, over more than three centuries, to build this great country. I call today on all patriots, liberal or conservative, to demand our country back. Read the Bill of Rights!! Occupy the Commons!! AWAKE NOW OR SLEEP IN ETERNAL SLAVERY!!!


    dbshotz said...

    Nice to see you've still got that fire in the belly, Ulysses! Looks lie we'll be plenty busy in 2012, LOL

    mlee33 said...

    You tell 'em Ulysses!!

    Motivated In Ohio said...

    Orwell was naive. We have turned into a Totalitarian paradise. For the ordinary people, not so much.