Sunday, February 14, 2010

a perpetual war with big brother

In the fictional novel Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell describes a time and place that has never existed, at least not in the western world and not with the government at the helm of control. I found this novel to be an incredible story with some bizarre potential realities and it really got me thinking.
"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."
"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.""

"We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.""
These quotes from Nineteen Eighty-Four are just some of the brilliant ideas that create discussion in your head if you read through the book as a participant in that world as you go along. What I found most interesting is that while we do not have a party loyalty we have a loyalty to our wave of life in just the type of way that Orwell spoke of. What is remarkable is within our way of life we have many constructs that ensure that we believe we are being curious and thinking outside the box but in fact those are still within side the box. Science, real science is practiced by a very small few because we have advanced in so many fields we could not begin to understand much. We are forced to trust doctors and chemists, for example, in a way that at times feels much like an old school religion. The vaccine "is" safe and if you argue that it isn't you are an outcast. Complex sugar and fat substitutes are safe and despite our bodies revolting against them we are heckled for suggesting a conspiracy of corruption for the sake of profit rather than human advancement towards a more natural balance in our life.

So today, we do not have a Big Brother watching us but our way of life has got us into a awkward corner that wheel when we brush up against the invisible force of its parameters. instead of an obvious controlling force with an obvious hierarchy we have a subtle, suspiciously embedded, covert one.

consider this, who or what do you trust?

Do you trust

* the other drivers on the road?
* the quality assurance worker who just approved a shipment of vaccines?
* the factory worker who cuts the meat before it goes into the packaging?
* your coworkers?
* your neigbours?
* your family?
* yourself?

Here we are (at least in the safe, secure part of the world where I live) without a state of war, without regional conflicts or violence and without widespread.

  • we fear the untimely death of ourselves and our loved ones without a state of war, conflict or widespread disease but rather from:
    • accidents - automobile, work, play
    • crime - we fear the loss of our property, we fear for ourselves as part of a theft, we fear for our families because there are those who do not value the lives of others.
    • incorrect treatment - vaccines and medications, surgery, treatment
  • we fear others looking down upon us for how we dress, speak, and do yet we do not fear that our actions, or inactions, are contributing to a human legacy with a pathway that would seem to be less than we could be.
  • we adhere to rules and systems not of our own design or those in command of us but in place by a higher power and not an omnipotent power but instead
    • our employment schedule
    • our holiday schedule
    • laws, rules, guidelines, directives
    • our entertainment provider (TV schedule, release dates for books, games, etc)
    • any of these may have been designed by people long dead with specific context that has since expired but our democratic machine is unable to review, let alone change.
  • we consume information and nourishment not based on values and availabilities but instead:
    • on availability
    • cost
    • marketing
    • opportunity
This is list is far from exhaustive but rather just what came to mind as I felt the need to rant about this. The challenge of course is how do we, individually or collectively, get out of the place we are in? I have to admit that most of my fears today are related to the safety of my wife and children. I found that as I began to worry about them more I worried about myself less. As I have come to see where I am doing due diligence my worry about them is also dropping but alas my worry about their future, or the future of their grand children is not so easily reassured. My concern is that it would seem our way of life is boxing us into certain comforts that we fear losing and that overtakes our priority rather than the loss of our freedom, opportunity for discovery, exploration of the mind and numerous other pursuits that provide a contribution to the legacy of humanity.

Imagine if Alexander Graham Bell had instead discovered Playstation 3, big screen TV and got a regular job.
"As a child, young Alexander Graham Bell displayed a natural curiosity about his world, resulting in gathering botanical specimens as well as experimenting even at an early age. His best friend was Ben Herdman, a neighbour whose family operated a flour mill, the scene of many forays. Young Aleck asked what needed to be done at the mill. He was told wheat had to be dehusked through a laborious process and at the age of 12, Bell built a homemade device that combined rotating paddles with sets of nail brushes, creating a simple dehusking machine that was put into operation and used steadily for a number of years.[In return, John Herdman gave both boys the run of a small workshop within which to "invent"." Source: Wikipedia
If we are afraid about the outside world, do we teach our children to have a natural curiosity to explore it? If we are afraid of the consequences of not following the rules, not doing the tried and true safe way that others have done before us where advertisers encourage us with government approvals to demonstrate that is ok to experiment?

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