Monday, August 10, 2009

Totalitarian Thought Experiment

It's sixty years since Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, in which he portrays a vision of a dystopian Socialist future where all aspects of life are controlled by an all-seeing, all-knowing state represented by the figure of Big Brother, a Stalin-like character peering down from flags and posters all over the country.

We pat ourselves on the back for having averted such a reality, and since the Wall came down in 1989 we have sat back and relaxed, knowing we are safe from the political monolith that was the Soviet Union.

But, let's imagine for a moment that, given the lessons we've learnt from history, we WANT to create a totalitarian state, free from the chaos of democracy and the uncertainty of a free market economy.

How would we seek to accomplish it?

Now the Soviet tanks lie rusting, there is nothing to roll into our cities to smash our nations with the hammer and sickle of Communism. More subtle ways would have to be found. It has been said that totalitarianism will not be brought in by violent revolution, but quietly, wrapping us all in the warm fuzziness of its motherly love.

Firstly, we would give up our 'freedoms' in the name of security, having been raised in a climate of fear to believe that our very lives are in danger from some unseen force.

We might seek to vilify our native populations, particularly the poorer classes, we would create new words of hate with which to beat our ideological foes, to shame and cajole them into going along with our project.

We might even begin to deny or to radically question our own history, banishing the heroes of the past as outdated, flawed characters whose importance has been greatly exaggerated.

We would certainly seek to break up the homogeneity of our communities, bringing in people from outside, who would be more inclined to live in a totalitarian state. We would also want to consider them as somehow better or more deserving than we are, thereby glorifying their tendencies to nondemocratic methods.

We would allow special interest groups to dominate our political discourse, because they might use the courts to achieve change rather than parliaments. This will raise the unelected above the level of the elected official, and would make ultimate takeover easier through strategically appointment of judges.

Special interest groups using 'identity politics' will also teach the populace that 'mob rule' is more effective than bland democracy, and that if you shout loud enough for attention like a spoilt child, you will get your way. Once equality is eliminated as a political ideal, and equal rights replaced by 'special' rights, the basis of liberal democracy will be suitably eroded to allow the state to assume more and more power.

And finally, we might find ways to counteract basic freedoms like freedom of speech or association, making new laws to qualify these freedoms, introducing clauses that give us these freedoms as long as we don't offend anyone in the process.

Using these methods, we could eradicate resistance to the state by making citizens more and more dependent on it, until citizens are unable to buy or sell without the permission and approval of some seemingly benevolent government department, which, after all, just wants to help...

Can anyone look at the above and say that this is NOT happening now? in the European Union, in the United States?

Big Brother is alive and well, only he doesn't glare down at us Stalin-like from a billboard. He smiles gently at us as the caring, well-meaning nanny smiles to a difficult child.

8 Opinion(s):

FishEagle said...

Viking, you may write The Leaders speaches!! Good post.

Exzanian said...

Great post Viking. It seems there is nowhere to hide.
I have recently retrieved my book "why people believe weird things" and quote Shermer:
As soon as a group sets itself as the final moral arbiter of other people's actions, especially when it's members believe they have discovered absolute standards of right and wrong, it marks the beginning of the end of tolerence, and thus reason and rationality. It is this characteristic more than any other that makes a cult, a religion, a nation, or any other group dangerous to individual freedom.

Ranger Tom said...

"Anyone who would give up personal freedoms in order to achieve safety and security deserve neither..."

~Benjamin Franklin

Viking said...

true, I think thats a good definition of a cult.
Haven't heard of Shermer, will have to look it up

Anonymous said...

Very much the case here in New Zealand. The previous government was laced with unionists and communist party members, and the results was "minority rules" democracy where the ideas of the minority extremists like the Green Party was implemented as law.

Tall poppy syndrome is a big thing here, it is a egalitarian society were you don't dare want to excel in fear of being targeted as a rich or cheeky arrogant pr**k which need to be brought down by any means.

Anonymous said...

"This will raise the unelected above the level of the elected official"

So true in the case of NZ. They have a voting quota system called MMP here where a party member can get into government without winning at the poles. With the last government a member of the Green Party (Sue Bradford) who did not win her seat still got into parliament, and managed to push one of her wacko nanny mentality ideas into law. We are now having a referendum to try and get rid of this law.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 5:05, too true. It is one of the reasons why the over-confidence of South African expats is often mistaken for arrogance. We're not arrogant, we just know what we're doing. Aussies/ Kiwis seem to want group consensus before venturing out and we SAns don't ask, don't need to, we do what we are hired to do. In the workplace, in Aus especially, it's a big no no and they will do everything to bring you down to their level which is the lowest common denominator. That's why Tall Poppy Syndrome is an Aussie term. Well this 'arrogant' SA bastard doesn't care about Aussie customs and foibles.

Viking said...

yep. that sounds about right. In Ireland too that's been happening for years. There is always some small party who holds the balance of power and gets to make policy despite having only 2-5% of the popular vote. At the moment it's the Greens.....