You Know You Live In A Dystopia When…
Here’s my shortlist of totalitarian concepts that are in practice today:
Corporate Superpowers (Jennifer Government, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, WALL-E, Robocop, Soylent Green) -
In these classics, extensive privatization and corporatism, where privately owned and unaccountable large corporations have effectively replaced the government in setting policy and making decisions, becomes not only normal but is sold as preferable. When not acting as the de-facto government, they manipulate, infiltrate, control, bribe, are contracted by government. Remind you of anything? Apparently tyranny is the most successful public/private partnership of them all.
Permanent State of War (1984) – In 1984, Oceania is in a permanent state of war against an undefinable enemy called The Brotherhood, and against an endless supply of foreign nations. Present-day US has been involved in conflicts EVERY YEAR since WW2, till they struck gold with the elusively fluid Al Qaeda. The ultimate goal is to use War as the ultimate pretext to strip you of basic civil rights, shut down dissent in the name of patriotism, make loads of money, and entrench conflict as a natural event in collective consciousness.
(Secret) Prisons and Indefinite Detention (1984) – Big Brother’s ultimate weapon against the masses was Room 101, a secret room where your worst nightmare became reality. The slightest deviation, even in THOUGHT, was enough for the police to haul your ass off as an Enemy Combatant, never to be seen again. In unrelated news, China has been doing this for years, Obama just signed the NDAA into law, Gitmo is still open and Canada is building massive superjails and pushing through Bill C-10. This post is getting super depressing.
Speech Without Freedom or Privacy (We,1984) – Total Surveillance, approved words and language, criminalizing dissent, an abject lack of privacy and nowhere to hide are a trademark of classical dystopian literature. In a Patriot Act world where SOPA is a real possibility (read my earlier rant here) and ‘leaders’ like Stephen Harper want to bill you the cost of spying on you, speech matters very very little.
Disdain for Intellectuals (Fahrenheit 451) and Persecution of Dissenters (1984) – In Fahrenheit 451, the dystopia represses the intellectuals with particular force, because most people are willing to accept it, and the resistance to it consists mostly of intellectuals. Present-day British, Canadian and American law enforcement agencies classify protestors as Terrorists or Domestic Threats. And who do WE give more airtime, a Christopher Hitchens or The Situation? Do TED talks get more hits than Jessica Black?
Pleasure Overload (Brave New World) – You can bully the populace into submission, or ply key segments with enough distractions that they forget the feeling of a permanent fist up your ass. Today we have the best of both. When the most able members of society are pre-occupied with Season Finales, Superbowl Sundays, Reality TV, Shiny iThings, and are willing to let the rest of the world drown in sorrow for easier access to the above, the state can harvest 25 years of willful submission.
Doublethink (1984) – The “ability” to believe in conflicting ideas simultaneously. The “Patriot” Act that enshrines unpatriotic methods, the Safe Communities Act that makes streets more dangerous, or when the person in charge of running pre-emptive wars and foreign occupation is called the Secretary of Defense, are excellent examples of effective use of language.
Rewriting History (1984) – Oceania claims to have always been at war with Eurasia, until their priorities change and Eurasia becomes a decades-old friend against their common enemy – EastAsia. Or was it the other way around? It doesn’t fucking matter, you believe what they tell you. Remember Saddam? Who do you remember, America’s BFF from the 80s or Public Enemy #1 from the 2000s? Is Iran a Frenemy too?
Thanks a lot, Orwell. Time to hit the bong or risk spiraling into a comatose depression. I’ll leave you with this ditty from some guy:
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power – Benito Mussolini