I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1984 Pt 2

I was preparing to make a reply to a commenter this morning, and figured that it merited its own post. Ferdinand Freud posted:

Everything takes longer. 1984 has come and gone, but I still think we are on the slippery slope to something resembling the book. Think of what a Founding Father would make of gun laws, the dept. of education, Obamacare, etc. How big a jump is it from demanding nutrition labels on food (check) to outlawing food (trans fats, check) to prescribed exercise & diet? Yes, some people will always struggle against such, but the Soviets and Pol Pot had a solution for those folks.

Overall I agree. The nation we live in today is not that of our founding fathers, nor is it one they would be pleased with. The societal frameworks seem already to be in place for many of the programs and situations of the book, as I commented on in my earlier post. Yes, totalitarian regimes have methods of maintaining power.

The point at which I start to disagree in the nitty-gritty of the situation is in the jump. It is far easier for a government to remove something, or require a corporate action, as in the case of the banned foods and nutrition labels, than it is to force action on the part of the citizenry. Philosophically, the jump is small, and I wouldn't put it past our government to try it. Practically however, it becomes more difficult. For the average American, banned trans-fats and nutrition labels aren't particularly important. They require no effort on their part, and while perhaps inconvenient, it's not a deal-changing situation. Mandating active participation in uncomfortable actions forces the populace to exit their state of entropy, which is understandably difficult. The jump from passivity to activity therefore is a large one, and the society of 1984 requires activity.

On a similar note of altering entropy, our current governmental structure is not able to effectively create the described world. Being non-totalitarian and partisan, things get bogged down easily, and no one viewpoint can override. It is wonderfully inefficient and powerless. Changing power structures to a totalitarian system generally requires one cataclysmic event or other prompting factor. In 1984, it was atomic war followed by revolution. In Pol Pot and the USSR's case, it was revolution due to increased class consciousness as a result of technological communication advances (this may end up being it's own post later). I can't see any factor today that would serve as sufficient catalyst for a radicalist revolution. It might have happened after the financial collapse, it might have happened after 9/11, but as it didn't, I have to wonder what could serve as sufficient motivator.

Another problem with revolution is simple. Those most dissatisfied and fed up are conservatives. Additionally, liberals tend to be somewhat less familiar and comfortable with the tools of revolution than conservatives. Looking around today, the group gaining the most ground is the Tea Party, on a platform that is far more conservative than anything existing in today's government. If we are swinging any direction, it's away from totalitarian socialism.

One last set of troubles that are likely to at least delay any attempt at totalitarianism is the lack of personality for it. In order to have concentrated totalitarian power, there must be a wielder, whether fictional or real is unimportant. The first problem with this is that modern political philosophy is generally dependent on the 'moral high ground' unabashedly absent from 1984. O'Brien openly states that they are about maintaining power, which is an untenable motivator in today's society.

The other main problem is that I can do what I'm doing now. The sheer wealth of individual opinions on any topic in the net makes it very difficult for any one personality to emerge dominant. Even in the gunbloggosphere, Tam may be one of the most read and respected bloggers, but she cannot be said to be representative of the culture as a whole. There are so many voices criticizing and commending the assorted views of everyone, and information exchange is so easy, that there is no perceived need for a single representative. This is truly the time of self-representation.

Do I think there are no lessons to be learned from 1984? Not even remotely. All I say is that the situation as described is unlikely in our modern world. Things aren't as bad as the associations would say.

As an aside, a brief note on commenting. I very much want to engage with my readers, so commenting is strongly encouraged. Occasionally I will make a full post over a point, but this should be seen more as calling attention to the dialogue than attempting to put an end to it. In other words, I hope you will continue the conversation Freud.


  1. You said: "It is far easier for a government to remove something, or require a corporate action, as in the case of the banned foods and nutrition labels, than it is to force action on the part of the citizenry."

    You are aware that the reason Obamacare is in the courts is that the gov. is forcing people to take action? People will be forced to purchase a service. As far as the lack of consensus among political leaders, the greatest danger I see is that there really is not much difference between Dems and Republicans. Sarah Palin had an article in the NYT making the point that the real divide is between the political-industrial-financial troika and the rest of America. Power continues to be consolidated by those who wield it, and despite lively opposition on the Web, most people vote as they are told. Give me my food stamps and TV shows and welfare checks and I'll vote for you.

  2. The fact that Obamacare is being challenged to me seems to be support for my point rather than refutation. It crossed a line that sparked action.

    The ever decreasing divide between Republican and Democrat theologies is very concerning, but at the same time, they are frequently so concerned with squabbling with one another that their philosophies don't always come into play, so long as they can disagree with the opposition. I won't trust in either party though, just hope for them to keep each other from doing too much damage.

    The consolidation of power has limits too, once again in that minority that does NOT vote as it is told. While true that the number of people on the dole is ever increasing, the opposition is vocal enough to at least put a check on their total oppression, as can be seen in the tea party elect.

    All these points are legitimate concerns, and things that absolutely must be addressed, but not, in my mind, likely to lead to 1984esque totalitarianism.


Please comment, but please be respectful. I reserve the right to delete any comment at any time for any reason, but I don't anticipate having to do that. Let's try to have real discussions?