No, really, it’s true.
Recently, there’s been a lot of Big Brother fear. Just to put my opinions out there in the open, as I am apt to do, I don’t believe a word of it. Even if the government does listen to our phone calls, it doesn’t change much. Consider for a moment, if you will, the kind of information we willingly place onto the internet each and every day. The government will be collecting the same type of data that businesses collect from us every day of our lives: metadata, which is used to inform the little adds that bother so many internet users. And there cannot be that much of interest to our government when it comes to desperate housewives’, even more desperate lovers’, and angsty teenagers’ conversations. The most pressing issue from the government listening in on phone calls would be the infringement of business affairs where the government may tap the phones of executives of large corporations. Government officials may be able to play the market using any information they gather. Sure, it’s illegal, but they are the government; legality is more of a guideline.
Businessmen are more interesting than the rest of us combined when it comes to what the government wants (money).
It’s not the stupidity of the Sheep nor is it the blind forward movement of the liberals which really could bring the world to the state Orwell predicted. It’s fanaticism. According to the text of 1984, the required state of mind is “a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party.” Considering that the infamous Party did not establish itself yet, there are other things to which we can throw ourselves down in self-abasement (eg. Left Wing, Right Wing, Protestantism, Paganism, Catholicism, College Education, Doctors, Some Shaman Out in the Woods, The Secret, The Four Agreements, The Bible, This Blog, ect.). From what I have noticed, being in the throes of belief (not just the religious kind) limits the amount of facts, ideas, and knowledge we can obtain. If there is an Orwellian occupation, it is created by our own hands and permeates each individual’s life differently.
The Orwellian future is a frightening thing, but what is more frightening is the rampant belief that people are actually so powerless, clueless, and apathetic that the Party could become a reality. Yes, there is a surprising amount of apathy within society today. We don’t have major protests against government action like there was in the 60s and we do not really mind that college tuition for four years could buy someone a house, but if it were true that apathy sits in the core of the current generation, there would be fewer people than ever going to college and no one would be starting entrepreneurial enterprises. Since these things are untrue, it is plausible that the American nation is not becoming a collective bump on a log ready for totalitarian rule any day now. People believe themselves to be activists (who usually do little more than post stuff on facebook) while considering the rest of the population to be characteristically apathetic (who do little more than post less on facebook). This is what psychologists like to call “illusory superiority”, also known as “above-average bias”. Generally the idea is that for most things, by basic logic, give-or-take 50% of the population will always be below average while 50% above it. Despite this, more than 50% of people consider themselves above average in most things. It has been suggested that reflection processes related to illusory superiority are utilized as coping mechanisms in times of stress (Wolfson and Neave, 2007), however a population cannot survive if it only perceives itself to be great and is in fact little more than average.
America has perfected the art of illusory superiority, and the government has nothing to do with it.
Hornsey (2003) discovered that there is a link between Australian citizens (I’m sorry I did not find a similar study on American citizens for better comparison) which found there to be a correlation between illusory superiority on the individual level as well as on the national level. So, remember that line I quoted from Orwell? The one that spoke on a frenzy of hatred and self-abasement? It would seem that this frenzy is more intense in people who believe themselves to be superior to others within their group and, by correlation, their group superior to other groups. And remember how we all abase ourselves before something, whether it be a government party, a religion, a book, or an individual? The illusory superiority of each group is created by the people within it, whipping up a “frenzy of hatred” and “triumph over victories”. Just because we do not all submit ourselves before the government does not mean we are “free” in the American sense.
There has of late been discussion on the extreme polarization of political factions in the United States. No longer can one be a good Republican and have any belief besides “lassiez-faire capitalism, anti-abortion/non-cis/pre-marital sex/herbal medicine/paganism/innovation, war efforts, and Christian family values” or be a good Democrat and have values outside of “Social Security, anti-war/money/laws, pro-marijuanna/immigration/non-cis/education/homeopathy/innovation, and progressive thinking with a socialist slant”. On top of those requirements, both must support empty, but paradisiacal promises (Everyone has common ground!). Therefore, we have achieved a constant and expected level of crazy, leaving the population an option of “which crazy sounds less crazy?” I am always overstepping my bounds and knowledge [for science!], but I would postulate that this polarization and resulting lack of judicious choice is not limited to government proceedings.
The process of living is determined by what options are chosen and each option informs the next choice.
If one truly believes that they are on the verge of an Orwellian dystopia, it would prudent to examine what choices they have made, to which groups they owe allegiance, and the unbiased credibility of those groups. Reading 1984 hit home for me how illogical and unreliable systems can be when one is not actively a part of them. Do we all subject ourselves to doublethink strategies? Do we wake up bellyfull for our own groups? Pure objectivity is at the least improbable if not impossible, but a bit of retrospection, introspection, and attempting to break ones’ own bubble seems to be a good way to increase our personal awareness. We enflame the fears our groups hand down to us, whether they be Orewellian dystopias, the dark, Mormons, muggers, or whatever.
I know you’ve been waiting (read: skimming) for this conclusion section, so here it is:
You are currently utilizing the medium which makes 1984 all but impossible.
Quite often we are taught in school a method of reading called, “New Criticism”. One often hears the terms “Death to the Author” and “Close Reading” to describe the method in which one reads a text as an autonomous, self-created and interpreted function of language. Schools love the idea of making things simpler in the name of “better learning”, but let’s call this what it is: supreme laziness. Why research the author, the time period, or the historical context when the words speak for themselves?
We have been regarding Orwell’s book via New Criticism, but that is in fact, if you’ll excuse my exasperation, a horrible idea. This book was written in 1949. I am not a history buff (go find my brother if you want to know all the historic minutia of each age), but I do know that there was no internet in 1949. The internet was created for the sake of global freedom of expression, exchange of ideas, and the creation of peace and understanding between peoples. Yes. There are places like China and North Korea where the internet is not remotely what it was intended to be. Let us not forget that those regimes began with the internet’s incursion into the countries and before there were large forums that connected ordinary citizens from many countries. And there are still many hackers and censorship dissenters who are imprisoned and on occasion martyred. With the global connectivity and education in computer science and hacking comes a government’s inability to ever truly control the information the public receives.
If only we would use the internet for more than cat videos and memes.
Perhaps the closing point to this article is merely a lead-in to my next article, which is already underway (I’m getting overzealous…).
We are all looking for something better or at least something good enough to instill happiness in our lives. In the process of doing so, we often lose sight of what good there is in the world already.
Yes, the world can be an awful place. It is polluted, corrupt, verging on poisonous, and downright unfair. Not a single one of us will make it out of this alive. There is enough wrong in the world that creating imaginary horror situations does little good; it distracts us from what there really is to worry about.
Be careful what you say.
Be careful what you do.
Be careful who you trust.
-something I read somewhere or someone told me once which I cannot find to properly quote (if you know the source, please let me know). I’ll come back to its importance later. For now, chew on it.
Hornsey, Matthew J. (2003) “Linking Superiority Bias in the Interpersonal and Intergroup Domains”. The Journal of Social Psychology. Volume 143, Issue 4. Accessed at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224540309598457#.UhvCDD-BY4w
Wolfson, Sandy and Neave, Nick. (2007) “Coping under pressure: cognitive strategies for maintaining confidence among soccer referees”. Journal of Sport Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp. 232-247. Accessed at: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/3301/