Posts Tagged With: George Orwell

Instruments of Tyranny

In the November 1970 issue of National Geographic, an article entitled “Behold the Computer Revolution,” has Peter T. White breathlessly writing on the coming changes computers would bring.  Among them are paying your bills by computer, a “truly theft-proof” credit card, the impending arrival of home computer use, and many more examples how the computer would touch every corner of our lives. This was about a decade before computers started entering homes, and over two decades before the internet would morph into the world wide web. And then White shares this from a Professor Alan F. Westin:

Man has progressed over the centuries from the status of a subject ruler to that of a citizen in a constitutional state. We must be careful to avert a situation in which the press of government for systematic information and the powerful technology of computers reverse this historical process…making us ‘subjects’ again.

Perhaps what we need now is a kind of writ of ‘habeas data’ — commanding government and powerful private organizations to produce the data they have collected and are using to make judgements about an individual, and to justify their using it.

Now, forty-eight years later, we have fallen into the very scenario that Westin warns about. It happened little by little, yet largely out in the open. How many major data breeches at banks and retailers, how many shady government data collection schemes, or how many social media abuse revelations, must continue to happen before people realize that technology is no longer their tool to control?

How long until we realize that it is being used to control them? To spy on them? To shape their beliefs?

If you read my last post, you can’t help to agree that Distraction is our greatest downfall. It is what politicians have long used to cling to power and shape our world. Corporations and social movements use it to mold your thoughts. Be happy with who you are — only if that “who” is on the approved list. Do what you want — only if that “what” is on this other list. And computers have been used with frightening efficiency by social engineers and by those who subvert democratic processes.

In 1970, some warned that “the computer’s potential for good, and the danger inherent in its misuse, exceed our ability to imagine. Wouldn’t that be the worst it could do — to become an instrument of tyranny, propelling mankind into a new dark age?”

And decades before that, Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury warned us in their fiction. Some people have listened.

Many more have not.

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Man’s Infinite Appetite for Distraction

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

“Orwell feared we would become a captive audience. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

“Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

“As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.” – Neil Postman

Categories: Books, Fiction, Modern History | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Some are More Equal than Others

After seeing this video on judging people equally, I was reminded of this famous quote from George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm, both allegory and satire, was published in 1945 as a commentary on the totalitarian communist regime of Stalin. Yet it is still very much relevant today in that people seem to unwittingly allow ideas of inequality and fake tolerance into their thinking. We tolerate unless it offends us. We are inclusive if we agree with the included. We preach equality, but judge differently.

It is easy to caught up in causes, movements and emotion. These are the times we should be most on guard, for this is when others can take advantage of us. When we aren’t thinking clearly, and chaos is around us, we should stop and clear our mind. As Orwell wrote:

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

And so is defending truth.

Categories: Critical Thinking, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Orwell’s Revenge

After President Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, made an odd comment about “alternative facts,” others quickly noted the similarity to the concept of “newspeak” in George Orwell’s classic, dystopian novel 1984. Newspeak was the language used to control and shape the thoughts of people. To be fair, terms like “fake news” and “alt-right” are also Orwellian, as well as how many in the media and Washington (from both sides) try to manipulate people and thoughts. Thanks to all of this, Orwell’s book, along with similar classics like A Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, went to the top of bestseller lists.

And that made me laugh.

These are books on how governments, politicians and the media manipulate, control and monitor (Big Brother) the thoughts, beliefs and actions of the people.

Do the politicians and media really want the people reading these books? Do they want you to realize, that on a daily basis, that they have become what the Orwells of the world warned us about?

They may just have opened Pandora’s Box and there’s no closing that.

P.S. I had wondered if people even read these books in school anymore; perhaps these sales show they have not. It is also amusing to see the media and politicians lecturing us on truth, such as Dan Rather, who got himself in trouble for pushing “fake but accurate” news (talk about Orwellian). The media and politics are riddled with truthtwisters – perhaps Orwell will help more people realize this.

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If a Book Doesn’t Make You Think, What Good is it?

Controversial quotes from controversial books. Why would some see them disappear? Because they encourage people to think and question. They seek to remind people to not to blindly follow those who self-appointed greatness. And they tell us to pay attention who is behind the curtain.

All Quiet On The Western Front on cautioning us on what reasons we use to go to war:

At the next war let all the Kaisers, presidents and generals and diplomats go into a big field and fight it out first among themselves. That will satisfy us and keep us at home.

You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.

1984 on blindly giving away power and letting them win:

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.

Fahrenheit 451 on being engaged in the world and freedom of access to knowledge:

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man.

Atlas Shrugged on finding your Role in the Story of this life:

Do not let the hero in your soul parish, in lonely frustration, for the life you deserved but never have been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

Fighting Slave of Gor (Book 14 of the Counter Earth Saga) on people allowing others define who they are and how to think:

Earthings…are manipulated organisms, helpless in the flow of social forces, slobbering to slogans and rhetoric. They will be the first to celebrate their own downfall. They will not discover what has been done to them until it is too late.

“A sexist is a sexist,” she said. “That is the logical truth,” I said. “An apple is an apple. This argument is not much advanced…[it] is a ‘signal word,’ a word selected for its emotive connotation, not its cognitive meaning. It is to be used as a slander tool to discourage questioning and discourage questioning and enforce verbal agreement…One of the great utilities of these words, long since evacuated of most of their cognitive content, is that they make thought unnecessary…”

Categories: Books, Critical Thinking, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Orwell and Huxley, Who Was Right?

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley wrote two of the most prophetic warnings in fiction, 1984 and A Brave New World, respectively. Orwell foresaw a world where classic government oppression would erode democracy. In Huxley’s vision, he depicted humanity controlled by pleasure and distraction. It would seem that, to our dismay, they both got it right. Orwell’s Big Brother government is increasingly a reality at the same time Huxley’s populace’s lives are controlled by the trivial and consumerism.

They wrote their books as warnings. Most people weren’t paying attention.

If you are someone who wanders through life day-to-day, driven by wherever the winds blow you, these books are for you. If you are someone who thinks the elite few who run the governments are out there upholding your rights and looking out for you, first, where have you been? Second, these books are for you.

And if you are someone who thinks about the legacy we leave to generations yet to come, unlike our rulers who think election to election, these books are for you as well.

There are always those who look truth straight in the eye and ignore or dismiss it. They don’t want to ask questions or be questioned. Otherwise reasonable people who don’t want to upset their life and the cognitive dissonance they have created. It’s just hysteria or a conspiracy. It can’t happen here.

Until it does happen to them or someone they know. Then it’s a shock. A surprise.

Orwell and Huxley asked us to pay attention to signs. Think like adults. They knew what the corruption of men could lead to, right here, not in some far away place.

Their fiction has become fact. That is an inheritance we don’t want to leave the future.

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