The following is a guest blog by Rick Allen.
“From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”
I remember the flurry of interest in George Orwell’s dystopian novel during 1984 (originally published in 1949), with most commentators saying we were a far cry from that world. Fast forward 30 years, and it looks like he just got the date wrong.
“The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started. As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen.”
We live in a time of constant war. If not the Taliban, Iraqis or Syrians, it’s ISIS or Russia. We’re constantly being told to be afraid: fear the terrorists, fear the Muslims, fear anyone and everyone who isn’t like us—and yet ignore the angry, deranged, heavily-armed populations of neo-Christian Nationalists and radicalized right wing militias, even when they forcibly take and occupy government property.
Our government spends billions of dollars spying on us, with nothing to show for it except decreased transparency and a record number of “violations” of the Espionage Act. The few companies that own the Main-Stream Media control what we see with the goal of keeping us uninformed on crucial issues, distracting us with the the latest celebrity/political misstep or scandal.
“The black mustachioed face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own.”
Behind this curtain of misinformation, large corporations are working through government to control every aspect of your life. It’s called rent seeking—corporations and the rich and powerful get more of your money because the government works for them.
Think we should have simpler tax returns? H&R Block, Intuit, and other accounting service providers are lobbying hard to make taxes more complicated so that we need to buy their help. Have a problem with a product you purchased? Good luck getting satisfaction from the protected class of large corporations. Your ability to sue or file a class action suit are severely limited thanks to Congress and a pro-corporate conservative Supreme Court.
Want to buy organic foods? Industrial Agriculture is working with the FDA to make that label less meaningful. While antibiotic use in livestock has been a concern for several decades, Industrial Agriculture has blocked the FDA from taking any action until recently. FDA inspectors can shut down just about any food business in the country, but can’t seem to stop chicken producers from poisoning us with salmonella.
Discussions of how Social Security is going to bankrupt the country regularly emanate from Wall Street. Why? Because a privatized retirement savings system would add billions of dollars a year to their bottom line. The existing government savings systems were all developed with Wall Street in mind, and they thank you, as they can take a bigger cut of your retirement earning.
And this is to say nothing of the fact consumers are increasingly faced with fewer product and services at higher prices. Why? Because mergers and short term stock profits are more important than worrying about monopolies and oligarchs—besides, who do you think is paying for your Congressman or Senator’s next campaign?
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.”
I went into this election cycle extremely concerned about income inequality. Societies with large disparities in income tend to be more authoritarian, less free, and less fair. I’ve recently come to the conclusion, however, that income inequality is just another symptom of the stranglehold corporations have on our government. We need campaign finance reform badly. We need to stop considering corporations to be individuals for the purposes of speech. And government officials from the Supreme Court down to city hall need to be held to the highest possible standards of ethical behavior—we cannot afford the legalized bribery and corruption that currently pollutes the political establishment.
We need to put up barriers between corporations and government before George Orwell’s vision becomes totally true.
“And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.”
And we, individual Americans, need to shed our hedonistic narcissism and political cowardice and act.
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