Monday, October 27, 2008

Not with a bang but a whimper

The Nameless Libertarian has written a really excellent essay on how classic works of dystopian fiction tend towards... well... fiction. They tend to rely on some massive cataclysm to enable the totalitarian governments, when this is not, in fact, the case.
All of this literary criticism does have a point, and it is this: dystopian works of fiction have their place, there is no doubting that. But they are fiction: they do not represent reality. As I’ve already mentioned, the reality of the slide towards totalitarianism is far less exciting, or obvious as it is presented in fiction. Don’t imagine that there will be terrible war before the state takes complete control; they won’t need to do that. And they are not going to utter clear statements of intent, like burning books. The warning signs will be subtle; it will be the gradual erosion of cherished yet mundane freedoms. And by the time the population realises what is happening, it will be too late. There will be no room for manoeuvre, no freedom let to resist or protest.

Unless we start fighting that process now.

The slide towards authoritarianism is happening; right here, right now. The government is slowly taking control of what you eat, what you drink, who and how you fuck, what you can say and what you can eat. It is doing it in a slow, paternalistic way and I believe the politicians think they are acting in the best interests of the nation. But there is no positive outcome if this slide towards total state control is allowed to continue. The best case scenario is that you are allowed to live comfortably as long as you do not dissent; the simple truth is that a continuation of the drift towards authoritarianism means the day will come when you will not have the freedom to think or choose for yourself. The loss of freedom is like cancer; it will spread slowly but surely across all parts of society until our liberty has been utterly eaten away and we are left with nothing but a half-forgotten idea of what freedom was.

Please do go and read the whole thing: it is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of work...


Obnoxio The Clown said...

Enjoyable? I think you mean "depressing"!

johnny nunsuch said...

The politicians concerned are not acting in the best interests of the nation they are acting in their best interests which is certainly not the same thing

James Higham said...

Yes and this ties in with the banality of evil.

Anonymous said...

This is a good piece, but I point out that a war probably did set all this in motion, accelerated it at any rate. The powers and lust for centralised planning gained by the state during WW2 changed our country for ever. It might also be similarly be argued that so called 'cataclysmic' events such as 9/11 have accelerated the process to.

Anonymous said...

When something goes wrong in the private sector, it must mean the government should step in with more rules to "tackle" the problem.

When something goes wrong in the public sector, it must mean the government should step in with more rules to "tackle" the problem.

Socialist logic you see.

Anonymous said...

True. No war or disaster is needed.

The old cliche about the frog who doesn't jump from the heating water seems our fate.

Wars and disasters produce strong governments but they also produce strong people. People who will fight at some point. Such people are hard to tame and must be eliminated.

The often cited Orwell saw beyond the state imposed and ruled only by power.

Orwell realized that when a man can no longer conceive of a different condition he cannot challenge the present order.

Anonymous said...

Obnoxio: Enjoyable? I think you mean "depressing"!

Unfortunately, many aspects of reality are depressing. Then again, there are some that are uplifting and inspiring and beautiful. I suppose it's for those aspects that most of us are involved in politics in our very little ways for.

I've noticed that in some quarters of poetry there is an appreciation that totalitarianism is very often the bottom of a slippery slope, not the bottom of a steep pit. You could argue that the famous "First they came ..." poem by Martin Niemöller is a recognition of the reality of that 'slippery slope'.

Of course, wars and disasters help. Let's not forget 9/11 and 7/7are the excuses for pretty much all of our recent authoritarian legislation.

berenike said...

Neither Robert Hugh Benson nor, as I possibly faultily recall, Soloviev, employed fictional disasters to bring about their fictional dystopias.

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