It couldn’t happen here, could it?

October 1, 2018

A neutral, outside political observer could easily come to the conclusion that the U.S. is adopting a mix of the “best” aspects of the governing plans described in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World. The U.S., by design and perhaps default, is seamlessly melding the major aspects of both books’ themes of methods for the domination of a population and is slogging toward an almost “perfectly planned” Utopian society.

In Brave New World, the leadership maintained its political grip on the masses by pushing addiction to a drug, “soma,” which assured total tranquility, plus pleasant but meaningless mass entertainments and diversions, and sex. Social class, status, stations and roles were determined by birth, using genetic technology.

This sounds not so vaguely like a world filled with opiates, ecstasy and fentanyl, cable television, mass sporting events and behaviors that are the basis of discussions, as well as headlines, about sexual morality don’ts and, more often, do’s. Today’s disparities of course are not based upon designer genetics (no “test tube babies” yet?), but by money, local community environments, race and parental status. How far we seem to have come.

In 1984, obedience was enforced by fear. The focus of each day was Big Brother. Rule was enforced by constant technological law enforcement surveillance, government-sponsored hate rallies directed outward and a ministry of media that provided rewrites of history (facts are whatever the leader says they are) on a moment’s notice. The newspeak slogans, “Ignorance is Strength,” “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery” buttressed the government control. The duplicative significance and interpretations of these slogans have been documented by numerous scholars.

Does all this have any possible resonance to frenzied rallies with “lock her up” or “build the wall;” the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities for the denigration of immigrants; the fear campaigns of the president and the National Rifle Association; the coming-soon surveillance by facial recognition; “alternative facts,” “truth isn’t truth” and “fake news?” How about the major news channel that churns out lies that are instantly repeated at the highest level, but never corrected, with a cult of personality that requires constant, unswerving loyalty to the leader? All this appears regularly in our local news.

This horrifyingly bleak slide to autocracy is not inevitable. The late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona was optimistic about the future of the U.S., while on his death bed. We, living citizens, should agree with his assessment and do something positive about it. What is needed are millions of individuals acting up — not the narcissistic individualism that began in the ’60s, but organized collaborative programs of bottom-up collective action with the unifying principle that we the people should be in charge of our government; not a false populism covering up a kleptocracy, but affirmation of the concept of a government based on adjustment, self-correction, renewal and the will of the people. These are the ideas our founders championed.

Voting in the coming midterm elections presents a great starting opportunity to begin reversing current trends that seem so sad and sometimes almost inexorable. Just do it.

Jim Webster is a Santa Fe resident and on the board of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

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