Our Big Brother

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It seems easy enough to see the difference between the totalitarianism of a Stalinist or Gestapo political regime and the freedom-loving airs of the way-of-life enjoyed in Western democracies. Nevertheless, it would be pure naivety to assume that the liberal or social democratic systems are devoid of controls, and the fact that we don’t feel the sense that we are being brainwashed in a democratic system probably indicates that we are more ideologically driven than we dare to suspect. Big Brother doesn’t need dictatorships to imprint its pernicious ideology into the souls of its slaves, in fact it functions better under the veil of a seemingly democratic environment. In fact, our world of left-right politics is just another stage for Big Brother to perform in; a perfect stage perhaps to achieve its fundamentally oligarchical, plutocratic and megalomaniacal objectives.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of what is today’s biggest political, economic and ethical issue: the climate emergency. Because of its existential significance, disputing the veracity of climate change predictions is, at least potentially, deeply divisive in society and consensus needs to be reached, not only at the nation-state level but also globally, if an ecological disaster is to be avoided.

Given the high-stakes at risk here, reaching such a consensus would be the most logical outcome, especially in the democratic world where power is supposedly controlled by the popular mandates decided on polling days. Nevertheless, despite decades of warnings from scientists of the catastrophic future that is unfolding if radical action is not taken, political and economic change has been slow to come about, if at all, even in, if not especially in, the world’s largest and most solid democracies like the USA, Great Britain or Australia. In may cases it seems that the vast majority of franchised people are voting contrary to their own interests. But how can that be?

Because of this, it must be assumed that democracy itself is not functioning as it should. The divide between believers and non-believers in the climate emergency is to a great extent ideological, with most denial coming from the right-wing of the spectrum. Some of this is economy-ideology driven, with denialists tending to be libertarian opponents to state-interventions, who have little sympathy for the poor and an aversion to welfare. Another part of it, though, is found buried in evangelistic communities where beliefs and desires for the End of Days and its promise of spiritual salvation for believers, make the idea of an ecosystem collapse irrelevant, if not desirable. For both of these groups, the climate emergency scenario is a left-wing conspiracy, despite the fact that is ratified by objective scientific data.

The thought-control; the turning of a blind eye to the scientific facts in order to only believe the more comfortable counter arguments, may be laziness or a need to maintain one’s sanity by staying in the ideological zone, or it might be the result of a certain kind of brainwashing that is more usually attributed to totalitarian systems rather than democracies. Climate denialists’ construction of an alternative reality by cutting and pasting fragments of the whole picture, is a very similar practice to those carried out by the perverted logic of the followers of Stalin and Hitler, or Kim Jong-un. Of course, the Western democracies are not the same as totalitarian states. In democracy, different ideological angles are made visible, and the ruling ideology makes allowances for the other side of the argument to be expressed. But if we examine the bubble on each side of the spectrum, there are Stalinist tendencies on both sides. Through the power of ideology, democracy simply becomes a bicephalous Big Brother, even if the only thing it really hides is its own Big Brother nature. And this is because, to properly function and be effective, Big Brother has no need to hide anything else.

ON WILL

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Will works within both the unconscious and conscious realms. It drives and is driven: for that reason it is hard for us to claim ownership of it. It is driven by the big Other, the Big Brother, the Moloch civilisation and the Wall Street Whale. It is stamped on us by the symbolic order that creates our norms and language, which gives us the slogans and axioms that are the foundations of our beliefs. It is Oedipal and despotic, even fascistic. Its blood is money.

On the more conscious level, it lies in the “causes” that we come to identify with and act along with. Causes that may either conform or non-conform to the big Other’s symbolic stamping and the money-blood sanguinary system that runs through society’s veins. But unless it can vanquish that big Other, the system will survive and absorb all revolution into its perpetual oedipal fascism.

Civilisation survives through its power of creating and maintaining the walls of separation between us and the great diversity of separating identities. Separating and amalgamating humanity into sub-groups of humanity with no real consciousness of being truly human. The real Identity – the species identity – is completely undermined by interests of wealth, which can only be sustained by maintaining an idea of us against them. For a real revolution to occur, in which the big oedipal Other can be made obsolete, we need to revaluate our identity in terms of the species. We need to confront the truly big picture of existence – the great panoramic mural of humanity.

OUR GREAT DIALECTIC – between the dictatorship of non-desire and the tyranny of want

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20th century literature produced two antithetical prophecies of the technological world we have today: George Orwell’s 1984 with its Big Brother and the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley. In one sense we could affirm that neither prophecy has really come true, but in another sense we could argue that both prophecies have been realised. How can that be?

Modernity is in fact a dialectical struggle between Big Brother’s omnipresent gaze and oppression of desire, on the one hand, and the seemingly liberating dictatorship of the Brave New World on the other.

Totalitarianism is a rejection of superfluous commodities while liberation is an embracing of the superfluous.

In another sense, totalitarianism is an embracing of responsibility and liberalism is a fleeing from responsibilities.

Dictatorship can only work in a perfectly enclosed reality. Enclosure can only work by closing frontiers (as in the iron curtain between communism and capitalism, or in the isolation policies of traditional Japan or modern day North Korea), or by making itself a total-reality in which there is no alternative to its dominion, as in the aspirations of our current economic globalisation programme.

Dictatorship only fails when the subjects within the total-reality becomes aware that their reality is not total but that in fact it is sadly lacking in many things. When this is realised, the regime itself becomes a hindrance towards achieving possibilities or fulfilment. Once the awareness of blocked possibilities seeps into the society, the dictatorship is doomed. Because of this, all regimes must struggle to maintain the illusion that their power does not actually retard possibilities, or that any oppression that takes place is necessary to combat undesirable elements threatening the comfort of the reality it has created.

In order to maintain power, all regimes must dedicate much of their energy convincing their subjects of the inexistence of any fundamental lack. If lack does exist, it is because what is absent is either frivolous or dangerous. Or, it simply just hasn’t been obtained yet by a system which potentially has the power to provide everything for everyone who subjects themselves to the rules and norms of the system.

Modernity is a dialectic between responsibility and desire: between the necessary and the frivolous; between duty and freedom; between obligation and emancipation; between the freedom achieved through responsible action and the oppression maintained through the addictions provoked by unfettered desires…

This dialectic is a complex one, at times favouring one side and, as Power itself, it takes a firm hold on the reins of the discourse in order to drive our cart in its direction. It is the dialectic between communism and capitalism; between Freud and Marx; between Al Qaeda and the oil companies; between religions and the women’s or gay-rights movements; between democracy and plutocracy; between humanity and the world.

What is our place in this constant dialectic? Our argument is not a condemnation of desire but a redirecting of it away from Big Brother or Brave New World manipulations. We obviously stand on the side of responsibility and necessity, but we are not waging war on desire itself. Desire needs to be harmonised with necessity in order to inflame desire with purposiveness and infuse humanity with a sense of itself based on its optimistic and noble visions. We define positive human desires as those impulses which point towards the fulfilment of human interests against the negative, because self-interested, desires of individuals or corporations.

The dialectic now changes and becomes immersed in a new antagonism between the personal desires and the solving of immediate problems against the future perspectives for humanity as a whole that are looking toward the fulfilment of our deeper, collective desires. This new dialectic is one between the desire for progress and the need for preservation; between the self-centred reality and the human; between the sharply focussed point-of-view and the global vision; between the family and the world; between the perception of things within us and the space around us and its atmosphere that allows us to exist at all.

But basically, it is a dialectic between the immediate present and the far-distant future that is threatened by our present. Whether we believe in the future or not, it must always compete with the conditions of the “now”. It is the dialectic compressed into the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant. In that fable labour – the ant’s labour – is a necessary condition that has to be done now in order for future survival, whilst the grasshopper’s summer appetite – our own locust appetite – will be its death sentence in the winter to come.