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jeudi, 20 juin 2019

Your Nineteen Eighty-Four Sources in Full


Your Nineteen Eighty-Four Sources in Full

Connolly, Burnham, Orwell, & “Corner Table”

“In the torture scenes, he is merely melodramatic: he introduces those rather grotesque machines which used to appear in terror stories for boys.”
—V. S. Pritchett, The New Statesman [2], June 18, 1949

The torture section in Nineteen Eighty-Four[1] [3] was planned from the beginning, and intended to be the story’s core and culmination. The key influence here was James Burnham’s The Struggle for the World (discussed below), which George Orwell reviewed in March 1947, shortly before starting the first full longhand draft of the new novel. In Struggle, Burnham emphasized the likelihood of another World War within another few years, and probably even a war using the “atomic bomb.”

This found its way into Nineteen Eighty-Four, as did Burnham’s analysis of Communism (though Orwell didn’t call it that). Terror, torture, disinformation, humiliation: these are not unfortunate byproducts of Communist revolution, said Burnham, they are the system itself.

The original model for Nineteen Eighty-Four wasn’t as grim as that. It was frivolous, really, and written years and years before the Cold War was dreamt of. It was a little black comedy that used torture strictly for laughs. Titled “Year Nine,” Cyril Connolly dashed it off at the end of 1937.[2] [4] It appeared in The New Statesman in January 1938.

It’s a brief farce, less than two thousand words, yet in there are prefigured Big Brother, the Thought Police, Newspeak, and the Ministry of Love. To tell a brief story briefly: After happening upon a basement art exhibit, the narrator – an assembly-line envelope-flap-licker – is accused of thoughtcrime (approximately). He is arrested, severely tortured, and sentenced to excruciating execution.

Orwell was much impressed with it, and so were John Betjeman and others.[3] [5] Up to this point, Connolly was known mainly as an idler and failed novelist. Very soon, though, he published a memoir, Enemies of Promise, founded Horizon (“A Review of Literature & Art”), became editor of The Observer‘s book section (where he farmed out reviews to Orwell and Evelyn Waugh and Arthur Koestler), and was generally London’s number-one all-’round critic and litterateur.

From “Year Nine”:

As the hot breath of the tongs approached, many of us confessed involuntarily to grave peccadilloes. A man on my left screamed that he had stayed too long in the lavatory.

 * * *

Our justice is swift: our trials are fair: hardly was the preliminary bone-breaking over than my case came up. I was tried by the secret censor’s tribunal in a pitchdark circular room. My silly old legs were no use to me now and I was allowed the privilege of wheeling myself in on a kind of invalid’s chair. In the darkness I could just see the aperture high up in the wall from whence I should be cross-examined . . .

Our narrator (not a Winston Smith type, more of a garrulous Connolly/O’Brien) is sentenced to be “cut open by a qualified surgeon in the presence of the State Augur.”

“You will be able to observe the operation, and if the Augur decides the entrails are favourable they will be put back. If not, not . . . For on this augury an important decision on foreign policy will be taken. Annexation or Annihilation? . . .

Yes, I have been treated with great kindness.[4] [6]

There is a cultural time-stamp on “Year Nine,” clearly visible. The Moscow Purge Trials were underway and widely known about, but Connolly pins the Stalinist outrages in his tale – torture, forced confessions, anonymous denunciations – upon a cartoonish pseudo-Nazi regime, complete with Stroop Traumas, Youngleaderboys, and a population in thrall to Our Leader. (Connolly hadn’t a political bone in his body, but he posed as a Fellow Traveler, that being comme il faut.)

Conversely, when Nineteen Eighty-Four came out in 1949, it too drew on the Moscow Trials, and no one questioned (least of all Pravda) that Orwell was depicting a Soviet-style police-state. This happened even though Orwell slyly denied that it was about Communism. You can see this in the novel’s own disclaimers, and in external press releases that author and publisher sent out.

A curious legacy of “Year Nine” is that its Punch-and-Judy brilliance shines through the surface narrative of Nineteen Eighty-Four, giving the torture scenes a lurid “vaudeville” feel. Orwell probably didn’t intend the scenes in the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) to be black comedy, but that’s what he got, from O’Brien’s jabberwocky speeches, all the way to the rats in the cage-mask. (“‘It was a common punishment in Imperial China,” said O’Brien as didactically as ever.’”)

Lord of Chaos

Connolly/O’Brien is your emcee and Lord of Chaos in the Miniluv torture clinic. This is far from the standarGO1.jpgd crib-note interpretation of O’Brien (“zealous Party leader . . . brutally ugly”), but pray consider: a) Connolly was Orwell’s only acquaintance of note who came close to the novel’s description of O’Brien, physically and socially; b) if you bother to read O’Brien’s monologues in the torture clinic, you see he’s doing a kind of Doc Rockwell routine: lots of fast-talking nonsense about power and punishment, signifying nothing.

This is one reason why O’Brien fails as a villain. Villains must be monolithic. Here we have an Inner Party exemplar-cum-old Etonian who still boasts of his “antinomian tendencies” – a humorist and parodist, author of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism as well as “Where Engels Fears to Tread”;[5] [8] in short, a louche Fellow-Traveler-of-convenience, renowned for self-indulgence and amorality. And thus he fits right in with what O’Brien tells us about the Inner Party ethos (do read the monologues): someone who’s amoral, capricious, and power-hungry (and a potential sociopath, if O’Brien’s description of the Party’s lust for power is anything to go by).

* * *

If Orwell wanted to put Connolly out of his mind while working on Nineteen Eighty-Four, he couldn’t, because he was forever revising an essay-memoir about the school they went to together between 8 and 14. It was the most miserable time of life for young Eric Blair (for such he was). He had probably started this memoir in the early 1940s, and still had the unpublished typescript with him in London when he was playing with notes and abortive chapters for his projected novel in 1945 and 1946. And then he brought it with him to the Isle of Jura, Inner Hebrides, in the spring of 1947, where he finally began to handwrite the first draft of The Last Man in Europe (as he was then calling the Winston Smith novel). He also revised the memoir, sending a carbon to his publisher in late May. Then, in 1948, when he was laid up with TB in a hospital near Glasgow and struggling to rewrite the novel with his writing arm in a cast, he revised the memoir yet again. It wouldn’t be published in Great Britain until 1967.

The memoir was Cyril Connolly’s idea. Connolly had put his fond-but-unnerving school memories into Enemies of Promise (which made him famous), and suggested his old schoolmate Blair might do the same: a companion piece or “pendant” to Connolly’s sardonic memoir. So Blair/Orwell decided to do a Dickens about his time as an upper-middle-class poor boy at St. Cyprian’s, enduring six years of oppression, humiliation, and petty tortures. He attended the school on reduced fees (as the Headmaster’s wife reminded him loudly and often) because he was expected to win a scholarship to Eton, and so bring glory and honor to St. Cyprian’s. From age 11 onward, Young Blair was “crammed with learning as cynically as a goose is crammed for Christmas” (as he wrote), mainly Latin and Greek.

This is the nearest thing to an autobiography we ever got out of Orwell, and the disgusted, sulky, sharp-eyed loner we see in his essays and Winston Smith is thoroughly recognizable as the boy at St. Cyprian’s. To make himself seem even lonelier and more miserable – or perhaps for some other motive – he cut Cyril Connolly entirely out of story.

At one point in the memoir, Orwell pulls back and says he doesn’t mean to suggest his school was a kind of Dotheboys Hall. Then he marches off again and tells us about the filthy lavatories and disgusting food, and how he once saw a human turd floating on the surface of the local baths in Eastbourne. On finally leaving St. Cyprian’s – off to Eton, but first a term at Wellington – he looked to the future with despair. “[T]he future was dark. Failure, failure, failure – failure behind me, failure ahead of me . . .”

Orwell’s publisher and friends thought the memoir was just too embarrassing and self-pitying to publish. It would be bad for Orwell’s reputation, they said, and probably libelous. So the perennial work-in-progress didn’t see the light of day until Orwell was safely dead and Partisan Review in New York ran a slightly altered version in their September-October 1952 issue. It ran for 41 pages, called St. Cyprian’s “Crossgates,” and used Orwell’s title: “Such, Such Were the Joys.”[6] [9]

* * *

You sometimes hear that Orwell plagiarized from another dystopian story, usually one set many centuries in the future, with little or no resemblance to Orwell’s. In 2009, on Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s sixtieth anniversary of publication, Paul Owen in The Guardian tried to make the case that Orwell “pinched the plot” from Yevgeny (or Eugene) Zamyatin’s early-1920s novel, We.[7] [10] As evidence, Owen says that Orwell read Zamyatin’s book three years before Nineteen Eighty-Four was published (1949). This is a lie by misdirection. Orwell had been making notes and outlines since at least 1944, and finished his first draft in 1947. He first heard of Zamyatin’s book in 1943, failed to find a copy of the 1920s English translation published in New York,[8] [11] and finally settled for a French one, his review appearing in early 1946.[9] [12] Owen’s biggest claim is completely wrong: “that Orwell lifted that powerful ending – Winston’s complete, willing capitulation to the forces and ideals of the state – from Zamyatin.” The ending of Nineteen Eighty-Four is in fact a retread of a novel ending that Orwell wrote in 1935.

GO4.jpgA good deal of Nineteen Eighty-Four, in fact, is a twisted retelling of Keep the Aspidistra Flying.[10] [13] Orwell wrote Aspidistra in 1935 during his Hampstead bookshop-assistant days, and was ever after ashamed of it. Never mind, it’s a beautiful piece of pathetic self-mockery, giving us a 1930s-model Winston Smith. Instead of surrendering to Big Brother at the end, the Winston-figure, Gordon, finally sells out to the “Money God” – and goes back to his job as an advertising copywriter. A happy ending, strangely enough.

In place of glowering Big Brother posters, Gordon is surrounded by vast images of “Corner Table,” a “spectacled rat-faced clerk with patent-leather hair,” grinning over a mug of Bovex. (Presumably Bovril + Oxo.) “Corner Table enjoys his meal with Bovex,” shouts the poster all over town. Everywhere Gordon is stared down by the Money God, in the guise of advertisements on all the hoardings. “Silkyseam – the smooth gliding bathroom tissue.” “Kiddies clamour for their Breakfast Crisps.”

Like Winston, Gordon is under constant surveillance at home (from his landlady) and takes his girlfriend out to the countryside, where they have sex on the wet ground. When he gets in trouble with the law, he wakes up in a jail with walls of “white porcelain bricks,” like the lockup at Miniluv. His O’Brien-analogue, an upper-class literary friend and little-magazine publisher named Ravelston, shows up and rescues him from the clink. Instead of taking him to a torture chamber, he puts Gordon up in his flat and gently badgers him to straighten out his life, which Gordon does eventually, but not just yet. Torture was different in the Thirties.

* * *

Connolly’s “Year Nine” provided an amusing, pocket-sized framework for building a terror-regime satire, while Keep the Aspidistra Flying gave the naturalistic “human” elements to be restyled for Nineteen Eighty-Four. The new novel also needed serious geopolitical underpinnings, and here Orwell leaned heavily on James Burnham. It’s long been known that Orwell took the “three super-states” idea from Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution (1941).[11] [14] Orwell and his publisher cited Burnham and that book when they wrote a press release in June 1949, explaining what Nineteen Eighty-Four was “about.” (Press interest was intense, and the hat-tip to Burnham looks suspiciously like a red herring.)

Burnham’s “three super-states” schema was the inspiration not only for Oceania-Eurasia-Eastasia, but most probably the entire novel; it was like a piece of grit in the oyster, waiting for the pearl to form around it. It became Orwell’s pet geopolitical concept, and from 1944 onward we find him continually dropping mentions of “three super-states” in his reviews, articles, and columns.

 [15]Nevertheless, it was a later book by Burnham, The Struggle for the World (1947)[12] [16] that really gave Nineteen Eighty-Four its horror and worldview. Here, Burnham argued that another World War was likely soon (say, 1950), and something nuclear would probably be in play. This provided the backstory to Oceania’s murky history of war and revolution, along with some early memories for Winston Smith. An “atomic bomb” – as we called them then – was dropped near London in Colchester. Burnham argued that a preventive war might well be necessary before the Soviets get the A-bomb. The rush of events soon outran that warning, needless to say.

But the really vital input from Struggle came from Burnham’s analysis of Communism. International Communism really, truly, does seek mastery of the globe, he maintained. He had made the argument a couple of years earlier, when he was with the OSS, but in 1947 it became the freshest insight in US foreign policy. Furthermore, he focused on a matter that most pundits feared to address, lest they look like unhinged extremists: the integrality of terror to the Communist apparatus. This was obvious to many people in those post-war years, but it was Burnham who took the logical leap and articulated the idea in a book: If your main activity is terror, then terror is your business.

GO84penguin.jpgTo repeat the obvious, Burnham was describing Communism, not some theoretical “totalitarianism,” as in some press blurbs for Nineteen Eighty-Four. As noted, Orwell explicitly disavowed any connection between his fictional “Party” and the Communist one. Nevertheless, the political program that O’Brien boasts about to Winston Smith is the Communist program à la James Burnham. It’s exaggerated and comically histrionic, but strikes the proper febrile tone.

First, some O’Brien:

Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. . . .

The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism.[13] [17]

Now bits of Burnham:

The terror is everywhere, never ceasing, the all-encompassing atmosphere of communism. Every act of life, and of the lives of parents, relatives and friends, from the trivial incidents of childhood to major political decisions, finds its way into the secret and complete files. . . . The forms of the terror cover the full range: from the slightest psychological temptings, to economic pressure . . . to the most extreme physical torture . . .

* * *

It should not be supposed that the terror . . . is a transient phenomenon . . . Terror has always been an essential part of communism, from the pre-revolutionary days . . . into every stage of the development of the communist regime in power. Terror is proved by historical experience to be integral to communism, to be, in fact, the main instrument by which its power is increased and sustained.[14] [18]

Burnham and Orwell were of very different mentalities, the first always gushing theories with the fecundity of a copywriter dashing off taglines; while the second was constitutionally averse to abstractions and hypotheticals, much preferring near-at-hand things, such as the common toad. It’s striking that Orwell could not only find something useful and intriguing in Burnham, he honored him with a few of the most insightful and appreciative critiques.

JB-SW.jpgIn March 1947, while getting ready to go to Jura and ride the Winston Smith book to the finish even if it killed him (which it did), Orwell wrote his long, penetrating review of The Struggle for the World. He paid some compliments, but also noted some subtle flaws in Burnham’s reasoning. Here he’s talking about Burnham’s willingness to contemplate a preventive war against the USSR:

[Burnham sees that] appeasement is an unreal policy . . . It is not fashionable to say such things nowadays, and Burnham deserves credit for saying them.

But suppose he is wrong. Suppose the ship is not sinking, only leaking. Suppose that Communism is not yet strong enough to swallow the world and that the danger of war can be staved off for twenty years or more: then we don’t have to accept Burnham’s remedy – or, at least, we don’t have to accept it immediately and without question.[15] [19]

Orwell was just using moderation and common sense here, but what he’s suggesting is what in fact began to happen that year (1947). Instead of the predicted war of destruction; policies of “containment,” “rollback,” “interventions”; defense treaties (NATO); and targeted economic aid (Marshall Plan) might work at least as effectively against the Soviets, as well as being far pleasanter and more manageable.

Ironically, Orwell did not pay much attention to what was going on in the outside world that year or next; he had bigger things to worry about. But as the world moved on, it diverged more and more from the fundamental premises of Nineteen Eighty-Four. There wouldn’t be an “atomic war” in 1950 (war, yes; not atomic) and Soviet-style terror regimes weren’t going to swallow all of Europe, however likely that looked in the spring of 1947.


[1] [20] The actual title of the book on publication date was Nineteen Eighty-Four in London (Secker & Warburg) on June 8, 1949; and 1984 on June 13, 1949 in New York (Harcourt Brace). Orwell and his publisher slightly preferred the numerals, but chose to go with the words for the London edition. Orwell used both styles interchangeably – obviously one is more convenient to type. (George Orwell: A Life in Letters, Ed. Peter Davison [London: W.W. Norton], 2010.)

[2] [21] Cyril Connolly, “Year Nine,” collected in The Condemned Playground (London: Routledge, 1945), originally published in The New Statesman, January 1938. Connolly was inspired by a visit to the “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich, where he got the uneasy sense he was expected to leer with a disapproving expression.

[3] [22] Clive Fisher, Cyril Connolly (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).

[4] [23] Connolly, The Condemned Playground.

[5] [24] Connolly, The Condemned Playground.

[6] [25] George Orwell, “Such, Such Were the Joys,” Partisan Review, Vol. 19, No. 5 (New York), Sept.-Oct. 1952.

[7] [26] Paul Owen, “1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot? [27]”, The Guardian, 8 June 2009.

[8] [28] E. (or Y.) Zamyatin, We, tr. Gregory Zilboorg (New York: E. P. Dutton), 1924. This English-language edition was actually the first publication of We.

[9] [29] George Orwell, review of WeTribune (London), January 4, 1946.

[10] [30] George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, many editions. Originally: London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1936.

[11] [31] James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution (New York: John Day, 1941).

[12] [32] James Burnham, The Struggle for the World (New York: John Day, 1947).

[13] [33] Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part III, iii.

[14] [34] James Burnham, The Struggle for the World (New York: John Day, 1947).

[15] [35] George Orwell, “James Burnham’s view of the contemporary world struggle,” New Leader (New York), March 29, 1947.


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/06/your-nineteen-eighty-four-sources-in-full/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/6-7-19-33.jpg

[2] The New Statesman: https://www.newstatesman.com/books/2013/03/fitzgerald-woolf-and-j-g-ballard-five-classic-book-reviews-ns-archive

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[7] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/6-7-19-40.jpeg

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[15] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/6-7-19-41.jpg

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[27] 1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot?: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/jun/08/george-orwell-1984-zamyatin-we

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jeudi, 02 mai 2019

Misreading Animal Farm


Misreading Animal Farm

If you’re seeing a lot of Nineteen Eighty-Four editions showing up in bookstores these days, it’s because 2019 marks the seventieth anniversary of the novel’s publication. And I suppose next year we’ll see even more Orwelliana, because we have the seventieth anniversary of George Orwell’s death in January, followed by the seventy-fifth anniversary of Animal Farm.

Of all the popular literature of the past century, those two books are among the ones that people in the English-speaking world are most likely to have read – or at least imagine they’ve read. (Notice I say the English-speaking world, thereby neatly skating around the juvenile fodder that pimply adolescents in America get assigned year after year – the Mockingbird one and the Gatsby one, and those books about prep-school boys in the 1940s.)

The Orwell storylines are starkly simple, easily put into one-line elevator pitches that anyone would recognize:

In a totalitarian hell, doomed lovers dream of rebelling, but get tortured and killed.

Animals take over a farm, but their cruel pig bosses make their lives harder than ever.

As with so many stories that are too easily simplified, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm are grossly misperceived in popular understanding and CliffsNotes-level criticism. Winston and Julia’s slave-state dystopia often got dismissed as a nightmarish vision of the future, or else an unsubtle condemnation of Stalinism. But really, it’s mainly a book about political propaganda: the slogans, the posters, the slant on the news (forever being rewritten to serve the party line of the day) – all inspired by Orwell’s own experience writing broadcasts at the Ministry of Truth (BBC Broadcasting House). And, of course, those inescapable telescreens continually shouting at you, like the hectoring CNN flatscreens that now disfigure every airport concourse and waiting area. Large chunks of the book are given over to discussions of how to enforce politically correct speech (herein called Newspeak), as well as a letter-perfect lampoon of a Marxist political tract called The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.

One could spend pages upon pages dissecting all the pastiches, black-comedy turns, and inside jokes that Orwell put into his Big Brother book, and no doubt I shall very soon. Today, though, I want to focus on the shorter, earlier book, the one with the talking animals. It covers many of the same themes that are expanded upon later, and like Nineteen Eighty-Four is stuffed with parody (Orwell actually writes two different “patriotic” songs for the animals to sing), and is itself an extended spoof of jolly children’s books about Life on the Farm with the Friendly Cow. There are long snatches of the narrative that are positively irenic: Boxer and Clover, the drayhorses, and Benjamin the donkey, all cheerfully working in the sunshine.

You can see why, in the original CIA-funded animated film of Animal Farm (1954), there was an irresistible push to tack on a happy ending, in which the animals mount another rebellion and throw out their pig masters. Presumably, this was a hopeful nod of encouragement directed at the new slave satrapies behind the Iron Curtain.

Animal-Farm-Poster.jpgWhen Orwell finished Animal Farm in 1945, it was a very bad time to promote anti-Communist books with talking animals. This one was too clearly an allegory about the Bolshevik Revolution and the Stalinist aftermath, as subtle as a cow-pie (one barnyard feature that does not appear in the book). Over two dozen publishers rejected it promptly; Churchill’s coalition government had been touting a pro-Soviet line since 1941. Against this background, Animal Farm was about as welcome as a sympathetic book review of Mein Kampf (which Orwell did in fact once publish, during the Phony War period).

Though he liked to describe himself as a Man of the Left, that was mainly window-dressing to maintain his literary viability. He was a socialist, but one with a very deep nationalist streak (as anyone reading “England, Your England” or “In Defence of P.G. Wodehouse” grasps immediately). He thought the Reds were gunning for him, figuratively and literally – and maybe they were.

Around the time he finished Animal Farm, he met Ernest Hemingway at the Ritz in Paris and asked to borrow a pistol, because the Russians had tried to kill him in Spain and still wanted him dead. Hemingway thought the old boy was overwrought, but found him a Colt .32. (This is recounted in Hemingway’s posthumous True at First Light.)

And yet, Animal Farm isn’t really a straightforward allegory about the Soviet Union. What it really is, is subtle propaganda that pretends to share the prejudices and idioms of a Parlor Pink or Fellow Traveler of the 1935-45 period. Orwell’s trick is what is known today in Internet culture as concern-trolling. Concern-trolling is when you insert yourself into an ongoing discussion or dispute, and feign sympathy with the participants’ viewpoint. Then, gradually and unctuously, you raise mild objections to the consensus belief. These quibbles confuse your interlocutors, sending the discussion off into a new direction. You might not get your new friends to reverse their opinions, but you’ve certainly planted some doubts.

The Leftist verities that Orwell pretends to endorse can be really preposterous. Yet even today, many people accept them unquestioningly as dogma. Some of the more egregious examples:

  1. The (Bolshevik) Revolution was a Good Thing.
  2. But it was betrayed and ruined by Napoleon the Pig (Stalin).
  3. The animals (Soviet people) were much happier and more prosperous after the Revolution than before.
  4. Religion (i.e., Christianity) is an unnecessary, false, wasteful distraction.
  5. After the Revolution, Animal Farm (Russia) was more enlightened than its rivals, which were cruel and corrupt, and oppressed their workers.

In order for Animal Farm to work as political propaganda, you pretty much have to accept most of these premises. You have to suspend disbelief and make yourself a wide-eyed fool willing to believe such obnoxious pap as, “Communism can build Heaven on Earth, but it’s never really been tried!”

Orwell completely avoids some matters that would have made his fairy tale unpublishable. There is the Jewish Question. Most of the leading Bolsheviks were Jews, and that is a very difficult fact to finesse. (Stalin, of course, was not; but his wife and best friend were.) Certainly, it must have been on Orwell’s mind throughout the writing. Perhaps this is why he made the lead animals pigs; for pork is most unkosher. Yes, the author is saying, the pigs are the Bolsheviks, so I’m not saying the Bolsheviks were Jews. (I am reminded that when Art Spiegelman drew his Maus graphic novel in the 1980s, he portrayed the Poles as pigs, thus emphasizing that they were very, very un-Jewish.)

AF-pig.jpgBut the use of pigs raises all sorts of other complications. All the male pigs but Napoleon, we are told, have been castrated. This fact is introduced late in the book, and rather obliquely: “Napoleon was the only boar on the farm.” But hold on: Napoleon has sired many porkers, presumably male often as not. Surely they’re still intact – some of them, anyway. Is Orwell just being forgetful, or does he fear certain distasteful matters will slow down the story?

The pigs bothered a lot of publishers’ readers when Orwell sent the typescript around. Jonathan Cape wanted to publish the book, but only if the pigs were swapped out for something else. “It would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs.”

Over at Faber & Faber, T. S. Eliot liked it, too, but turned it down with a perversely hilarious rejection letter, wondering why the pigs had to be villains:

[A]fter all, your pigs are far more intellectual than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact, there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue), was not more communism but more public spirited pigs.[1] [2]

The Animal Farm/USSR analogy really goes off the rails with the depiction of the two rival neighboring farmers, Frederick and Pilkington. These stand in for Britain and France, on the one hand, and Germany on the other, in the years leading up to the Second World War. Like Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is always at war with either Eastasia or Eurasia, the pigs at Animal Farm are forever making alliances with Frederick or Pilkington. Frederick and Pilkington, moreover, are forever scheming to overpower or swindle Animal Farm. And they often succeed, because the pigs are greedy and shortsighted.

But this is the reverse of what actually happened with the USSR and its geopolitical rivals and allies. From the 1920s onward, the Soviets were always trying to penetrate Western intelligence services and political parties. Conversely, there was little or no attempt on the part of Britain or France, or even Germany, to set up espionage networks in the USSR. So far from being a duped victim, perpetually gulled and taken advantage of, the USSR was always the sly aggressor. In every wartime conference where he showed up – Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam – Stalin was always the one who stacked the deck and came out with a winning hand.

At the end of Animal Farm, we see the farmers and pigs at table together, all looking very much alike. The suggestion is that the Revolution has failed because the neighboring farmers knew how to lead the pigs astray.

What Orwell is doing here, again, is inverting reality in a bid for sympathy, cozening us into believing that Britain and France – and Germany – were the bad guys all along. Of course, he didn’t believe this, but he needed a finish to the story, so he drove home the moral that the Revolution had been betrayed. Pigs are bad and humans are bad, but the doltish animals at Animal Farm are still idealistic and good.

It’s a weak, confused ending, and thoroughly dishonest. Orwell doesn’t believe it for a moment. He knows the Soviets are evil, murderous shits, and even now they’re out to kill him.

On the other hand, Animal Farm was written as a didactic fable. When you write talking-animal propaganda, you can’t be expected to tell the truth.


[1] [3] These quotations are taken from Jeffrey Meyers, Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001).


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/05/misreading-animal-farm/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/5-1-19-2.jpg

[2] [1]: #_ftn1

[3] [1]: #_ftnref1


jeudi, 28 mars 2019

Michael Snyder et la dystopie californienne


Michael Snyder et la dystopie californienne

Par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: https://leblogalupus.com

Les films de dystopie (Blade runner, Rollerball, Soleil vert) nous promettaient un futur abominable et surréaliste, et en vérité nous avons un futur nul qui confirme l’observation de Léon Bloy faite en 1906, à savoir que nous sommes déjà morts. On est dans un monde bête, laid, matérialiste, certes surpeuplé, mais qui ne va pas trop mal, qui fonctionne globalement. Ce n’est pas grave, on continue dans les fictions de nous promettre un futur abominable au lieu de nous montrer notre présent cher et dégoûtant… Il semble que ce pessimisme extra soit de mise dans nos sociétés pour établir la dictature ou cet imprécis ordre mondial dont rêve une partie des élites humanitaires. On nous promet le pire pour nous donner des ordres. Mais c’est un autre sujet… je maintiens que le seul film de dystopie réaliste reste Alphaville puisqu’il montrait notre décor, notre apparence de réalité, mais truffé de contrôle mental et cybernétique. C’est bien là que nous sommes, et pas dans les espaces infinis.

ms-bend.jpgJe lis Michael Snyder et son blog apocalyptique depuis des années et je fais donc attention chaque fois qu’à la télévision on montre des images de la vie quotidienne en Amérique. Or de petits films sur mes espagnols à travers le monde démontrent qu’effectivement les conditions de vie aux USA sont devenues sinistres et hors de prix, sans qu’on puisse évoquer la poétique de Blade runner…Plusieurs amis fortunés qui font aussi des allers et retours et m’ont confirmé que le vieil oncle Sam coûte bien cher, comme Paris, Londres et des milliers d’endroits (même se loger en Bolivie devient un exploit, vive Morales-Bolivar-Chavez…), pour ce qu’il offre ; d’autres amis moins fortunés, universitaires, survivent durement. Car il y a en plus les persécutions politiques qui gagent nos si bienveillantes démocraties…

On écoute les dernières révélations de Snyder sur la Californie :

« 53% des californiens veulent partir… Cela montre simplement ce qui peut arriver lorsque vous laissez des fous diriger un État pendant plusieurs décennies. Dans les années 1960 et 1970, la possibilité de s’établir sur la côte ouest était «le rêve californien» de millions de jeunes Américains, mais à présent, «le rêve californien» s’est transformé en «cauchemar californien».

Snyder ajoute ce que nous savons par le cinéma (qui ment toujours moins que les news) :

« Les villes sont massivement surpeuplées, la Californie connaît le pire trafic du monde occidental, la consommation de drogue et l’immigration clandestine alimentent un nombre incroyable de crimes, les taux d’imposition sont abominables et de nombreux politiciens de l’état semblent être littéralement fous. Et en plus de tout cela, n’oublions pas les tremblements de terre, les incendies de forêt et les glissements de terrain qui font constamment les gros titres dans le monde entier. L’année dernière a été la pire année pour les feux de forêt dans l’histoire de la Californie , et ces jours-ci, il semble que l’État soit frappé par une nouvelle crise toutes les quelques semaines. »

calg.jpgEn vérité les gens supporteraient tout (« l’homme s’habitue à tout », dixit Dostoïevski dans la maison des morts), mais le problème est que cette m… au quotidien est hors de prix ! Donc…

« Un nombre croissant de Californiens envisagent de quitter l’État – non pas à cause d’incendies de forêt ou de tremblements de terre, mais à cause du coût de la vie extrêmement élevé, selon un sondage publié mercredi. Le sondage en ligne, mené le mois dernier par Edelman Intelligence, a révélé que 53% des Californiens interrogés envisagent de fuir, ce qui représente un bond par rapport aux 49% interrogés l’année dernière. L’enquête a révélé que le désir de quitter le pays le plus peuplé du pays était le plus élevé. »

On évoque les règlementations de cet état exemplaire pour tous les progressistes et sociétaux de la foutue planète :

« Grâce à des restrictions de construction absolument ridicules, il est devenu de plus en plus difficile de construire de nouveaux logements dans l’État. Mais entre-temps, des gens du monde entier continuent à s’y installer car ils sont attirés par ce qu’ils voient à la télévision. »

Notre grand pessimiste documenté précise :

« En conséquence, l’offre de logements n’a pas suivi la demande et les prix ont explosé ces dernières années. Les chiffres suivants proviennent de CNBC …

À l’échelle de l’État, la valeur médiane des maisons en Californie s’élevait à 547 400 $ à la fin de 2018, tandis que la valeur médiane des maisons aux États – Unis était de 223 900 $ . À titre de comparaison, la valeur médiane des maisons dans l’État de New York s’établissait à 289 000 dollars et à 681 500 dollars à New York; New Jersey était 324 700 $. Oui, il y a beaucoup d’emplois bien rémunérés en Californie, mais vous feriez mieux d’avoir un très bon travail pour pouvoir payer les paiements hypothécaires d’une maison valant un demi-million de dollars. »

Du coup il faut vivre avec des colocataires, même en couple !

« Bien sûr, de nombreux Californiens se retrouvent dans une situation financière extrêmement pénible en raison de coûts de logement incontrôlables. Ils sont donc plus nombreux que jamais à emménager avec des colocataires. En fait, un rapport récent a révélé que le nombre de couples mariés vivant avec des colocataires «a doublé depuis 1995» … Le nombre de couples mariés vivant avec des colocataires a doublé depuis 1995, selon un rapport récent du site immobilier Trulia. Environ 280 000 personnes mariées vivent maintenant avec un colocataire – et cela est particulièrement vrai dans les villes coûteuses comme celles de la côte ouest. »

La Californie n’est pas seule dans ce cas :

« À Honolulu et à Orange Country, en Californie, la part des couples mariés avec des colocataires est quatre à cinq fois supérieure au taux national. San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego et Seattle ont également des taux très élevés de couples mariés avec colocataires. Ces mêmes villes ont des coûts de location et de logements très supérieurs à la moyenne (Trulia note que les coûts de logement dans tous ces marchés ont augmenté de plus de 30% depuis 2009), les habitants de San Francisco, extrêmement coûteux, ont besoin de plus de 123 000 dollars de revenus pour vivre confortablement… »

Puisqu’on parle d’Honolulu, je ne saurais trop recommander, sur la dystopie hawaïenne, le film d’Alexander Payne avec Clooney, film nommé justement les Descendants, qui traite du néant dans la vie postmoderne. Honolulu, un Chicago au prix de Monaco. Dire qu’il y en a encore pour critiquer Rousseau…

calcrazy.pngLes impôts pleuvent comme en France :

« En plus des coûts de logement, de nombreux Californiens sont grandement frustrés par les niveaux de taxation oppressifs dans l’État. À ce stade, l’État a le taux d’imposition marginal le plus élevé de tout le pays … Avec 12,3%, la Californie est en tête des 50 États en 2018 avec le taux d’imposition marginal le plus élevé, selon la Federation of Tax Administrators ; et cela n’inclut pas une surtaxe supplémentaire de 1% pour les Californiens ayant des revenus de 1 million de dollars ou plus. »

Evidemment on a d’autres privilèges culturels…Snyder :

« Hier, j’ai écrit un article intitulé «Les rats, la défécation publique et la consommation de drogue à ciel ouvert: nos grandes villes occidentales sont en train de devenir des enfers inhabitables» , et cela a déclenché une tempête de feu. Plus de 1 000 commentaires ont déjà été publiés sur cet article, et quelques personnes enthousiastes ont tenté de convaincre le reste d’entre nous que la vie sur la côte ouest n’est pas si mauvaise. Je suis désolé, mais si votre ville compte beaucoup plus de toxicomanes par voie intraveineuse que d’élèves du secondaire, ce n’est pas un endroit où je voudrais fonder une famille … »

La conclusion pas très gaie :

« Au total, environ 5 millions de personnes ont fait leurs valises et ont quitté définitivement la Californie au cours des 10 dernières années. Malheureusement, la nation tout entière est en train de devenir comme la Californie et si nous ne renversons pas les choses, il n’y aura plus de place où aller. »

C’est TS Eliot, cité dans Apocalypse now, qui dans ses Hommes creuxévoque ce monde qui ne finira pas dans une déflagration, mais dans un pleurnichement (not in a bang but a whimper). Nous y sommes et cette agonie interminable peut encore bien durer cent ans…


J’ajouterai cet extrait de Ron Unz sur la Californie :

« Le style de vie californien, riche et extrêmement agréable, de l’après-guerre, était largement reconnu aux États-Unis, et ce leurre magnétique fut à l’origine des premières étapes de la croissance démographique très rapide de l’État. Mais plus récemment, les effets néfastes de la congestion routière, des options de logement épouvantables et de la concurrence acharnée sur le marché de l’emploi ont considérablement réduit l’attrait de l’État. La croissance a fortement diminué , en partie parce que l’afflux continu d’immigrants a été partiellement compensé par un départsimultané de résidents existants. »



mardi, 20 février 2018

Comment Internet et l'informatique ont créé notre dystopie


Comment Internet et l'informatique ont créé notre dystopie

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

Pendant que nous avons le nez plongé dans nos portables ou nos écrans d’ordinateur, le monde s’endette, s’enlaidit et s’appauvrit. Les huit hommes les plus riches du monde ont autant que les quatre ou cinq milliards les plus pauvres, et cent millions de gamines pas forcément idiotes s’extasient tous les jours de la page Instagram de la fille Jenner. On peut continuer pendant des pages…

Les hommes les plus riches du monde sont souvent jeunes et sortis de la nouvelle économie. Ils hypnotisent ou contrôlent des milliards d’hommes (Alfred Hitchcock parle d’une orgue dont les touches sont l’humanité, et que les malins font résonner à volonté), emploient des milliers ou des millions de personnes en Inde ou ailleurs, et payés au lance-pièces. La globalisation est néo-féodale et divise le monde en deux castes principales : les brainlords, les manipulateurs de symboles, qui ont détruit les classes moyennes en occident par le « progrès technologique » (défense d’exploser de rire) et les techno-serfs. On va tout expliquer.

Voici comment j’annonçais la situation présente à la fin de mon livre sur Internet nouvelle voie initiatique (les Belles lettres, 2000), traduit en portugais et recensé par Roger-Pol Droit dans le Monde.

« Si le programme de la nouvelle économie est la richesse et l'information pour tout le monde, la réalité est tout autre. Robert Reich avait déjà remarqué en 1990 que l'informatique ne nourrissait pas du tout son homme. Il distingue une élite, des cadres et des mainteneurs, chargés de vider ou de recharger les machines. L'assemblage des ordinateurs ne coûte guère non plus, quand il est fait au Mexique ou en Malaisie.

L'externalisation vers les pays les plus pauvres est contemporaine de cette explosion de richesses soudaines concentrée entre les mains de quelques-uns. 85 % de la croissance boursière américaine est restée entre les mains de 10 % de la population. En France même, paradis autoproclamé du socialisme, les richesses boursières ont décuplé en dix ans ; et pendant que les médias célèbrent les stock-options et les richesses en papier des créateurs de start-up, ils passent sous silence les difficultés de dix millions de personnes.

Drucker-portrait-bkt_1014.jpgL'émergence d'une nouvelle économie techno-féodale qui distingue les information rich et les information-poor (et certes il ne suffit pas de se connecter sur le réseau pour être information rich) fait les délices des polémistes. Le gourou du management moderne Peter Drucker (photo) dénonce cette société qui fonctionne non plus à deux mais à dix vitesses : « Il y a aujourd'hui une attention démesurée portée aux revenus et à la richesse. Cela détruit l'esprit d'équipe. » Drucker comme le stupide Toffler, qui devraient se rappeler que Dante les mettrait au purgatoire en tant que faux devins, font mine de découvrir que la pure compétition intellectuelle génère encore plus d'inégalités que la compétition physique. C'est bien pour cela que les peuples dont les cultures symboliques sont les plus anciennes se retrouvent leaders de la Nouvelle Économie.

C'est encore un artiste, un écrivain de science-fiction, qui a le mieux décrit le monde féodal en train d'émerger, et qui disloque les schémas keynésiens archaïques.

neuromancer_by_davidsimpson2112-d4ft3sr.jpgWilliam Gibson, l'inventeur du cyberspace, imaginait en 1983 une société duale gouvernée par l'aristocratie des cyber-cowboys naviguant dans les sphères virtuelles. La plèbe des non-connectés était désignée comme la viande. Elle relève de l'ancienne économie et de la vie ordinaire dénoncée par les ésotéristes. La nouvelle élite vit entre deux jets et deux espaces virtuels, elle décide de la consommation de tous, ayant une fois pour toutes assuré le consommateur qu'il n'a jamais été aussi libre ou si responsable. Dans une interview diffusée sur le Net, Gibson, qui est engagé à gauche et se bat pour un Internet libertaire, dénonce d'ailleurs la transformation de l'Amérique en dystopie (deux millions de prisonniers, quarante millions de travailleurs non assurés...).

Lui-même souffre d'agoraphobie cyber-spatiale et ne se connecte jamais ; mais il encourage les pauvres, I’underclass, à le faire pour oublier ou dépasser le cauchemar social américain. Et de regretter que pendant les émeutes de Los Angeles les pauvres ne volaient pas d'ordinateurs, seulement des appareils hi-fi ... Comme nos progressistes, Gibson n'admet pas que les pauvres ne veuillent pas leur bien. Une classe de cyber-shérifs obligera sans doute un jour les pauvres et les autres à se connecter pour leur bien.

Pour Michael Vlahos, dans la Byte City de l'an 2020 qu'il décrit sur le Web, les castes dirigeantes regrouperont les gens les mieux informés. Ce sont les brainlords. Viennent ensuite les cyber-yuppies puis les cyber-serfs, le peuple perdu (on retrouve cette division chez Reich, Huxley, et mon ami Raymond Abellio avait recyclé les castes hindoues dans ses romans du huitième jour). L'inégalité n'est ici pas dénoncée avec des larmes de crocodiles, elle est au contraire encouragée et célébrée avec cynisme. Pendant longtemps – avant la révolution industrielle - les forts en thème et en maths n'ont pas été riches ; ils le deviennent avec le réseau, la technologie et le néocapitalisme qui ne récompense plus seulement les meilleurs, mais les plus intelligents. C'est à une domination néo-cléricale qu'il faut s'attendre maintenant. Abellio me parlait du retour de la caste sacerdotale ; lui-même écrivit deux livres sur la bible comme document chiffré (voyez mon chapitre sur la technognose).

lessard1.pngLes rois de l'algorithme vont détrôner les rois du pétrole. Les malchanceux ont un internaute fameux, Bill Lessard (photo), qui dénonce cette nouvelle pauvreté de la nouvelle économie. Lessard évoque cinq millions de techno-serfs dans la Nouvelle Économie, qui sont à Steve Case ce que le nettoyeur de pare-brise de Bogota est au patron de la General Motors. Dans la pyramide sociale de Lessard, qui rappelle celle du film Blade Runner (le roi de la biomécanique trône au sommet pendant que les miséreux s'entassent dans les rues), on retrouve les « éboueurs » qui entretiennent les machines, les travailleurs sociaux ou webmasters, les « codeurs » ou chauffeurs de taxi, les cow-boys ou truands de casino, les chercheurs d'or ou gigolos, les chefs de projet ou cuisiniers, les prêtres ou fous inspirés, les robots ou ingénieurs, enfin les requins des affaires. Seuls les quatre derniers groupes sont privilégiés. Le rêve futuriste de la science-fiction est plus archaïque que jamais. Et il est en train de se réaliser, à coups de bulle financière et de fusions ...

Gibson reprend dans son roman le thème gnostique du rejet du corps. Case « taille des ouvertures dans de riches banques de données », il est donc un hacker. Puni, il voit son système nerveux endommagé par une myxotonine russe (toujours ces Russes ! Sont-ils utiles tout de même !), et c’est « la Chute. Dans les bars qu'il fréquentait du temps de sa gloire, l'attitude élitiste exigeait un certain mépris pour la chair. Le corps, c'était de la viande. Case était tombé dans la prison de sa propre chair. »


Gibson a popularisé le cyberspace. Le héros Case, un cow-boy donc, avait « projeté sa conscience désincarnée au sein de l'hallucination consensuelle qu'était la matrice ». L'expression « hallucination consensuelle » évoque les univers conditionnés de Philip K. Dick, elle évoque surtout le réseau des réseaux, paramétré pour nous faire vivre une seconde et meilleure vie. « La matrice tire ses origines des jeux vidéo, explique Gibson, des tout premiers programmes holographiques et des expérimentations militaires ... une guerre spatiale en deux dimensions s'évanouit derrière une forêt de fougères générées de manière mathématique, démontrant les possibilités spatiales de spirales logarithmiques ... le cyberspace est une représentation graphique extraite des mémoires de tous les ordinateurs du système humain ... des traits de lumière disposés dans le non-espace de l'esprit. »

Cet univers algorithmique et non-spatial est dominé par des Modernes, « version contemporaine des grands savants du temps de ses vingt ans ... des mercenaires, des rigolos, des techno-fétichistes nihilistes ». Gibson nous fait comprendre de qui ces Modernes sont les héritiers : « Pendant des milliers d'années, les hommes ont rêvé de pactes avec les démons. »

Sur ces questions lisez Erik Davies.

Le monde techno-paranoïaque de Gibson, où l'on est identifié par son code de Turing, est dirigé par des multinationales à qui il donne le fameux nom nippon de zaibatsu. Ces derniers, « qui modèlent le cours de l'histoire humaine, avaient transcendé les vieilles barrières. Vus comme des organismes, ils étaient parvenus à une sorte d'immortalité ». Le Neuromancien s'achève par la vision d'une araignée cybernétique qui tisse sa toile pendant le sommeil de tous (…).


Les brainlords nous laissent miroiter la noosphère, et accaparent la bonne terre. Ils sont les dignes héritiers des évêques médiévaux. Evoquons la résistance maintenant.

L'injustice moderne génère alors ses hérétiques et ses rebelles, les hackers. Les hackers, ou pirates du Web, sont les nouveaux brigands de la société techno-féodale. Sans scrupules et surdoués, ils reproduisent les archétypes des voleurs de Bagdad et des Mandrins d'antan. C'est sans doute pour cela qu'ils sont rarement condamnés sévèrement: ils suscitent trop d'admiration. Ils sont susceptibles d'autre part de pirater les puissants, sociétés, administrations, portails importants, et donc de venger l'internaute moyen. Ils font peur, comme le dieu Loki de la mythologie scandinave qui passe des farces et attrapes au Ragnarök ; car ils peuvent déclencher l'apocalypse virtuelle qui fascine tout le monde et justifient les stocks d'or ou les garde-manger des milices et des paranoïaques.


Le hacker représente le dernier bandit de l'histoire, et le premier criminel du cyberspace. Il y a une mystique du hacker qui recoupe celle du Graal. C'est le très professionnel Mark Pesce qui l'affirme dans un texte baptisé Ignition et adressé aux world movers, aux cyber-nomades du Grand Esprit. L'inventeur du langage virtuel énonce les vérités suivantes : « Commençons par l'objet de notre désir. Il existe, il a existé de tout temps, et il continuera éternellement. Il a retenu l'attention des mystiques, des sorcières et des hackers de toutes les époques. C'est le Graal. La mythologie du Sangraal - du Saint-Graal - est l'archétype de l'illumination retirée.

La révélation du Graal est toujours une expérience personnelle et unique ... Je sais – parce que je l'ai entendu d'innombrables fois de beaucoup de gens dans le monde - que le moment de la révélation est l'élément commun de notre expérience en tant que communauté. Le Graal est notre ferme fondation. »


Le cyberspace de Pesce correspond à l'espace sacré antérieur décrit par Mircea Eliade. Dans un monde pollué et réifié par la consommation touristique, le cyberspace devient le nec plus ultra du pèlerinage mystique.

Pesce présente ici le hacker comme un mystique hérétique en quête du Graal. Le Graal est lié au centre sacré, Montsalvat ou le château du roi-pêcheur. Il est père nourricier, donne vie éternelle et santé, et la connaissance absolue du monde : tout ce qui est attendu par les prêtres du cyberspace et du Net, censés résoudre toutes les contradictions de l'humanité. Le hacker dans ce cadre fait figure de chevalier sauvage. L'expression chevalier sauvage désigne le guerrier initié, soumis à la solitude et à l'effroi des lieux les plus sinistres, mais également à la volonté du Bien, celui qui comme Lancelot n'a pas un sillon de terre et qui sillonne toute la terre pour quérir les aventures les plus étranges et merveilleuses. Comme le jongleur (joker de Batman, homme qui rit de Hugo), initié mué en bouffon, l'extraordinaire Lancelot se déplace sans cesse dans un espace-temps où rien ne le retient, si ce n'est ce lien particulier qui le relie à l'Esprit, et qui est figuré par sa Dame la Reine, source de de vie et de sagesse pour tout chevalier sauvage, tout Fidèle d' Amour. Montsalvat est un lieu où l'espace rejoint le temps, comme dit Wagner. L'ère numérique répond ainsi à des aspirations immémoriales.


Nicolas Bonnal – Perceval et la reine (alchimie et ésotérisme dans la littérature arthurienne, préface de Nicolas Richer, professeur à l’EN.S., Amazon.fr) – Internet nouvelle voie initiatique (Amazon.fr, Avatar éditions) – Comment les peuples sont devenus jetables (Amazon.fr)

William Gibson – Le neuromancien (Editions j’ai lu)

Erik Davies – Techgnosis

Roger-Pol-Droit-.jpgRoger-Pol Droit, "Les démons du web" (29.09.2000). Je cite un extrait de son article :

« Nicolas Bonnal brosse le portrait de cette résurgence de vieilles terreurs sur les réseaux nouveaux. D'après lui, nous serions en pleine croissance de la technognose. Ainsi, le « w » correspondant en hébreu au chiffre 6, beaucoup se préoccuperaient aujourd'hui que le World Wide Web (www) équivale à 666, soit le chiffre de la Bête dans l'Apocalypse de Jean. Le Net, ce serait le filet contre lequel Job se battait déjà. Dans la kabbale, il n'est question, comme sur Internet, que de portails, de codes, de nœuds. Comme dans la gnose, la vieille lutte contre le corps, ses pesanteurs et ses incohérences, est à l'ordre du jour : certains rêvent d'entrer dans le réseau, de devenir téléchargeables, de survivre comme pure information. Pour ces anges New Age, évidemment, notre viande est une gêne. Ils rêvent de n'être que lumière, instantanément diffusée dans un monde sans pesanteur ni animalité.

Les hackers, ces pirates qui contournent les barrières et les mesures de sécurité des systèmes informatiques, sont les chevaliers d'Internet, selon Nicolas Bonnal. Déjouer les plus retorses défenses est leur quête du Graal, aussi interminable que celle des compagnons du roi Arthur. Ce ne serait donc pas un hasard si les jeux de rôles - donjons, dragons et autres occasions de mortels combats - se sont développés sur la Toile de manière spectaculaire. Les ordinateurs se délectent d'anciennes légendes. Ils brassent allégrement Pythagore et la Kabbale, des secrets chiffrés et des mœurs médiévales. On les croyait postmodernes. Ils risquent de se révéler préclassiques.

…Nicolas Bonnal, en dépit de certaines imperfections, met le doigt sur une question importante : le monde hypertechnique est aussi un univers mythologique, régressif, crédule, traversé éventuellement de toutes les hantises et les phobies des âges les plus anciens, celles que l'on avait cru trop vite révolues. Sans doute ne faut-il pas noircir aussitôt le tableau. Il n'est pas vrai que nos disques durs soient truffés de signes maléfiques et nos modems peuplés de gremlins prêts à bondir. Mais il y a une tendance. Une sorte de boucle possible entre l'avenir et le passé. Le futur risque d'être archaïque. On pense à ce mot attribué à Einstein : “Je ne sais pas comment la troisième guerre mondiale sera menée, mais je sais comment le sera la quatrième : avec des bâtons et des pierres.” » 

mercredi, 07 février 2018

Néo-totalitarisme: Huxley fait le point en 1957


Néo-totalitarisme: Huxley fait le point en 1957

Les carnets de Nicolas Bonnal

Nota : ce texte est long et dûment référencé. Il apparaîtra pessimiste à certains.

On est en 1957. Sputnik fait rêver les plus conditionnés, mais Aldous Huxley rappelle :

« En 1931, alors que j'écrivais Le Meilleur des Mondes, j'étais convaincu que le temps ne pressait pas encore. La société intégralement organisée, le système scientifique des castes, l'abolition du libre arbitre par conditionnement méthodique, la servitude rendue tolérable par des doses régulières de bonheur chimiquement provoqué, les dogmes orthodoxes enfoncés dans les cervelles pendant le -sommeil au moyen des cours de nuit, tout cela approchait; se réaliserait bien sûr, mais ni de mon vivant, ni même du vivant de mes petits-enfants. »

Il fait un constat après la guerre, comme Bertrand de Jouvenel :

« Vingt-sept ans plus tard, dans ce troisième quart du vingtième siècle après J-C. et bien longtemps avant la fin du premier siècle après F., je suis beaucoup moins optimiste que je l'étais en écrivant Le Meilleur des Mondes. Les prophéties faites en 1931 se réalisent bien plus tôt que je le pensais. L'intervalle béni entre trop de désordre et trop d'ordre n'a pas commencé et rien n'indique qu'il le fera jamais. En Occident, il est vrai, hommes et femmes jouissent encore dans une appréciable mesure de la liberté individuelle, mais même dans les pays qui ont une longue tradition de gouvernement démocratique cette liberté, voire le désir de la posséder, paraissent en déclin. Dans le reste du monde, elle a déjà disparu, ou elle est sur le point de le faire. Le cauchemar de l'organisation intégrale que j'avais situé dans le septième siècle après F. a surgi de lointains dont l'éloignement rassurait et nous guette maintenant au premier tournant. »

AH-MdM1.jpgLe communisme a facilement chuté partout finalement mais il a été remplacé parce que Debord nomme le spectaculaire intégré. Tocqueville déjà disait « qu’en démocratie on laisse le corps pour s’attaquer à l’âme. »

Le futur c’est la carotte plutôt que le bâton (cf. mes textes sur Tocqueville, Nietzsche ou le film Network) :

« A la lumière de ce que nous avons récemment appris sur le comportement animal en général et sur le comportement humain en particulier, il est devenu évident que le contrôle par répression des attitudes non conformes est moins efficace, au bout du compte, que le contrôle par renforcement des attitudes satisfaisantes au moyen de récompenses et que, dans l'ensemble, la terreur en tant que procédé de gouvernement rend moins bien que la manipulation non violente du milieu, des pensées et des sentiments de l'individu. »

La manipulation est donc à l’ordre du jour :

« Pendant ce temps, des forces impersonnelles sur lesquelles nous n'avons presque aucun contrôle semblent nous pousser tous dans la direction du cauchemar de mon anticipation et cette impulsion déshumanisée est sciemment accélérée par les représentants d'organisations commerciales et politiques qui ont mis au point nombre de nouvelles techniques pour manipuler, dans l'intérêt de quelque minorité, les pensées et les sentiments des masses. »

La clé du système est son renforcement par la démographie explosive :

« De plus, l'accroissement annuel lui-même s'accroît : régulièrement, selon la règle des intérêts composés et irrégulièrement aussi, à chaque application, par une société technologiquement retardataire, des principes de la Santé publique. A l'heure présente, cet excédent atteint 43 millions environ pour l'ensemble du globe, ce qui signifie que tous les quatre ans l'humanité ajoute à ses effectifs l'équivalent de la population actuelle des Etats-Unis - tous les huit ans et demi l'équivalent de la population actuelle des Indes. »

Huxley remet à sa place les blablas sur la pseudo-conquête spatiale :

« Une nouvelle ère est censée avoir commencé le 4 octobre 1957, mais en réalité, dans l'état présent du monde, tout notre exubérant bavardage post-spoutnik est hors de propos, voire même absurde. En ce qui concerne les masses de l'humanité, l'âge qui vient ne sera pas celui de l'Espace cosmique, mais celui de la surpopulation. »

Conséquence ? Les « trous à merde » de Donald :

« Les faits contrôlables semblent indiquer assez nettement que dans la plupart des pays sous-développés, le sort de l'individu s'est détérioré de façon appréciable au cours du dernier demi-siècle. Les habitants sont plus mal nourris; il existe moins de biens de consommation disponibles par tête et pratiquement tous les efforts faits pour améliorer la situation ont été annulés par l'impitoyable pression d'un accroissement continu de la population. »

Le « plus froid des monstres froids » (Nietzsche) va se développer. Une remarque digne de Jouvenel :

« Ainsi, des pouvoirs de plus en plus grands sont concentrés entre les mains de l'exécutif et de ses bureaucrates. Or, la nature du pouvoir est telle que même ceux qui ne l'ont pas recherché mais à qui il a été imposé, ont tendance à y prendre goût… »

Le Deep State (le « minotaure » de Jouvenel) est condamné à croître avec le totalitarisme dans les pays en voie de surpeuplement :

« Insécurité et agitation mènent à un contrôle accru exercé par les gouvernements centraux et à une extension de leurs pouvoirs. En l'absence d'une tradition constitutionnelle, ces pouvoirs accrus seront probablement exercés de manière dictatoriale. »

AH-TF2.jpgLa surpopulation américaine menacera la démocratie américaine (triplement en un siècle ! La France a crû de 40% en cinquante ans) :

« Pour le moment, la surpopulation ne constitue pas pour la liberté individuelle des Américains un danger direct, mais déjà la menace d'une menace. »

Eugéniste, proche de Carrel ici, Huxley annonce un déclin qualitatif de notre population et de notre intelligence, fait aujourd’hui reconnu :

« Malgré les nouvelles drogues-miracle et des traitements plus efficaces (on peut même dire en un certain sens, grâce à eux), la santé physique de la masse ne s'améliorera pas, au contraire, et un déclin de l'intelligence moyenne pourrait bien accompagner cette détérioration. »

Huxley critique froidement les progrès de la médecine (ou leur mauvaise gestion) :

« La mort rapide due à la malaria a été supprimée, mais une existence rendue misérable par la sous-alimentation et le surpeuplement est main- tenant la règle et une mort lente, par inanition, guette un nombre de plus en plus grand d'habitants. »

Huxley ici reprend Bernays sur la montée des élites :

« Nous voyons donc que la technique moderne a conduit à la concentration du pouvoir économique et politique ainsi qu'au développement d'une société contrôlée (avec férocité dans les Etats totalitaires, courtoisie et discrétion dans les démocraties) par les Grosses Affaires et les Gros Gouvernements. »

Notre auteur cite Fromm :

« …Notre société tend à faire de lui un automate qui paie son échec sur le plan humain par des maladies mentales toujours plus fréquentes et un désespoir qui se dissimule sous une frénésie de travail et de prétendu plaisir. »

Puis Huxley évalue la nullité des hommes modernes et par là se rapproche de René Guénon (voyez l’anonymat dans le règne de la quantité) :

« Ces millions d'anormalement normaux vivent sans histoires dans une société dont ils ne s'accommoderaient pas s'ils étaient pleinement humains et s'accrochent encore à « l'illusion de l'individualité », mais en fait, ils ont été dans une large mesure dépersonnalisés. Leur conformité évolue vers l'uniformité. »

Le futur est à la termitière :

« La civilisation este entre autres choses, le processus par lequel les bandes primitives sont transformées en un équivalent, grossier et mécanique, des communautés organiques d'insectes sociaux. A l'heure présente, les pressions du surpeuplement et de l'évolution technique accélèrent ce mouvement. La termitière en est arrivée à représenter un idéal réalisable et même, aux yeux de certains, souhaitable. »

Termitière ? Plus effrayant encore ce passage – car tous les mots sont rentrés dans notre lexique :

« Ainsi que l'a montré Mr. William Whyte dans son remarquable ouvrage, The Organization man, une nouvelle Morale Sociale est en train de remplacer notre système traditionnel qui donne la première place à l'individu. Les mots clefs en sont : « ajustement », « adaptation », « comportement social ou antisocial », « intégration », « acquisition de techniques sociales », « travail d'équipe », « vie communautaire », « loyalisme communautaire », « dynamique communautaire », « pensée communautaire », « activités créatrices communautaires »…

Car l’ingénierie sociale c’est la fin du christianisme et même du Christ :

« Selon la Morale Sociale, Jésus avait complètement tort quand il affirmait que le sabbat a été fait pour l'homme pour l'homme; au contraire, c'est l'homme qui. a été fait pour le sabbat, qui doit sacrifier ses particularités natives et faire semblant d'être la sorte de bon garçon invariablement liant que les organisateurs d'activités collectives considèrent comme le plus propre à leurs fins. »

En bon patricien britannique (voyez mon livre sur Tolkien, mes essais sur Chesterton), Huxley refuse cet assemblage :

« Un gouffre immense sépare l'insecte social du mammifère avec son gros cerveau, son instinct grégaire très mitigé et ce gouffre demeurerait, même si l'éléphant s'efforçait d'imiter la fourmi. Malgré tous leurs efforts, les hommes ne peuvent que créer une organisation et non pas un organisme social. En s'acharnant à réaliser ce dernier, ils parviendront tout juste à un despotisme totalitaire. »

Le futur indolore de la domination est programmé :

« Dans les dictatures plus efficaces de demain, il y aura sans doute beaucoup moins de force déployée. Les sujets des tyrans à venir seront enrégimentés sans douleur par un corps d'ingénieurs sociaux hautement qualifiés. »

AH-RMdM3.jpgDix ans avant Umberto Eco (voyez mon livre sur Internet), Huxley annonce un nouveau moyen âge, pas celui de Guénon bien sûr, celui de Le Goff plutôt :

« Les forces impersonnelles du surpeuplement et de l'excès d'organisation jointes aux ingénieurs sociologues qui essaient de les diriger, nous poussent vers un nouveau système médiéval. »

Huxley annonce la propagande à venir en occident :

« La propagande pour une action dictée par des impulsions plus basses que l'intérêt présente des preuves forgées, falsifiées, ou tronquées, évite les arguments logiques et cherche à influencer ses victimes par la simple répétition de slogans, la furieuse dénonciation de boucs émissaires étrangers ou nationaux, et l'association machiavélique des passions les plus viles aux idéaux les plus élevés… »

Huxley méprise la liberté de la presse en rappelant ce simple fait :

« En ce qui concerne la propagande, les premiers partisans de l'instruction obligatoire et d'une presse libre ne l'envisageaient que sous deux aspects : vraie ou fausse. Ils ne prévoyaient pas ce qui, en fait, s'est produit- le développement d'une immense industrie de l'information, ne s'occupant dans l'ensemble ni du vrai, ni du faux, mais de l'irréel et de l'inconséquent à tous les degrés. En un mot, ils n'avaient pas tenu compte de la fringale de distraction éprouvée par les hommes. »

On retombe dans le pain et les jeux de Juvénal :

« Pour trouver une situation comparable, fût-ce de loin, à celle qui existe actuellement, il nous faut remonter jusqu'à la Rome impériale, où la populace était maintenue dans la bonne humeur grâce à des doses fréquentes et gratuites des distractions les plus variées, allant des drames en vers aux combats de gladiateurs, des récitations de Virgile aux séances de pugilat, des concerts aux revues militaires et aux exécutions publiques. Mais même à Rome, il n'existait rien de semblable aux distractions ininterrompues fournies par les journaux, les revues, la radio, la télévision et le cinéma. »

Une prédiction (prédiction ou constatation ?) terrible :

« Une société dont la plupart des membres passent une grande partie de leur temps, non pas dans l'immédiat et l'avenir prévisible, mais quelque part dans les autres mondes inconséquents du sport, des feuilletons, de la mythologie et de la fantaisie métaphysique, aura bien du mal à résister aux empiétements de ceux qui voudraient la manipuler et la dominer. »

Le futur est à la « distraction ininterrompue » qui se mêlera à la propagande.

Huxley cite Albert Speer. Après Hitler on n’a pas arrêté le progrès.

« Depuis l'époque de Hitler, l'arsenal des moyens techniques à la disposition de l'aspirant-dictateur a été considérablement développé! En plus de la radio, du haut-parleur, de la caméra de cinéma et de la presse rotative, le propagandiste contemporain peut faire usage de la télévision pour transmettre non seulement la voix, mais l'image de son client et enregistrer le tout sur des bandes magnétiques. Grâce aux progrès techniques, le Grand Frère peut maintenant être omniprésent presque autant que Dieu. D'ailleurs, il n'y a pas que dans ce domaine que des atouts nouveaux ont été apportés au jeu du dictateur. Depuis Hitler, des travaux considérables ont été faits en psychologie et neurologie appliquées, domaines d'élection du propagandiste, de l'endoctrineur, et du laveur de cerveaux. »

Puis Huxley compare Hitler à Bernays, l’inventeur de la cigarette pour les femmes :

« C'est par la manipulation de « forces cachées » que les experts en publicité vous incitent à acheter leurs produits - une pâte dentifrice, une marque de cigarettes, un candidat politique - et c'est en faisant appel aux mêmes, ainsi qu'à d'autres trop dangereuses pour que s'y frotte Madison Avenue, que Hitler a incité les masses allemandes à s'acheter un Führer, une philosophie insane et une Deuxième Guerre mondiale. »

Après Hitler, la publicité commerciale. Huxley cite Vance Packard et ajoute :

« Nous n'achetons plus des oranges, mais de la vitalité. Nous n'achetons plus une voiture, mais du prestige. » Il en est de même pour tout le reste. Avec un dentifrice, nous achetons non plus un simple détersif antiseptique, mais la libération d'une angoisse : celle d'être sexuellement repoussant. Avec la vodka et le whisky, nous n'achetons pas un poison protoplasmique qui, à doses faibles, peut déprimer le système nerveux de manière utile au point de vue psychologique, nous achetons de l'amabilité, du liant, la chaleur… Avec l'ouvrage à succès du mois, nous acquérons de la culture, l'envie de nos voisins moins intellectuels et le respect des raffinés. »

AH-PP4.jpgHuxley n’est pas très optimise non plus sur l’avenir des enfants mués en de la chair à télé :

« Comme on pouvait s'y attendre, les jeunes sont extrêmement sensibles à la propagande. Ignorants du monde et de ses usages, ils sont absolument sans méfiance, leur esprit critique n'est pas encore développé, les plus petits n'ont pas atteint l'âge de raison et les plus âgés n'ont pas acquis l'expérience sur laquelle leur faculté de raisonnement nouvellement découverte pourrait s'exercer. En Europe, les conscrits étaient désignés sous le nom badin de « chair à canon ». Leurs petits frères et leurs petites sœurs sont maintenant devenus de la chair à radio et à télévision. Dans mon enfance, on nous apprenait à chanter de petites rengaines sans grand sens ou, dans les familles pieuses, des cantiques. Aujourd'hui, les petits gazouillent de la publicité chantée. »

Pas d’illusions sur les élections et la politique :

« Les partis mettent leurs candidats et leurs programmes sur le marché en utilisant les mêmes méthodes que le monde des affaires pour vendre ses produits… Les services de ventes politiques ne font appel qu'aux faiblesses de leurs électeurs, jamais à leur force latente. Ils se gardent bien d'éduquer les masses et de les mettre en mesure de se gouverner elles-mêmes, jugeant très suffisant de les manipuler et de les exploiter. »

Sur le lavage de cerveau pratiqué dans notre planète-prison, Huxley rappelle :

« Si le système nerveux central du chien peut être brisé, celui d'un prisonnier politique aussi. Il s'agit seulement d'appliquer les doses de tension voulues pendant le temps voulu. A la fin du traitement, l'interné sera dans un état de névrose ou d'hystérie tel qu'il avouera ce que ses geôliers voudront. »

Huxley explique pourquoi notre système de suggestibilité encourage le somnambulisme puis il rappelle tristement :

« L'efficacité de la propagande politique et religieuse dépend des méthodes employées et non pas des doctrines enseignées. Ces dernières peuvent être vraies ou fausses, saines ou pernicieuses, peu importe. Si l'endoctrinement est bien fait au stade voulu de l'épuisement nerveux, il réussira. »

Opiomanie ou toxicomanie ? Huxley rappelle ici le fameux soma de son roman :

« La ration de soma quotidienne était une garantie contre l'inquiétude personnelle, l'agitation sociale et la propagation d'idées subversives. Karl Marx déclarait que la religion était l'opium du peuple, mais dans le Meilleur des Mondes la situation se trouvait renversée : l'opium, ou plutôt le soma, était la religion du peuple. »

Huxley rappelle nos progrès en chimie du cerveau et il prophétise l’addiction américaine responsable aujourd’hui de dizaines de milliers de morts :

« …prenez le cas des barbituriques et des tranquillisants. Aux U.S.A., ces remèdes peuvent être obtenus avec une simple ordonnance de docteur, mais l'avidité du public américain pour quelque chose qui rendra un peu plus supportable la vie dans le milieu urbain et industriel est si grande, que les médecins ordonnent actuellement de ces spécialités au rythme de 48 millions de prescriptions par an. »

On contrôlera donc l’opposition politique par les tranquillisants !

« Les masses ne risqueront pas de créer la moindre difficulté à leur maître. Seulement, dans l'état actuel des choses, les tranquillisants peuvent empêcher certaines personnes de créer assez de difficulté, non seulement à leurs dirigeants, mais à elles-mêmes. »

On peut même gagner la guerre par les tranquillisants !

« Lors d'une récente conférence sur le méprobamate, à laquelle je participais, un éminent biochimiste proposa en riant que le gouvernement des U.S.A. envoyât gratuitement au peuple soviétique 50 milliards de doses du plus populaire des tranquillisants. La plaisanterie avait son côté inquiétant. »

Chez Huxley comme chez La Boétie le fond du problème n’est pas la malignité de la science ou des élites sinon la médiocrité de la nature humaine démontrée ici par la science...

« Les idéaux de la démocratie et de la liberté se heurtent au fait brutal de la suggestibilité humaine. Un cinquième de tous les électeurs peut être hypnotisé presque en un clin d'œil, un septième soulagé de ses souffrances par des piqûres d'eau, un quart suggestionné avec rapidité et dans l'enthousiasme par I'hypnopédie. A toutes ces minorités trop promptes à coopérer, on doit ajouter les majorités aux réactions moins rapides dont la suggestibilité plus modérée peut être exploitée par n'importe quel manipulateur connaissant son affaire, prêt à y consacrer le temps et les efforts nécessaires. »

AH-J5.jpgQuant au futur, no comment :

« La liberté individuelle est-elle compatible avec un degré élevé de suggestibilité? Les institutions démocratiques peuvent-elles survivre à la subversion exercée du dedans par des spécialistes habiles dans la science et l'art d'exploiter la suggestibilité à la fois des individus et des foules? »

Il reste que le futur, en 1957, c’est aussi, c’est surtout cent millions de couillonnes sur Instagram admirant et imitant Kylie Jenner. Huxley :

« Et l'uniformisation des êtres était encore parachevée après la naissance par le conditionnement infantile, l'hypnopédie et l'euphorie chimique destinée à remplacer la satisfaction de se sentir libre et créateur. Dans le monde où nous vivons, ainsi qu'il a été indiqué dans des chapitres précédents, d'immenses forces impersonnelles tendent vers l'établissement d'un pouvoir centralisé et d'une société enrégimentée. La standardisation génétique est encore impossible, mais les Gros Gouvernements et les Grosses Affaires possèdent déjà, ou posséderont bientôt, tous les procédés pour la manipulation des esprits décrits dans Le Meilleur des Mondes, avec bien d'autres que mon manque d'imagination m'a empêché d'inventer. »

Le monde une prison, conclue Hamlet avec Rosencrantz et Guildenstern.

Huxley poursuit cruellement par les banalités d’usage sur l’éducation qui nous rendrait résistant :

« Si nous voulons éviter ce genre de tyrannie, il faut que nous commencions sans délai notre éducation et celle de nos enfants pour nous rendre aptes à être libres et à nous gouverner nous-mêmes. »

Cette éducation (cf. la chasse aux fake news) peut aisément être recyclée en ce que l’on sait !

Il rappelle ce truisme :

« Les effets d'une propagande mensongère et pernicieuse ne peuvent être neutralisés que par une solide préparation à l'art d'analyser ses méthodes et de percer à jour ses sophismes. »

Huxley rappelle à temps que personne ne veut de contre-propagande !

« Et pourtant, nulle part on n'enseigne aux enfants une méthode systématique pour faire le départ entre le vrai et le faux, une affirmation sensée et une autre qui ne l'est pas. Pourquoi? Parce que leurs aînés, même dans les pays démocratiques, ne veulent pas qu'ils reçoivent ce genre d'instruction. Dans ce contexte, la brève et triste histoire de l'Institute for Propaganda Analysis est terriblement révélatrice. Il avait été fondé en 1937, alors que la propagande nazie faisait le plus de bruit et de ravages, par Mr. Filene, philanthrope de la Nouvelle-Angleterre. Sous ses auspices, on pratiqua la dissection des méthodes de propagande non rationnelle et l'on prépara plusieurs textes pour l'instruction des lycéens et des étudiants. Puis vint la guerre, une guerre totale, sur tous les fronts, celui des idées au moins autant que celui des corps. Alors que tous les gouvernements alliés se lançaient dans “la guerre psychologique”, cette insistance sur la nécessité de disséquer la propagande sembla quelque peu dépourvue de tact. L'Institut fut fermé en 1941. »

Huxley rappelle les raisons de cette timidité :

« L'examen trop critique par trop de citoyens moyens de ce que disent leurs pasteurs et maîtres pourrait s'avérer profondément subversif. Dans sa forme actuelle, l'ordre social dépend, pour continuer d'exister, de l'acceptation, sans trop de questions embarrassantes, de la propagande mise en circulation par les autorités et de celle qui est consacrée par les traditions locales. »

AH-Dm6.jpgDans son maigre énoncé des solutions (il n’en a pas), Huxley évoque alors la prison sans barreau (the painless concentration camp, expression mise en doute par certains pro-systèmes !) :

« Il est parfaitement possible qu'un homme soit hors de prison sans être libre, à l'abri de toute contrainte matérielle et pourtant captif psychologiquement, obligé de penser, de sentir et d'agir comme le veulent les représentants de l'Etat ou de quelque intérêt privé à l'intérieur de la nation. »

Huxley recommande de protéger les lieux publics et la télévision. Or on ne peut protéger les lieux publics et la télévision qui ne sont là que pour vendre et pour puer : il faut donc les éviter. Si ton œil t’est objet de tentation…

Il note justement que « les formes libérales serviront simplement à masquer et à enjoliver un fond situé aux antipodes du libéralisme », et que le futur n’est guère plus joyeux que le présent de Bernays : « Entre-temps, l'oligarchie au pouvoir et son élite hautement qualifiée de soldats, de policiers, de fabricants de pensée, de manipulateurs mentaux mènera tout et tout le monde comme bon lui semblera. »

Sur notre futur monopolistique, Huxley ne se fait guère d’illusions (qui s’en fait encore ?) :

« Mais c'est un fait historique aujourd'hui que les moyens de production sont rapidement centralisés et monopolisés par les Grosses Affaires et les Gros Gouvernements. Par conséquent, si vous avez foi en la démocratie, prenez des mesures pour distribuer les biens aussi largement que possible. »

Huxley, beaucoup moins méchant que ce que pensent pas mal d’antisystèmes, propose une solution de révolution médiévale digne de Chesterton et Belloc :

« Par conséquent, si vous souhaitez éviter l'appauvrissement spirituel des individus et de sociétés entières, quittez les grands centres et faites revivre les petites agglomérations rurales, ou encore humanisez la ville en créant à l'intérieur du réseau de son organisation mécanique, les équivalents urbains des petits centres ruraux où les individus peuvent se rencontrer et coopérer en qualité de personnalités complètes, et non pas comme de simples incarnations de fonctions spécialisées. »

Mais rien n’y fait (on est à l’époque du génial Mumford) :

« Nous savons que, pour la plupart de nos semblables, la vie dans une gigantesque ville moderne est anonyme, atomique, au-dessous du niveau humain, néanmoins les villes deviennent de plus en plus démesurées et le mode de vie urbano-industriel demeure inchangé. »

Huxley, qui finit par citer Dostoïevski et son grand inquisiteur, ne se fait guère d’illusions, sondages à l’appui :

« Aux U.S.A. - et l'Amérique est l'image prophétique de ce que sera le reste du monde urbano-industriel dans quelques années d'ici - des sondages récents de l'opinion publique ont révélé que la majorité des adolescents au-dessous de vingt ans, les votants de demain, ne croient pas aux institutions démocratiques, ne voient pas d'inconvénient à la censure des idées impopulaires, ne jugent pas possible le gouvernement du peuple par le peuple et s'estimeraient parfaitement satisfaits d'être gouvernés d'en haut par une oligarchie d'experts assortis, s'ils pouvaient continuer à vivre dans les conditions auxquelles une période de grande prospérité les a habitués. »

Les jeunes sont soumis, les ados sont pires que les autres, comme je l’ai constaté dans ma jeunesse et comme  le montrera le succès mondial de culture sexe, drogue, rock. Huxley :

« Que tant de jeunes spectateurs bien nourris de la télévision, dans la plus puissante démocratie du monde, soient si totalement indifférents à l'idée de se gouverner eux-mêmes, s'intéressent si peu à la liberté d'esprit et au droit d'opposition est navrant, mais assez peu surprenant. »

Il évoque les oiseaux (La Boétie évoquait les chiens) …

« Tout oiseau qui a appris à gratter une bonne pitance d'insectes et de vers sans être obligé de se servir de ses ailes renonce bien vite au privilège du vol et reste définitivement à terre. »

La suite est lyrique !

« Le cri de « Donnez-moi la télévision et des saucisses chaudes, mais ne m'assommez pas avec les responsabilités de l'indépendance », fera peut-être place, dans des circonstances différentes à celui de « La liberté ou la mort ».

Et le maître de conclure :

« Il semble qu'il n'y ait aucune raison valable pour qu'une dictature parfaitement scientifique soit jamais renversée. »

Demandez à Zuckerberg, à la NSA et à Monsanto ce qu’ils en pensent.

Sources complémentaires

Huxley – Le meilleur des mondes ; retour au meilleur des mondes (1957), sur archive.org

Nicolas Bonnal – Comment les peuples sont devenus jetables ; comment les Français sont morts ; la culture comme arme de destruction massive (Amazon.fr)

Umberto Eco – Vers un nouveau moyen âge (1972)

Bertrand de Jouvenel – Du Pouvoir (Pluriel)

Vince Packard – Hidden persuaders

Armand Mattelart – Histoire de l’utopie planétaire (la Découverte)

Chesterton – What I saw in America (Gutenberg.org)

Shakespeare – Mesure pour mesure ; Hamlet ; La tempête (inlibroveritas.net)

La Boétie – Sur la servitude volontaire (Wikisource)

Tocqueville – De la démocratie en Amérique (classiques.Uqac.ca)

Debord – Commentaires

mercredi, 10 janvier 2018

Yevgeni Zamiatin “El Dragón”


Yevgeni Zamiatin “El Dragón”

por Anna Prystupa


A Yevgeni Zamiatin se le considera el maestro de la prosa. Su obra más conocida es la novela "Nosotros". El escritor ruso aparte de esa novela escribió además una serie de cuentos cortos, uno de los cuales se titula "El Dragón".

“ El Dragón “ es un cuento breve, que apenas ocupa una página. Es el primer texto que sitúa la revolución como tema central. La obra describe San Petersburgo en un día de invierno del mes de febrero. La ciudad se encuentra en llamas. Se ve la imagen de los hombres-dragones que bajan del cielo. Están montados en los tranvías. Somos testigos del diálogo que mantienen los dos entre ellos. Uno ha encontrado por la calle a un intelectual y cuenta a su compañero cómo lo asesinó. No se siente culpable, porque le parece que ha hecho lo correcto. Se siente orgulloso. Lo sorprendente es que el hombre que acaba de aniquilar al intelectual, en razón de pertenecer a una cierta clase social, es capaz al instante de salvar la vida a un gorrión. El pájaro que se encuentra, estaba helado, a punto de morir. Pero el soldado suelta la bayoneta y concentra todas sus fuerzas en soplar al animal para que entre en calor. No quiere que se muera. El pájaro se recupera y vuelve a volar. El cuento termina con el dato de que el tranvía coge el rumbo a lo desconocido, abandonando el mundo humano.

En la obra el gran símbolo es el dragón. Tiene su referencia histórica en los dragones de la Guardia, como se llamaba al cuerpo de élite del ejército ruso. En la primera etapa de la Revolución, este tipo de soldados realizaban patrullas por la ciudad. El hombre - dragón era uno de ellos. En la cultura rusa este tipo de criatura aparece en el escudo de Moscú. Ahí nos encontramos con el personaje de San Jorge que lucha contra un dragón. El animal mítico simboliza el mal y el santo- es la alegoría del bien. Se muestra el eterno conflicto entre el bien y el mal. En el cuento, los dragones son asesinos, los servidores de la revolución, que es el macro tema de la obra. El cuento se desarrolla en el trayecto del tranvía. El camino que recorre es desde los cielos hacia lo desconocido. Deja de ser un recorrido real. Lo oculto, lo que no se sabe, es el camino a dónde va a llegar la revolución. El tranvía sale de la ciudad ardiente, del delirio humano y va hacia fuera, había lo inhumano.

zamdrag.jpgLo sorprendente es la capacidad de los dragones de unir lo positivo y lo negativo. Matan a los seres humanos, pero son capaces de resucitarles, y devuelven la vida a un ser que está mucho más abajo en la evolución. Por otro lado, vemos que poco significa la vida humana, según el cuento, menos que la de un pájaro. El cuento está lleno de contrastes. Uno de ellos es el personaje del soldado – dragón: asesino y salvador a la vez. Ya la misma ciudad, el espacio en el que se desarrolla la acción está lleno de contradicciones. La ciudad arde, pero está helada. Tenemos las dos fuerzas ancestrales luchando. Estamos en invierno, y la ciudad está congelada, muerta, parada. Al mismo tiempo, el fuego de la revolución la despierta, “ la hace vivir “. Las llamas derriten el hielo, que es la capa que oprime todo, pero también queman, matan.

Una de las dualidades más importantes es la pugna entre el bien y el mal. Son los dos elementos que deben mantener un equilibrio. Aunque según los cuentos fantásticos, en las leyendas de las cuales procede el personaje del dragón, finalmente el bien siempre gana. En la obra de Zamiatin ocurre lo contrario. Gana el mal, la revolución. La destrucción es total: por un lado, la ciudad que arde en llamas, y por otro, el humano para el cual, asesinar, quitar la vida al otro, no significa nada. Otra oposición que, me parece importante es la comparación entre la tierra y el cielo. El dragón viene de arriba, desde el cielo. El ser humano tiene en sí mismo algo divino, ha sido creado por Dios. Cuando baja a la tierra, pierde su “rasgo divino”, se convierte en un ser malvado. ¿Y dónde terminará? No sabemos. Ziemiatin ahí deja la pregunta en el aire. El tren se va a lo desconocido, ¿dónde llegará?

El cuento “ Dragón “ denuncia lo que es inaceptable de la revolución- la crueldad. Hay que recordar que Zamiatin, al principio, apoyaba la revolución, veía positivamente el cambio. Cuando vio que todo esto estaba lleno de crueldad y que no era lo esperado, se empezó a distanciar de ello. La obra fue escrita en el año 1918. Es el aviso de que la revolución corre peligro de convertirse en el terror. Desgraciadamente eso es el lo que ocurrió. Zamiatin no se equivocaría, predijo el futuro. El deber del escritor es decir la verdad. En el cuento que acaba de analizarse por primera vez, el escritor denuncia el terror de la revolución. Se retracta de sus ideas, quita el apoyo que daba a la iniciativa socialista.

Nos encontramos con un nuevo tipo del cuento. Se le suele llamar “anticuento”. Hay una búsqueda de nuevas vías, una nueva experiencia literaria. En la obra están incorporados los elementos políticos y simbólicos. Por supuesto no falta lo fantástico que coge Zamiatin de Hoffman, pero es muy triste que la visión del escritor se haya cumplido. La revolución trajo el terror y la crueldad, se volvió en contra de los que la apoyaban, y los destruyó.

Anna Prystupa


dimanche, 07 janvier 2018

Histoire et pouvoir: quand la fiction de "1984" devient la réalité


samedi, 08 juillet 2017

Rutherford Instituut: Toekomst Westerse burgers is totalitaire controle en onderdrukking


Rutherford Instituut: Toekomst Westerse burgers is totalitaire controle en onderdrukking

Ex: http://xandernieuws.punt.nl

‘Het onbenullige Westerse publiek bestaat voornamelijk uit niet-lezers en televisie- en internet zombies’

‘Als u wilt weten hoe de toekomst eruit ziet: een laars die op een menselijk gezicht stampt – voor altijd’

Social media, en vooral Facebook, zijn een machtig wapen in de hand van overheden, multinationals en lobbygroepen, die de mensheid in één politiek-correcte richting willen dwingen, en alle afwijkende meningen stapsgewijs willen criminaliseren.

John W. Whitehead, oprichter van The Rutherford Institute en auteur van ‘Battlefield America: The War on the American People’, schrijft dat een groot aantal bekende science fiction films uit het verleden over een totalitaire staat waarin de burgers in ruil voor ‘veiligheid’ al hun vrijheden zijn kwijtgeraakt, in het Westen inmiddels waarheid zijn geworden, of dat in de nabije toekomst zullen worden. ‘De overheid en grote concerns volgen alles wat we doen, net zoals Big Brother in Orwells ‘1984’. We veranderen in een samenleving van toeschouwers wier vrijheden worden afgepakt, maar daar blij om zijn, omdat de mensen door propaganda en hersenspoeling (door de media) geen enkele neiging meer hebben om in opstand te komen.’ Dat kan maar tot één soort toekomst leiden: totalitaire controle en onderdrukking.

Het gros van de Amerikanen en Europeanen ‘weten hun plek en hun plichten, en begrijpen dat ze geen echte rechten hebben, maar dat ze zullen worden beschermd zolang ze zich conformeren en zo min over zichzelf denken, dat ze hun aangewezen lot accepteren, en niet in opstand komen of vluchten.’ Zo’n samenleving wordt omschreven in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.

Minority Report voor groot deel realiteit geworden

15 jaar geleden was Steven Spielbergs Minority Report –met megaster Tom Cruise- een wereldwijde sf-kaskraker. Die film, gebaseerd op Philip K. Dicks duistere, bijna profetische visie van een toekomstige politiestaat, speelde zich in 2054 af, maar dat had volgens Whitehead net zo goed 2017 kunnen zijn. ‘We zitten nu al gevangen in een wereld met een alziende, alwetende en almachtige overheid. Als je het waagt buiten de lijnen te treden zullen in het zwart geklede SWAT teams en pre-crime eenheden een paar hoofden platstampen om de bevolking onder controle te brengen.’

Toezicht- en bewakingscamera’s die overal worden opgehangen, en deels worden uitgerust met gedrag-voorspellende software (vooral op luchthavens), enorme datacenters die miljarden telefoongesprekken en emails van nietsvermoedende burgers opslaan, (in ontwikkeling zijnde) zelfrijdende auto’s, spraakgestuurde apparaten, gezichtsherkenningsystemen, drones, cyberaanvallen (niet in het minst door de overheid zelf), en politie eenheden die speciaal gericht zijn op het stoppen van criminelen (en terroristen) vóordat ze hun slag slaan – al deze aspecten uit ‘Minority Report’ zijn realiteit geworden.


Onbenullige Westerse publiek bestaat voornamelijk uit zombies

Al deze zaken konden zonder slag of stoot worden ingevoerd, omdat ‘het onbenullige Amerikaanse (en Europese) publiek voornamelijk bestaat uit niet-lezers en televisie- en internet zombies. Toch zijn we jarenlang in boeken en films gewaarschuwd voor zo’n onheilspellende toekomst. De volgende films geven wellicht het best weer waar we ons als samenleving nu mee geconfronteerd zien: ‘

Fahrenheit 451 (1966): In een futuristische samenleving zijn boeken verboden. De maatschappij is zo obsessief politiek-correct geworden, dat vrijwel iedereen zijn gewone spreken en praten vooraf (zelf) censureert. (Kortom: de grote droom van modern ‘links’).

THX 1138 (1970): Een ontmenselijkte samenleving wordt totaal gecontroleerd door een politiestaat. De burgers moeten gedwongen pillen slikken om hen passief te houden. Hun namen zijn vervangen door cijfer/letter combinaties zoals THX1138. Iedereen die het waagt de regels te trotseren wordt onmiddellijk door de politie met elektroshock wapens (inmiddels ook in Nederland realiteit) tot gehoorzaamheid gedwongen.

Soylent Green (1973): In het overbevolkte New York zijn de mensen afhankelijk van synthetisch voedsel geproduceerd door de Soylent Corporation. De chaotische wereld wordt beheerst door gewetenloze multinationals wier enige doel het maken van zoveel mogelijk winst is.

Blade Runner (1982): In het 21e eeuw is een mensenleven weinig meer waard. Iedereen kan naar believen worden geëlimineerd door de politie (of ‘blade runners’). Androïden (robots) lijken in zowel uiterlijk als gedrag als twee druppels water op echte mensen, en hebben hen in veel beroepen vervangen.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984): De beste verfilming van George Orwells beroemde sf-roman. In een door technologie gedomineerde wereld zijn de mensen al hun vrijheden kwijtgeraakt, en worden ze 24/7 totaal gecontroleerd en gemanipuleerd door het complex van overheid-media en multinationals. Beroemd geworden slogans zoals ‘Vrijheid is Slavernij’ en ‘Onwetendheid is Kracht’ gelden anno 2017 voor steeds meer mensen die onvoorwaardelijk blijven geloven dat de overheid altijd het goede met hen voorheeft, en de media hen de waarheid vertellen.

They Live (1988): Mensen zijn gevangenen geworden van hun eigen apparaten, en worden zo in beslag genomen door entertainment en de media, dat ze niet in staat zijn om effectief in opstand te komen – of enkel elkaar aanvallen.

The Matrix (1999): De mensheid wordt door technologie, die de vorm heeft aangenomen van hyperintelligente wezens, in een constante droomstaat, de ‘Matrix’ gehouden. Hacker Thomas Anderson, wier alias ‘Neo’ is, ontdekt dat de complete realiteit om hem heen niet echt is, maar een illusie om alle mensen volgzaam en onder controle te houden.

Minority Report (2002): Zoals eerder in dit artikel omschreven laat deze film een wereld zien waarin technologie autonoom is geworden (zoals zelfrijdende auto’s), en alle mensen bij voorbaat verdachten zijn in een wereld die zo strak wordt bestuurd en gecontroleerd door computers en machines, dat alle misdaad is uitgebannen.

V for Vendetta (2006): Een corrupte en totalitaire overheid houdt door middel van een keihard optredende geheime politie de controle over de samenleving. Iedereen die hier aan probeert te ontsnappen of zelfs maar een afwijkende mening heeft, is automatisch een ‘terrorist’.

Land of the Blind (2006): Gebaseerd op een aantal historische gebeurtenissen, waarin tirannen tijdens revoluties omver werden geworpen, en werden vervangen door nieuwe leiders die net zo kwaadaardig bleken te zijn.

Bevolking wordt wakker, maar te laat

De rode draad in al deze films is het (te) langzaam groeiende besef bij een deel van de Westerse bevolking dat de overheid niet per se het goede met hen voorheeft, en niet meer luistert naar hun wensen en zorgen. In Europa en Nederland geldt dat met name de massa immigratie en islamisering van onze landen. Denk ook aan genegeerde referendums zoals dat over de Europese Grondwet, en vorig jaar over Oekraïne.

De sluipend sterker wordende politiestaat, waarin nog maar één politiek-correcte mening wordt toegestaan, is wellicht het duidelijkste zichtbaar in Duitsland en Zweden, waar overheidsmedewerkers die zich kritisch uitlaten over het massa immigratie beleid en over de islam worden berispt en/of ontslagen, en social media inmiddels miljoenenboetes kunnen krijgen als ze weigeren vergelijkbare kritische berichten van bezorgde burgers te verwijderen.

Maar ook in ons eigen land gaat het hard die kant op. Voorbeeld: het bijna collectief in de ban doen van de tweede politieke partij, waarmee de mening en –gezien de toenemende criminaliteit en terreuraanslagen meer dan terechte- zorgen van anderhalf miljoen kiezers als niet-politiek-correct worden genegeerd.


Blijven slapen... totdat het ook met u en uw geliefden gebeurt

‘Zelfs de beste intenties van mensen bij de overheid moeten onvermijdelijk wijken voor het streven om ten koste van alles de macht en controle behouden,’ vervolgt Whitehead. ‘Uiteindelijk zullen de mensen wakker moeten worden voor de politiestaat. Vroeg of laat zullen de zaken die nu alleen andere mensen overkomen, ook ons en onze geliefden overkomen.’

‘Zodra die pijnlijke realiteit begint door te dringen, zal dat gebeuren met de kracht van een SWAT team dat door uw voordeur heen breekt, een taser op uw buik zet, en een pistool tegen uw hoofd zet. En dan kunt u niet wegzappen, niet naar een andere realiteit, en u nergens achter verschuilen.’

‘Zoals George Orwell al waarschuwde: ‘Als u wilt weten hoe de toekomst eruit ziet: een laars die op een menselijk gezicht stampt – voor altijd.’


(1) The Rutherford Institute via Zero Hedge


mardi, 28 mars 2017

"Nous", le roman qui a inspiré Huxley, Orwell et Terry Gilliam

Jewgenij Samjatin.jpg

"Nous", le roman qui a inspiré Huxley, Orwell et Terry Gilliam

Ex: http://www.lepoint.fr 
Son nom ne vous dit sans doute rien, mais Evgueni Zamiatine a écrit en 1920 un ouvrage d'anticipation (réédité aujourd'hui) sidérant d'acuité

Tout le monde (ou presque) a oublié son nom. L'écrivain russe Evgueni Ivanovitch Zamiatine est pourtant un auteur majeur. Né le 1er février 1884 à Lebedian, une petite ville à 300 kilomètres au sud de Moscou, d'un père pope orthodoxe et d'une mère musicienne, cet architecte naval n'a que peu publié. Son œuvre compte moins d'une vingtaine de romans, recueils de nouvelles et pièces de théâtre. Si le nom de Zamiatine est passé à la postérité, c'est comme scénariste de Jean Renoir. Il a, de fait, signé l'adaptation des Bas-Fonds de Maxime Gorki, un an avant de mourir à Paris, à l'âge de 53 ans, le 10 mars 1937.

Son roman le plus remarquable, écrit en 1920, est aujourd'hui republié aux éditions Actes Sud dans une nouvelle traduction d'Hélène Henry. Et il faut absolument le lire ! Son titre, « Nous » (« Мы » en russe), résume son propos. Il consiste à décrire froidement le monde dans lequel « nous » nous apprêtons à vivre. Un univers futuriste, à l'époque où Zamiatine écrit son roman, mais qui ressemble aujourd'hui à une allégorie de notre époque.

Qu'on en juge… Nous sommes au XXVIe siècle et la Terre sort de deux cents ans de guerre où se sont affrontés deux mondes : celui de la campagne et celui de la ville. Le héros, D-503 (les hommes ont perdu depuis longtemps leur identité au profit d'un matricule), est ingénieur. Il travaille sur le chantier de construction d'un vaisseau spatial surnommé l'Intégral. Cet engin est destiné à entrer en contact avec des civilisations extraterrestres dans le but de coloniser leurs planètes et de les convertir au « bonheur » terrestre. Mais il fait aussi figure de bateau de sauvetage pour l'humanité tant notre monde ressemble à un enfer.


Journal intime

Régie par un « État unitaire » despotique qui ne tolère chez ses sujets aucun secret, la plus grande partie du globe est recouverte par une immense cité, composée de grandes tours de verre transparent où tout un chacun vit au vu et au su de tout le monde. (Snowden, es-tu là ?). Les seuls moments d'intimité tolérés consistent en ces brefs instants où les habitants ont pour mission de procréer afin d'assurer la perpétuation de l'espèce humaine. Et encore… pour être autorisé à tirer le rideau, encore faut-il avoir obtenu un sésame : en l'espèce un ticket rose, parcimonieusement distribué aux sujets les plus obéissants. La rencontre de D-503 avec une jolie femme, I-330, va bouleverser son existence en lui faisant découvrir qu'une autre vie est possible où il est loisible d'avoir des secrets. Et, encore mieux, de jouir de liberté, même si cela rime avec imprévisibilité et précarité.

I-330, « résistante » au système (elle boit, fume et fait l'amour à qui lui plaît), parviendra-t-elle à le faire s'évader de cet État totalitaire pour rejoindre la dernière parcelle de nature qui se dissimule derrière un grand mur vert ? Les deux amoureux échapperont-ils à la sinistre police du « Bienfaiteur », comme s'est autoproclamé le tyran qui règne sur l'État ? Composé comme un journal intime, découpé en quarante chapitres, où D-503 expose tour à tour son quotidien, ses fantasmes et ses états d'âme, Nous gardera jusqu'au bout les réponses à ces questions.


On l'aura compris : ce roman est une dystopie, comme on nomme les contre-utopies cauchemardesques en science-fiction. On ne s'étonnera pas qu'Aldous Huxley ait puisé dans l'univers dysfonctionnel de Zamiatine l'inspiration du Meilleur des mondes, tout comme George Orwell celle de 1984. Ce roman a également beaucoup influencé Kurt Vonnegut pour son Pianiste déchaîné et Terry Gilliam : plusieurs scènes de Brazil semblent tout droit tirées de ce livre. Interdit de publication par Moscou qui y voyait, à juste titre, une dénonciation du régime bolchevique, Nous, paru initialement en 1924 en Grande-Bretagne où Zamiatine avait vécu quelques mois sur le chantier de construction de navires-brise-glace (dont l'Intégral semble la transposition SF), avait été traduit en français en 1929 sous le titre de Nous autres (Gallimard). Il n'est sorti en URSS qu'en 1988.

Critique acerbe de la société pré-stalinienne, cet ouvrage ne saurait cependant être réduit à son anticommunisme, car, même s'il était un adversaire de Trotski, Zamiatine n'en avait pas moins été un compagnon de route des révolutionnaires léninistes. S'il résonne encore aujourd'hui, c'est surtout parce que ce roman singulier décrit une modernité broyant les individus sous le poids de la technologie et de la science. À commencer par ces algorithmes prédictifs, censés apporter le bonheur aux hommes en gommant toutes les aspérités que nous appelons le hasard. Cela ne vous rappelle rien ?

Nous , d'Evgueni Zamiatine, traduction d'Hélène Henry, éditions Actes Sud, 240 pages, 21 €

Extrait :
« Je ne fais ici que recopier – mot pour mot – ce que publie aujourd'hui le Journal officiel : Dans cent vingt jours, la construction de l'Intégrale sera achevée. Proche est l'heure historique où la première Intégrale s'élèvera dans l'espace universel. Il y a mille ans, vos héroïques ancêtres ont soumis le monde entier au pouvoir de l'État Unitaire. Vous avez devant vous un exploit encore plus glorieux : la résolution de l'équation infinie de l'Univers grâce à l'Intégrale, cette machine électrique de verre qui souffle le feu. Vous êtes destinés à soumettre au joug bienfaisant de la raison des êtres inconnus qui habitent d'autres planètes et sont peut-être encore en état de liberté primitive. S'ils refusent de comprendre que nous leur apportons un bonheur mathématiquement exact, notre devoir sera de les obliger à être heureux. Mais avant de recourir aux armes, nous essayons la parole. »

dimanche, 04 septembre 2016

France’s Multicultural Dystopia


France’s Multicultural Dystopia

Why many of Europe's Muslims don't want to integrate with secular society

It all started, as it does quite frequently these days, as a debate on Facebook, this one among a group of libertarians discussing the relationship between religion and state.

A friend posted a news story reporting that a halal supermarket—i.e., a supermarket selling only food and drinks that are permissible under Islamic law—in Paris has been ordered by local authorities to sell pork and alcohol (which are not halal) or face closure. Apparently older residents of the area had complained that they were no longer able to buy the full range of products that had been available under the store’s previous ownership. 

“We want a social mix,” said the head of the municipality. “We don’t want any area that is only Muslim or any area where there are no Muslims.” He added that he would have reacted in the same way had a kosher supermarket opened on the site, and indicated that the authority was taking legal action to revoke the shop’s lease, which runs until 2019. 

Members of the Facebook group seemed to agree that this was another example of the French tradition embodied in the nation’s constitutional requirement of laïcité, or the strict separation of state and religious activities. This is sometimes contrasted with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—which guarantees freedom of religion but doesn’t require the government to maintain secularism.

Notwithstanding a recent court ruling that a Denver bakery could not refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the general consensus among my Facebook friends was that what had taken place in Paris would never occur in the U.S. No federal, state, or local government would force a licensed halal supermarket to “diversify” the range of its products by adding alcohol and non-halal meats.

But as the group’s contrarian, I decided to challenge the evolving agreement among my friends. Aren’t we being perhaps a bit dogmatic when we elevate political principles above the lessons we draw from real-life experiences?


Are we going to allow members of a religious group that worships nude to show up unclothed in public places? Why is female circumcision wrong and male circumcision fine? And why not legalize polygamy, which has been around longer than same sex-marriage? You allow Muslims to have their own halal supermarkets based on commitment to freedom of religion. Why not allow Muslim men to marry several wives?

We could go on and on with this kind of debate, which should not be dismissed as one of those reductio ad absurdum exercises. After all, there are millions of Muslims worldwide who practice polygamy, which is in accordance with their religious law. So it was not surprising that a prominent Italian-Muslim leader proposed recently that polygamy must become a civil right in Italy similar to same-sex marriage, which the country allowed earlier this year. And why not? There are probably more Muslims than gays in Italy today.

“There’s no reason for Italy not to accept polygamous marriages of consenting persons,” proposed Hamza Piccardo, founder of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations, adding: “When it comes to civil rights here, then polygamy is a civil right. Muslims don’t agree with homosexual partnership and still they have to accept a system that allows it.”

In the West we seem to agree that female circumcision is cruel; we even refer to it as “female genital mutilation.” But it was estimated this year that 200 million women have undergone the procedure—in 27 countries in Africa, as well as in Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Yemen. What happens if Muslims from these countries decide to settle in Europe in the coming years? Why are we going to deny them the right to practice their religion, even though all attempts to criminalize male circumcision, practiced by both Jews and Muslims, have failed? Why the double standard?

The answer is clear: the majority of Americans are members of the Abrahamic religions who regard, for instance, public nudity as running contrary to their core cultural values. In case you haven’t noticed, there aren’t many pagans around, and unlike, say, gays, they don’t have a major influence in Hollywood and Broadway.

To put it simply, when it comes to freedom of religion and figuring out the exact boundaries between religion and state, numbers count. And as more Muslims settle in the West, and gain citizenship and the right of vote, the contours of the debate over religion and its place in society are bound to change.

We like to imagine that debates over core political issues are conducted by great philosophers who are committed to our sacred values. But in liberal democratic societies, the principle of one-man-one-vote carries a lot of influence in terms of how we define morality or, for that matter, what we recognize as a “legitimate” religious belief.


The debate over religion and state that evolved in the Christian West in the aftermath of devastating religious wars—and was applied to other societies with large Christian majorities, and with sprinklings of assimilated Jewish communities (completing our so-called Judeo-Christian civilization)—may have to change.

Members of a religion whose adherents don’t subscribe to the notion of religious freedom, who believe that religion and state cannot be separated, are beginning to challenge what we regard as the basic axioms of the Enlightenment. They are doing that by using their growing political power, and they are quite confident that they have the upper hand in the birth-rate battles that are transforming demographics worldwide.


During our above-mentioned Facebook debate, several of the Jewish discussants were horrified to learn that a French official might have the power to force a kosher butcher to sell pork. But the analogy between kosher butcher stores and halal supermarkets is misplaced.

The declining Jewish population of France, of around 500,000, consists mostly of secular Jews who have assimilated into French society, with many leading Jewish politicians and intellectuals celebrating France’s principles of secularism and state-religion separation. In fact, most French Jews aren’t likely to frequent kosher butcher shops, and with the exception of a small ultra-Orthodox community, they aren’t residing in neighborhoods with Jewish majorities.

On the other hand, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, about 5 million, and it keeps growing as a result of emigration from the Middle East and high birth rates. And unlike modern Jews, most Muslims in France haven’t been going through a process of secularization and integration into French society. They probably wouldn’t understand what the terms “secularism” and “liberalism” mean, and if anything, under the influence of growing religious radicalization in the Muslim world, they have been embracing less tolerant and open forms of Islam in recent years.

According to the common liberal fantasy, the multicultural nature of Western societies allows these Muslims to have their cake and eat it too, to maintain their religious identity while integrating into the general population and becoming French or German or Swedish “like us.” Soon enough, the hijab-wearing woman will look like any other sexually liberated French woman.

In reality, Muslim immigrants take advantage of multiculturalism to maintain their religious identity while resisting pressure to assimilate into French society. Parisians hope that the Muslims congregating in their neighborhoods will eventually leave their ghettos, like Jews did after being granted civil rights following the French Revolution. A few halal stores might remain, but the majority of Muslims will shop in the general supermarket.

Most Muslims are not following this liberal game plan. With their growing population, they are spreading into new parts of the cities. They will become the majority in more and more neighborhoods in Paris, where new mosques will be built and where more women will be wearing hijabs. And one day, the only option for France’s aging Christian population will be to shop at the local halal supermarket.

If you think this is a farfetched nightmare scenario concocted by an Islamophobic mind, consider the way that members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community or Haredi in Israel have been winning the demographic wars, strengthening their political power, and gradually transforming their secular country.

The ultra-Orthodox Jews, who still dress like it’s 1815 in Eastern Europe, adhere to rigorous religious laws, including strict separation between men and women, and shun any form of modern education, including basic prerequisites of math, science, and language.

They constituted a tiny minority of 30,000 when Israel was established in 1948, residing in a few small neighborhoods in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv, with many refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the new state. But Israel’s secular founders, including the first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, agreed to exempt the young Haredi studying in religious schools from mandatory military service, to provide them with government subsidies to study, and to support their expanding families of five to ten children (compared to secular Jewish families with two to three children).

A vicious cycle developed. With the number of the ultra-Orthodox Jews growing dramatically, the community was able to increase its political influence, with its parties joining coalition governments and acquiring new financial and other benefits for its members and allowing them to grow their families—which continued to live on government subsidies, becoming a drag on the economy.

Today the ultra-Orthodox Jews number around 800,000 and constitute 11 percent of the Israeli population. With a growth rate of 5 percent, one of the highest of the world, they could increase to 20 percent of the population by 2030.

While much of the public rhetoric in Israel has been about multiculturalism and coexistence between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, in reality the Haredi resist embracing the liberal and secular values of Israeli society. They not only maintain their separate religious and cultural identity, but also are gradually able to force their norms on the secular Jewish majority.

Hence their political parties ensure that, despite growing pressure from the younger, secular Israeli Jews who reside in advanced modern urban centers in and around Tel Aviv, no attempt will be made to separate religion and state in Israel. The Orthodox-controlled rabbinate continues to maintain jurisdiction over personal-status issues such as Jewish marriages and Jewish divorce, as well as Jewish burialsconversion to Judaism, and kosher laws, while rabbis representing the Reform and Conservative branches of American Judaism continue to fight for state recognition.

In addition to new towns established by the government to accommodate the growing Haredi population, many ultra-Orthodox Jews are also trying to establish a presence in other areas of the country. And the storyline is familiar: several Haredi families move to a mostly secular neighborhood, where they demand that their “religious rights” be protected by, for example, banning traffic and forcing stores to close down during the Sabbath. More Orthodox Jews then join the first group, and before you know it, the entire neighborhood becomes another Haredi outpost. Most recently, under pressure of the religious parties, stores in the Tel Aviv area have lost their permits to open during the Sabbath.


The ultra-Orthodox have some cultural and historical ties to the secular Jewish majority, and they certainly doesn’t pose any national-security threat. And yet not only have the secular Israeli Jews failed to integrate and assimilate the Haredi, but the latter have used their growing demographic power to help them transform the norms of Israel’s secular culture.

Why would anyone believe that a religious minority like the Muslim population of France in Europe, which has historically and culturally been estranged from the secular Christian majority, would be able to integrate—or would even be interested in integrating—into secular European politics and culture?

Add to that the national-security challenges that a radicalized Muslim population poses to Europe, and it becomes clear that the notion that multiculturalism and religious freedom will eventually resolve these problems is nothing more than wishful thinking. That a European political leader would actually take steps to increase the number of Muslim immigrants makes no sense at all, unless the goal is to commit national political and cultural suicide.

It goes without saying that many Muslims and Jews who practice their religion can be assimilated into secular Western societies. Unlike the Haredi, modern Orthodox Jews do coexist with the secular Jewish majority. Exposed to modern education and culture, they don’t try to preserve a separate identity or exhibit intolerance toward those who don’t share their values, and they have excelled in science, business and other professional arenas.


There are many Westernized and modern Muslims in Europe and the United States. In fact, one of the reasons that so many Muslim immigrants have done so well in the United States is that the majority of them, especially those who arrived from Iran and South Asia, tended to be highly educated and secular, which isn’t the case with the more recent arrivals from countries like Somalia and Afghanistan.

And let’s face it: there aren’t so many Muslims, or for that matter ultra-Orthodox Jews, living in the United States. They amount to tiny and insignificant minorities, and that can be accommodated in our pluralistic society. Even if they fail to assimilate into the secular environment, they aren’t able to change American society and culture in the way that the large Hispanic population could in the coming decades.

Secularism and other legacies of the Enlightenment, including liberalism, democracy, and capitalism, may be “universal” in the sense that they have been embraced by many different societies. But nonetheless, each society’s unique history and culture determine whether and how that process takes place.

Hence the German form of capitalism is quite different from the American or Anglo or Chinese one. The United States, Switzerland, and India all have democratic systems, but would anyone seriously suggest that those systems have anything in common save the right to vote? And liberalism means different things in different places. Not even our British cousins have embraced the American tradition of a free press. The Scandinavian style of social democracy could develop only in the small and homogenous societies of Scandinavia. And then, as discussed above, there are the different ways that the Americans and French interpret the principle of freedom of religion.

From that perspective, a nation that absorbs a large number of immigrants from societies whose core cultural values and beliefs run contrary to its dominant norms cannot expect to maintain its common traditions in the long run, as members of a group that rejects them increase in numbers and gain more influence.

So prepare yourself for the inevitable. Expect the Muslim population in Europe to use its growing numbers to do what is clearly in its interest: remaking Europe to reflect its own culture and values.

Leon Hadar is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, and teaches international relations at the University of Maryland, College Park.

mardi, 31 mai 2016

«2084» de Boualem Sansal: «Attention, ça brûle!»


«2084» de Boualem Sansal: «Attention, ça brûle!»

BS-2084.jpgTranquillement assis, comme si de rien n’était, Boualem Sansal attend ses lecteurs. Ce mardi soir, dans le petit théâtre de l’Alliance française, à Paris, seuls un vigile à ses côtés et des contrôles d’identité à l’entrée laissent transparaître le caractère explosif de ses idées. Avec son roman acclamé 2084, l’auteur algérien dépeint la menace du terrorisme islamiste et n’exclut plus une troisième Guerre mondiale. Tiré à 290 000 exemplaires, ce livre l’a propulsé au cœur de l’actualité brûlante d’une France qui se cherche. Couronné « Meilleur livre en 2015 » par le magazine Lire, son scénario avait déjà reçu le Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française. Depuis, Boualem Sansal court les rencontres littéraires pour s’expliquer auprès de ses lecteurs. Entretien.

RFI : Chez vous, la séance de dédicaces dure aussi longtemps que la rencontre littéraire. Comment réagissent vos lecteurs face à votre monde totalitaire de 2084, cette dictature planétaire nommée Abistan, avec son Dieu Yölah et son prophète Abi ?

Boualem Sansal : Jusque-là, les gens réagissent plutôt bien par rapport aux livres que j'écris. Avec 2084, il y a peut-être quelque chose de nouveau. Il y a un contexte, une actualité. 2084 parle d’une dictature religieuse et en ce moment, il y a des événements liés à la religion en Europe et un peu partout dans le monde. Cela inquiète beaucoup de gens. Mon roman amène une réflexion sur ces choses-là. C’est ce que les gens veulent.

Depuis vos prix littéraires, vous êtes beaucoup lu et écouté. Avez-vous le sentiment d’être vraiment entendu et réellement compris par rapport à votre roman 2084 ?

Les gens vous entendent. Comme nous tous entendons les gens. Est-ce qu’on fait toujours ce qu’ils nous recommandent ? Ce n’est pas toujours évident. Parfois, on ne peut pas agir. Parfois, je me dis que les gens sont souvent comme les enfants. Ils ne réagissent pas quand on les avertit : « Attention, ça, ça brûle ! ». Et puis, un beau jour, ils mettent la main et se brûlent. Mais, c’est trop tard.

Depuis mon premier roman [Le Serment des barbares, ndlr] et au-delà des romans, des articles et des interviews, cela fait quinze ans que j’attire l’attention des gens sur l’évolution de l’islamisme notamment. Les gens n’ont qu’à écouter. Certains disent : oui, c’est vrai, c’est risqué, c’est dangereux, mais qu’est-ce qu’ils peuvent faire ? Les États devaient écouter les lanceurs d’alertes, mais ils ne les écoutent pas, parce qu’ils gèrent des intérêts. Et ces intérêts passent même avant la raison.

En 2015, dans la Russie de Poutine, le livre 1984 de George Orwell est devenu un best-seller. Votre roman 2084, inspiré par Orwell, est en train de devenir un best-seller dans une France marquée par les attentats islamistes et l’état d’urgence. Est-ce un signe inquiétant ?

Oui, en tout cas, c’est le signe que la population, ou au moins ceux qui lisent ces livres ont un fort sentiment d’inquiétude. Pour le moment, ils ne savent pas comment le traduire en actes. Des fois, ils le font d’une manière qui joue plutôt contre eux, par exemple, quand ils vont vers l’extrême droite en disant : « Il y a un danger qui arrive. Il y a des écrivains qui nous le disent, donc on peut le croire. Et pour nous prémunir de ça, allons vers l’extrême droite. » Ce n’est pas la solution. D’autres vont vers des solutions encore plus violentes que la violence qui les attaque. Par exemple, aux Etats-Unis, quand le candidat républicain Donald Trump dit qu’il faut chasser les musulmans et leur interdire de venir dans le pays. C’est de la folie.

BS-2070149759FS.gifVous affirmez n’écrire « que des histoires vraies ». Pour vous, 2084 n’est pas de la science-fiction, mais se déroule aujourd’hui. Pendant l’écriture de votre roman, vous avez utilisé comme temps de narration le présent. Pourquoi cela a-t-il provoqué un casse-tête chez les grammairiens de Gallimard ?

Ce genre de texte est très difficile à écrire sur le plan de la temporalité. C’est une projection. Donc il faudrait utiliser le futur pour dire ce qu’il va arriver. Moi, personnellement, je pense que c’est dangereux de faire ça, parce qu’on peut passer pour un gourou ou pour quelqu’un qui joue au prophète. C’est très dangereux, surtout en littérature. On peut le faire dans un essai.

Dans un essai on démontre ce qu’on affirme. Dans un roman, on ne démontre rien. On dit. Pour moi, la seule solution était de me mettre en 2084 et de raconter cela en étant en 2084. Donc c’est forcément le présent. Mais il se trouve que… on ne peut pas s’en rendre compte si on n’écrit pas soi-même : c’est difficile de raconter le futur – en étant dans le futur – au présent. C’est très difficile.

Imaginez que vous racontez une de vos journées dans vingt ans. Comment allez-vous faire ça ? Comment allez-vous dire : « Ce jour, je suis sorti pour aller au stade et puis manger avec des amis ». Le lecteur le lit aujourd’hui. Donc il ne comprend pas. Vous vous rendez compte de la complexité ? Finalement, en parler au passé reste la situation la moins perturbante. C'est-à-dire qu’on se met dans le futur, mais comme si c’était quelque chose de passé. C’est très étonnant.

Cela rejoint donc une réalité, parce que les gens se posent la question : est-ce que ce danger-là – pour faire court, on va dire l’islamisme – est-ce que c’est devant ? Ça va venir ? Ou est-ce que c’est déjà là ? Ou est-ce que c’est déjà un peu passé dans la mesure où l’on est en train de prendre des mesures ? Alors c’est presque fini et on se dit : encore deux mois et on aura fini avec Daech… Donc la question de la temporalité est très importante !

Dans 2084 vous ne nous projetez pas dans un monde technologique et futuriste. Ce n’est pas la technologie qui est en jeu, mais nos attitudes, notre suivisme, notre collaboration avec le système. Votre livre parle de « la force du mouvement infinitésimal, rien ne lui résiste, on ne s'en rend compte de rien pendant que, vaguelette après vaguelette, angström après angström, il déplace les continents sous nos pieds… ». On y est déjà ? Cela se passe-t-il déjà en France et en Europe ?

Absolument. Toutes les évolutions se font comme ça, millimètre par millimètre. Sauf dans le domaine technologique où il peut y avoir des découvertes où tout change, du jour au lendemain. Comme l’ordinateur qui a bouleversé notre univers technologique. Mais les évolutions politiques, sociales, philosophiques, religieuses, se sont faites dans l’immobilité…

BS-811H2vPmrHL._SL1500_.jpg… ou par « Soumission » pour nommer le livre de Michel Houellebecq.

Houellebecq est vraiment dans le quotidien d’aujourd’hui. Il ne fait pas de projection. 2022, c’est comme 2017 ou aujourd’hui avec la question : qui va être élu ? Hollande, Sarkozy, Jupé ou Monsieur Abbes [dans le livre de Houellebecq, Mohammed Ben Abbes, le candidat de la Fraternité musulmane, devient en 2022 le premier président musulman de la République française, ndlr]. Ce n’est pas une véritable projection. Ce sont des choses qui se font, qui sont là, dans la société…

Depuis l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo, il y des caricaturistes qui admettent pratiquer une certaine autocensure. Il y a aussi le cas de Michel Onfray (« Le débat en France n’est plus possible ») qui a renoncé à publier en France son livre-entretien Penser l’islam. Est-ce qu’il y a déjà un soupçon de « Abistan » dans l’air, ici en France ?
Quand j’ai écrit 2084, ma conviction était faite : on va là-dedans, on va vers ça ! Il y a des raisons religieuses, mais aussi des raisons beaucoup plus fortes encore. C’est comme le réchauffement de la planète. C’est quelque chose qui se fait.

Ce n’est pas parce qu’on va prendre quelques mesures avec la COP21 ou la COP22 ou la COP23 qu’on va arrêter l’évolution du monde. On est sept milliards d’habitants. On sera dix milliards. Il y aura plus de voitures, plus de maisons, il faudra produire plus pour plus de gens. Il est inévitable que la température augmente. La question est : faut-il tout arrêter pour empêcher le réchauffement climatique ? Ou apprendre à vivre avec le réchauffement climatique ?

Ce genre de texte est très difficile à écrire.
L’écrivain Boualem Sansal sur la difficulté de la temporalité de son roman « 2084 ».
14-01-2016 - Par Siegfried Forster
Pour écouter:


Autres documents audio:

► Ecouter aussi l’interview avec Boualem Sansal dans l’émission Religions du monde
► Ecouter aussi l’interview avec Boualem Sansal dans l’émission Littérature sans frontières
► Lire aussi la critique du livre 2084

► L’agenda des prochaines rencontres littéraires de Boualem Sansal

vendredi, 27 mai 2016

Science fiction begins with Bulwer-Lytton's attack on egalitarianism


The First Dystopia

Science fiction begins with Bulwer-Lytton's attack on egalitarianism

Science fiction has flooded television and Hollywood in recent decades. Our pop culture has been completely saturated by it—and it has often played a key role in our cultural and political commentary. Films and novels such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight or Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games touch upon issues ranging from the War on Terror to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Yet while left-leaning science-fiction writers and directors tend to be explicit in their political allegiances, we rarely see a display of right-wing credentials in the genre. This may be understandable, given the entrenched liberal culture of Hollywood. But considering the roots of science fiction, such silence is unfortunate. After all, one of science fiction’s founding fathers was a 19th-century conservative named Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

vrilrwjZGSIL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_.jpgAn eminent novelist, playwright, poet, and politician in Victorian Britain, Bulwer-Lytton has been largely neglected since his death in 1873. People remember the phrases he coined—such as “it was a dark and stormy night” or “the pen is mightier than the sword”—but not the man himself. His single contribution to the science-fiction genre, The Coming Race, came in the twilight of his life after an already long and prestigious career. But then, there really was no “science-fiction genre” when The Coming Race appeared, which is what makes this book remarkable—it prefigures many of the themes that have since come to define a rather large part of our popular culture.

In the 1830s, early in his career, Bulwer-Lytton was a Radical novelist and dandy of aristocratic birth, prone to bouts of melancholia, with a strong penchant for Byron. Along with his friend Benjamin Disraeli, also a Radical novelist at the time, Bulwer-Lytton enjoyed the glamour and gossip of London high society. He wrote several novels about English society—from Pelham, which recounted the life of a society dandy and aspiring politician, to the criminal underbelly portrayed in his Newgate novels, which recounted the adventures of highwaymen and murderers. This eye for Britain’s social and cultural life was a defining feature of Bulwer-Lytton’s style and work.

Following the death of his mother in 1843, Bulwer-Lytton inherited the family title and estate. It gave him a new purpose and responsibility: the dandy of the 1830s was gone. By the 1840s, he had become a moderate Whig and a serious Victorian gentleman. Bulwer-Lytton was a committed protectionist, however, and grew increasingly disillusioned with his fellow Whigs. He eventually joined the Conservative Party in 1852, a defection facilitated by his friendship with Disraeli. This was a counterintuitive move for a rising star in Parliament: for the next two decades, the Conservatives would languish in opposition, with only brief attempts at governing. During these years, Bulwer-Lytton was Disraeli’s ally in the House of Commons.

By 1871, Bulwer-Lytton was an aged, deaf, and increasingly sick man. Years of political opposition had prevented him from ascending to the heights of political office. The world was also a very different place: as a young man Bulwer-Lytton had fought tooth and nail to prevent the rise of free trade and the growth of democracy, both of which he saw as destructive forces and vehicles for class warfare. But both had come to pass with repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the Second Reform Act in 1867. Britain was no longer an exclusively agricultural, Anglican, and hierarchical society, but rather an increasingly industrialized, pluralistic, and democratic one.

Vril_The_Power_of_the_Coming_Race.jpgIt would have been easy for Bulwer-Lytton to resign himself to the fact that the political battles which had defined so much of his life were lost. Instead he published The Coming Race, anonymously, in 1871. The novel addressed new dangers he feared would await Britain through the allegorical story of a subterranean master race called the Vril-ya, whose strange abilities were made possible by the immense power of an energy source called Vril. This mysterious substance is likened to electricity or an “atmospheric magnetism” which has attained “unity in natural energic agencies.” It can influence all forms of matter by providing a power source for machinery, healing physical ailments, establishing telepathic communication, and destroying entire cities.

The novel proved incredibly popular, selling through five editions by January 1872. In retrospect we can see The Coming Race as a progenitor of the science-fiction genre, but Bulwer-Lytton was drawing upon numerous other genres he had already experimented with. He was well versed in such subjects of popular fascination as the occult and macabre, as well as the growing late Victorian obsession—shared by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—with clairvoyance and the afterlife.

Where The Coming Race displays its innovative spirit, however, is in Bulwer-Lytton’s use of satire to blend the occult with the scientific, prophesying the dangers of utopian faith in egalitarian doctrine and technological advancement.

The year before The Coming Race was published, France had descended into chaos in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War—which witnessed the birth of the Paris Commune that inspired Karl Marx’s line about the  “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Not for the first or last time, an Englishman would look upon an episode of political violence in France and feel compelled to speak out against the dangers of misguided utopianism. For Bulwer-Lytton, the new radical doctrine threatening Western civilization in 1871 was egalitarianism.

In The Coming Race, Bulwer-Lytton chooses to tell his anti-egalitarian satire through a nameless narrator: a young gentleman from an unspecified time and place in 19th-century America, who falls down a mineshaft and discovers the Vril-ya. At first this might appear to be a counterintuitive choice of protagonist for a British aristocrat in the twilight of his life. But therein lies the interesting twist.

The narrator is as much the subject of anti-egalitarian criticism as he is the voice for anti-egalitarian commentary. Bulwer-Lytton’s dripping disdain for democracy is evident from the very beginning as the narrator recalls how his father “once ran for Congress, but was signally defeated by his tailor.” Bulwer-Lytton was baffled by liberal intellectuals’ support for democracy, which was in his view a highly anti-intellectual system. It is perhaps for this reason that he robbed his narrator of his sense of superiority by having him judged a barbarian by the Vril-ya, despite his heroic presentation of American democracy.

vril867218-M.jpgEgalitarian doctrine is embodied in the Vril-ya. Their society enjoys absolute equality of class and between sexes. Theirs appears to be a utopia in which crime, disease, and conflict do not exist. Leftist writers have conceived of such places in science fiction for decades, with Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek being the most prominent example of recent times. This progressive spirit has been elevated to theological heights by the Vril-ya, who base their religion on the “conviction of a future state, more felicitous and more perfect than the present.” But the narrator soon discovers that this serene paradise is in fact one of the most civilized hellscapes to grace science fiction.

The society produced by absolute equality of outcome is ultimately sterile and monotonous, as it has traded away individuality for the common good. There is no state coercion of any kind; instead, convention and custom govern the lives of the Vril-ya thanks to their ability to self-discipline their behavior through the aid of Vril. All the Vril-ya put the common good before all other considerations, thus producing an authoritarian order in which a single magistrate rules, albeit with no formal coercive power, and citizens abide by the motto “No happiness without order, no order without authority, no authority without unity.” Language such as this calls to mind the totalitarian dystopias of George Orwell’s 1984 or Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. Individuality and the unequal distinctions that arise from it are actively repudiated by the Vril-ya, rooted in the belief that greed for status, privilege, and fame could only lead to conflict and poverty.

Having once admired utilitarian social reformers in the 1830s, Bulwer-Lytton was aware of the many utopian arguments that claimed the state could change people’s habits, and thus their character, through measures such as public education or teetotalism. The Vril-ya represent this approach in excelsis. With Vril supplying all needs, no one indulges in alcoholic intoxication, adulterous love, devouring meat, hunting animals, or rude language. The Vril-ya’s rational morality is utterly divorced from human emotion or animal instincts—at the cost of all artistic endeavor and spiritual expression. Blandness and mediocrity define their way of life. Without competition, there is no opportunity for greatness to emerge. Bulwer-Lytton’s narrator even goes so far as to say that if you took the finest human beings from Western civilization and placed them among the Vril-ya, “in less than a year they would either die of ennui, or attempt some revolution.” Egalitarianism is portrayed as a doctrine that can only destroy all the particularities, idiosyncrasies, and joyfulness of human existence.

vrilPompeii-C1.jpgThe Coming Race’s contribution to science fiction is obvious in its exploration of technological advancement and its effects on society. Vril is not just an agent for modeling social and political life; it is a means of technological salvation. Bulwer-Lytton’s narrator likens Vril to electricity, but Vril’s abilities will remind modern readers of technologies that came after Bulwer-Lytton’s time—specifically, Vril has the ability to “reduce to ashes within a space of time too short for me to venture to specify it, a capital twice as vast as London.” As a result, this “mutually assured destruction” led to centuries of peace among the underground peoples, allowing the Vril-ya to develop and for nations to fragment into tribal communities tied together by mutual consent instead of state-sanctioned coercion. Unwittingly, Bulwer-Lytton managed to prophesy the nuclear age.

In what has come to be a hallmark of science fiction, Bulwer-Lytton considered the dehumanizing impact that technological advancement might have on society, prefiguring authors such as H.G. Wells, who used Gothic imagery to describe the subterranean Morlocks, or Orwell and Aldous Huxley, who both crafted technocratic dystopias. These early pioneers were certainly aware of The Coming Race, and, by accident or design, they echoed the themes explored by Bulwer-Lytton.

vrilzanoni cover.jpgThe Vril-ya center their lives around machinery and scientific advancement, with no consideration for the soul or emotion. They augment themselves with mechanical wings for personal transportation, which calls to mind later ideas of cyborgs and transhumanism. This notion that every technological leap robs some part of our humanity has become a recurring theme in science fiction, so much so that it has become cliché—yet in many ways, it started with Bulwer-Lytton.

There is much in The Coming Race still worthwhile for a modern reader. Through the eyes of the author, this vain old English aristocrat, we can witness the passing of an age and the foreshadowing of a new one of industrialized warfare and utopian crusades. Despite its occasionally turgid prose, The Coming Race offers a gripping story that entices the reader to consider the implications of the Vril-ya’s civilization. In writing this book, Bulwer-Lytton was lamenting the loss of the England he grew up in—but also giving warning to those like us, who would face this future defined by egalitarianism and technology, threatened by the reckless pursuit of utopian bliss. 

David A. Cowan was an American Conservative editorial assistant last fall.

lundi, 23 mai 2016

Contes de la folie dystopique


Contes de la folie dystopique

Après avoir navigué dans les eaux claires et bienveillantes des fictions utopiques, il est temps d’accoster son envers ténébreux, le sinistre continent carcéral des dystopies. Inspirées des satires du XVIIe siècle, les dystopies (ou contre-utopies) naissent à une période critique et anti-totalitaire survenant au lendemain de l’âge d’or du scientisme, du positivisme social et de la croyance dans le progrès élaborés durant le XIXe siècle.

Les progrès de la technique et de la science n’ont pas seulement permis l’industrialisation de l’Occident mais ont profondément transformé les rapports de l’homme à l’univers et à sa propre nature biologique. La Première Guerre mondiale et son cortège d’armes chimiques, l’échec des grandes idéologies, la montée du fascisme en Europe de l’Ouest et l’expérience des camps de la mort durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale sont les principales causes de la dégénérescence de l’utopie. Les nombreuses désillusions qui traversent le XXe siècle vont progressivement pousser les utopistes à changer leur conception de l’avenir de l’humanité. Ils imaginent un monde dans lequel l’homme, constitué entièrement par la science, verrait ses actes et ses pensées déterminés génétiquement. Pourtant, les prémisses de la critique du “totalitarisme utopique” avaient déjà vu le jour trois siècles auparavant.

Généalogie du genre dystopique

labyrd3f4cfafe862f994c1.jpgLe préfixe dys de dystopie renvoie au grec dun qui est l’antithèse de la deuxième acception étymologique d’utopie (non pas u mais eu, “lieu du bien”). On fait remonter l’origine du mot “dystopie” tantôt au livre du philosophe tchèque Comenius intitulé Le labyrinthe du monde et le paradis du cœur (1623-1631), tantôt au livre Mundus Alter et Idem (Another world and yet the same, 1605) de l’évêque Joseph Hall, considéré comme l’inventeur de la subdivision du genre littéraire de l’utopie : la satire dystopique. Hall tourne en ridicule les récits de voyages populaires et s’emploie à fustiger les vices, notamment en inventant une carte de pays imaginaires dont chacun est régi par un vice dominant : par exemple, la Pamphagonia est le pays de la gloutonnerie, ou l’Yvronia, la région de l’ébriété.

Mais les signes avant-coureurs de la dystopie sont encore plus prégnants au XVIIIe siècle. Selon Raymond Trousson, les « quatre forces destructrices de l’utopie » que sont « le réalisme, le pessimisme, l’individualisme et le scepticisme » se déploient dans certains ouvrages, mettant sérieusement en cause l’optimisme des Lumières : La Fable des abeilles de Bernard Mandeville (1714), dénonçant l’ascétisme utopique et la suppression des pulsions individuelles ; Les Voyages de Gulliver de Jonathan Swift (1726), qui dévoile la mesquinerie ambiante de Lilliput, la décadence de Laputa et la méchanceté naturelle des Yahoos ; Le Philosophe anglais ou Histoire de Cleveland de l’abbé Prévost (1731), qui refuse l’entente parfaite entre la Raison et la Nature et considère l’utopie comme un faux paradis ; L’Histoire des Galligènes ou Mémoires de Duncan de Tiphaigne de la Roche (1765) enfin, rétablissant le sens d’une marche fatale de l’histoire liée à la nature des choses humaines. On compte aussi quelques précurseurs durant la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle : Le monde tel qu’il sera d’Emile Souvestre en 1846 et L’an 330 de la République de Maurice Spronck en 1895.

On peut en outre ajouter, pêle-mêle, selon l’écrivain Fernando Ainsa dans La reconstruction de l’utopie, tout un ensemble de catastrophes de politique-fiction : « les chocs futuristes d’Adolph Toffler, les catastrophes démographiques de Paul Ehnrlich, les grandes technocraties de Herman Kahn, les projets mécanistes de Buckminster Fuller, […] la révolution prônée par Marshall Mac Luhan » dans le domaine des communications. Y compris le terme de kakotopies (utopie de l’enfer) s’inspirant de Cackatopia de John Stuart Mill…

« La dystopie est un Enfer terrestre, mis à jour, créé par l’homme, sans intervention divine. »
Éric Faye

Le renversement radical du système utopique

Contrairement à ce que l’on pourrait penser de prime abord, une dystopie n’est pas le contraire d’une utopie mais, comme le dit l’historien Frédéric Rouvillois, « une utopie en sens contraire », de sorte qu’en poussant les logiques totales qui président toute utopie traditionnelle, on débouche sur le pire des mondes possibles. Les mondes définis par les œuvres dystopiques sont l’inverse des utopies, dans le sens où elles exposent les mauvais lieux alternatifs, la face sombre de l’utopie. Comme l’exprime l’essayiste Georges Jean dans Voyages en Utopie, la dystopie dénonce le mécanisme atroce et paradoxal de l’utopie qui aboutit « à l’inverse de ce à quoi elle prétend ». Il faut cependant se garder de confondre ces “utopies à l’envers” (en 1981 le chercheur Kingsley Widmer parle d’« utopisme inversé ») avec les « mondes à l’envers » et autres carnavals littéraires.

Ainsi, nous pouvons affirmer avec Gérard Klein que la contre-utopie met « en scène une eunomie pour établir son inhumanité du fait de son incomplétude. En effet, l’eunomie repose sur le concept d’une nature humaine, servant de socle absolu à la définition de la bonne loi. Les anti-utopistes apportent la preuve par la fiction qu’un tel socle n’existe pas et qu’il se trouvera toujours au moins une modalité de l’humain à échapper au bénéfice présumé de la perfection utopique. » (Dictionnaire des utopies) Cette échappatoire se réalise, le plus souvent, par un retour à la nature et une libération absolue de l’individu.

« La dystopie n’est pas le contraire d’une utopie mais une utopie en sens contraire. »

Et d’un point de vue strictement littéraire, Raymond Trousson note que l’utopie « moderne » (entendre “contemporaine”), c’est-à-dire la dystopie, remet en cause le côté normatif et figé de l’utopie « traditionnelle ». Elle inverse l’utopie, en redonnant au héros une consistance qu’il n’avait plus ou pas dans l’utopie. Avec le héros revient également le sens de l’intrigue, le goût des choix, des pensées et des libertés individuelles. L’anti-utopie redevient romanesque, un vrai roman en somme, avec des péripéties et un dynamisme qui n’existent pratiquement pas dans le genre littéraire utopique.

La critique romanesque des maux modernes

« La dystopie peut être interprétée comme une utopie du désenchantement qui prospère sur les décombres des utopies. »

Kustodiev_Zamyatin.jpgC’est en 1920 avec la parution de Nous autres que la fiction dystopique naît véritablement. Cette œuvre phare de l’ingénieur russe Evguéni Ivanovitch Zamiatine donne ainsi ses “lettres de noblesses” au genre. Son ouvrage influença considérablement bon nombre de récits analogues tels que Le Meilleur des mondes d’Huxley et 1984 d’Orwell, publiés respectivement douze et vingt-huit ans plus tard.

Les contre-utopistes renouent avec la veine des utopies satiriques mais de façon beaucoup plus corrosive et en ciblant spécifiquement l’uniformisation de la vie, les manipulations idéologiques auxquelles sont soumis les individus dans les mondes utopiques, et, par corollaire, leur réduction à des pièces interchangeables de la machine sociale.

Les dystopies sont donc des œuvres politiques au sens fort, puisqu’elles se veulent aussi des critiques cinglantes, ironiques, caricaturales ou désespérées selon les cas, de sociétés réellement existantes, par exemple le monde plus spécifiquement pré-soviétique pour Zamiatine ou tous les totalitarismes de son époque pour Orwell. Comme le dit l’historien Bronislaw Backzo, dans Lumières de l’utopie (1978), « l’anti-utopie est une expression parfois plus corrosive et puissante que l’utopie… » pour dénoncer le monde présent. Elle témoigne d’un violent pessimisme en l’homme et en la nature, ce qui la démarque de presque toutes les utopies classiques largement optimistes qui popularisent le mythe du bon sauvage. La dystopie peut donc à juste titre être interprétée comme une utopie du désenchantement qui prospère sur les décombres des utopies, sur ce monde réel dont les caractéristiques ont parfois largement dépassées dans l’horreur les plus systématiques propositions utopiques.

nous-autrres.jpgCes œuvres voient donc dans l’utopie non pas une chance pour l’humanité, mais un risque de dégénérescence terriblement inhumaine qu’il faut empêcher à tout prix. Le but n’est pas de réaliser des utopies, mais au contraire d’empêcher qu’elles se réalisent. C’est l’avertissement du philosophe existentialiste Nicolas Berdiaeff en exergue du Meilleur des mondes : « Les utopies apparaissent comme bien plus réalisables qu’on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante : comment éviter leur réalisation définitive ?… Les utopies sont réalisables. La vie marche vers les utopies. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d’éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société moins utopique moins “parfaite“ et plus libre. »

Le refus viscéral du bonheur obligatoire

« Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d’éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société moins utopique moins “parfaite“ et plus libre. »
Nicolas Berdiaeff

Les régimes liberticides sont ainsi combattus par l’ironie, la parodie, la caricature, la parabole, l’allégorie, la fable, le pamphlet, etc. Les ouvrages sont souvent désespérés, mais lucides : le totalitarisme, l’étatisme omniprésent, l’infantilisation généralisée, le bonheur grégaire, l’asservissement des individus et l’absence de liberté sont l’antithèse absolue d’une société ouverte. Dénoncer, s’opposer, décrire l’horreur… c’est donc aussi en arrière plan, proposer et susciter l’inverse : une société libre.

La vision dystopique est strictement individualiste, excentrique, donc contestataire. Les groupes réfractaires redeviennent des garants d’une ouverture possible, d’un avenir moins sombre, qu’ils soient « Méphis » dans Nous autres, « sauvages » dans Le Meilleur des mondes, membres de la « Fraternité » dans 1984, « hommes-livres » chez Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) ou « incurables » chez Ira Levin (Un bonheur insoutenable). Dans la plupart des ouvrages dystopiques, le seul recours face au monde inhumain est effectivement contenu dans la figure du rebelle, de l’opposant, du dissident, du fugitif, du réfractaire. L’écrivain Gilles Lapouge, dans Utopie et civilisations, affirme que le contre-utopiste est « un libertaire libertin individualiste […] qui se moque de la société et ne veut connaître que l’individu. » Il s’oppose à l’idéologie du bonheur universel : « Il a choisi le vital contre l’artifice, la nature contre l’institution. »

Il est tout de même important de rappeler, encore une fois, la relative porosité des frontières entre les genres utopiques : certaines utopies peuvent sombrer dans le désespoir (Quand le dormeur s’éveillera de H. G. Wells, 1899) quand quelques dystopies se laissent tenter par des rêves de réconciliation (Île d’Huxley, 1962).

« Le contre-utopiste a choisi le vital contre l’artifice, la nature contre l’institution »
Gilles Lapouge

Finalement, en dévoilant les logiques profondes de l’utopie – instaurer une perfection définitive ici-bas entièrement conçue comme totalité –, les dystopies donnent ainsi à voir, dans le détail le plus infime, les horreurs des totalitarismes à venir au XXe siècle. C’est cette corrélation entre totalitarisme et les trois grands romans dystopiques (Nous autres, Le Meilleur des mondes et 1984), qui sera l’objet d’une troisième et dernière partie.

Nos Desserts :

dimanche, 22 mai 2016

« The Circle », le roman d’un monde totalitaire inspiré par Google


« The Circle », le roman d’un monde totalitaire inspiré par Google

Quand Mae Holland est embauchée par The Circle (Le Cercle), l’entreprise vient tout juste de devenir la plus puissante du monde grâce à son système TruYou. TruYou a aboli l’anonymat et unifié tous les services sur le Net.

«  The Circle  », le dernier roman de Dave Eggers (pas encore publié en France), raconte un univers dont la ressemblance avec Google n’échappera à personne. La transparence, la civilité et le partage sont les piliers de cet nouvel âge numérique dicté par une entreprise privée.

Si on devait le comparer à la référence absolue en matière de dystopie (contre-utopie) qu’est «  1984  » d’Orwell  :

  • Eggers a décidé de se projeter dans un avenir très proche (quelques années tout au plus) quand Orwell opérait un bond de 44 ans ;
  • Eggers a choisi de décrire le pouvoir totalitaire de l’intérieur et depuis ses hautes instances – le protagoniste principal devient peu à peu l’un des rouages. Orwell, lui, décrivait de l’extérieur un monde totalitaire ;
  • Eggers raconte l’engrenage qui conduit à l’instauration du cauchemar totalitaire quand le récit d’Orwell s’ancrait plusieurs décennies après son avènement.

Des faiblesses, mais une vraie réflexion

Il met en scène les angoisses de notre quotidien d’internaute. C’est bien là tout l’art de la dystopie  : se faire plus peur que de raison. Mais à pousser le bouchon un peu loin, Eggers s’expose à des critiques (parfois justifiées) qui relèvent les incohérences technologiques (que pointent Wired, The Atlantic ou le New York Times).

eggers7017632.jpgEt c’est vrai qu’il manque deux choses essentielles à un (très) bon roman  : finesse et substance, tant dans les personnages (qui manquent vraiment de profondeur) que dans l’avènement du système totalitaire.


Le tout-connecté : la dictature des réseaux sociaux

Il n’est pas question dans « The Circle » de réseaux sociaux, mais d’un réseau social, Zing, d’échelle planétaire et universellement adopté. Une sorte de mix entre Google Plus et Twitter. Au fil du récit, les «  Zingers  » deviennent de plus en plus obsessionnels, harcelant, exigeant, masquant derrière une politesse de façade une intransigeance narcissique.

Il est impossible d’ignorer ces nouveaux cercles et «  liens  » sociaux, autant qu’il est impossible de refuser d’y prendre part. Les entreprises exigent une participation active à la communauté, une réponse à tous, une image soignée.

Censé réunir, le réseau social sépare  : ceux qui s’en écartent sont des parias. Ceux qui en font partie sont en compétition  : le «  ParticipationRank  » donne à chacun son degré de popularité sur le réseau, et tous bataillent de superficialités pour grimper cette nouvelle échelle sociale.


La transparence absolue : à bas l’anonymat et la vie privée

«  Les secrets sont des mensonges, la vie privée est un vol, partager est prendre soin  » (« Secrets are Lies, Privacy is Theft, Sharing is Caring »). Voilà les trois maximes résumant la philosophie du «  Cercle  » qui ne sont pas sans rappeler la sainte-trinité de l’univers de «  1984  »  : «  La guerre, c’est la paix  ; la liberté, c’est l’esclavage  ; l’ignorance est la force  ».

Dans le monde de « The Circle », l’individu se doit de s’effacer face à la communauté, c’est-à-dire l’humanité. Garder pour soi un sentiment, une expérience vécue ou une chose vue, revient à voler les autres de l’opportunité de s’enrichir.

La planète se couvre de petites caméras haute-résolution, les hommes aussi. Tout doit pouvoir être capté et enregistré au profit de la mémoire commune, mensonges et secrets n’ont plus le droit de voiler le regard omniprésent de la communauté, et tout endroit doit être accessible en direct sur son écran.


Supprimer le bouton « supprimer »

Société du « big data » oblige, il faut stocker toujours plus de données. L’information est la matière première qui sert à connaître et donc influencer et conditionner chacun de nous. The Circle retire donc le doigt de ses usagers du bouton « supprimer », avant d’effacer tout simplement le bouton quand la technologie le permet enfin.

Comme l’héroïne du roman l’apprend à ses dépend, tout acte répréhensible ou intime capté par une caméra ou un portable, tout écrit ou commentaire qui finirait sur Internet sera éternel. Impossible de se défiler, les preuves ne disparaissent pas. Le droit à l’oubli est devenu tabou, et chacun se censure lui-même pour éviter le faux pas  : même pas besoin de police de la pensée.


Faillite du système démocratique et totalitarisme inversé

L’ultra-médiatisation et la société informationnelle ont participé à l’abattement du système démocratique  : le temps médiatique contraint les politiques à la dramaturgie au détriment du fond et décrédibilise tout le système. L’un d’entre eux accepte de devenir «  transparent  » et de porter une mini-caméra en permanence. Et tous le suivent peu à peu, bon gré mal gré.

Les gens partagent entre eux, sans intermédiaire, votent d’une simple pression sur écran tactile. Les études, questionnaires et pétitions pleuvent sans interruption sur des terminaux omniprésents. On échange d’un bout à l’autre de la planète sur tous les sujets, si bien que les identités culturelles et nationales s’effacent.

Grand marionnettiste, le Cercle récupère tout cela à son compte sans interférer, centralise cette activité en son sein. Après le totalitarisme répressif du XXe siècle, le «  soft totalitarisme  » du début des années 2000, bienvenue dans le cauchemar de demain  : le totalitarisme inversé

Le totalitarisme inversé

Source : Sheldon Wolin, The Nation

Ex: http://www.les-crises.fr

Traduit par les lecteurs du site www.les-crises.fr. Traduction librement reproductible en intégralité, en citant la source.

wolinsh_SX319_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLa guerre d’Irak a tellement accaparé l’attention du public que le changement de régime en train de s’accomplir chez nous est resté dans l’ombre. On a peut-être envahi l’Irak pour y apporter la démocratie et renverser un régime totalitaire, mais, ce faisant, notre propre système est peut-être en train de se rapprocher de ce dernier et de contribuer à affaiblir le premier. Le changement s’est fait connaître par la soudaine popularité de deux expressions politiques autrefois très rarement appliquées au système politique américain. « Empire » et « superpuissance » suggèrent tous les deux qu’un nouveau système de pouvoir, intense et s’étendant au loin, a pris naissance et que les anciens termes ont été supplantés. « Empire » et « superpuissance » symbolisent précisément la projection de la puissance américaine à l’étranger, mais, pour cette raison, ces deux termes en obscurcissent les conséquences domestiques.

Imaginez comme cela paraîtrait étrange de devoir parler de “la Constitution de l’Empire américain” ou de “démocratie de superpuissance”. Des termes qui sonnent faux parce que “Constitution” signifie limitations imposées au pouvoir, tandis que “démocratie” s’applique à la participation active des citoyens à leur gouvernement et à l’attention que le gouvernement porte à ses citoyens. Les mots “empire” et “superpuissance” quant à eux sont synonymes de dépassement des limites et de réduction de la citoyenneté à une importance minuscule.

Le pouvoir croissant de l’état et celui, déclinant, des institutions censées le contrôler était en gestation depuis quelque temps. Le système des partis en donne un exemple notoire. Les Républicains se sont imposés comme le phénomène unique dans l’Histoire des États-Unis d’un parti ardemment dogmatique, fanatique, impitoyable, antidémocratique et se targuant d’incarner la quasi-majorité. A mesure que les Républicains se sont faits de plus en plus intolérants idéologiquement parlant, les Démocrates ont abandonné le terrain de la gauche et leur base électorale réformiste pour se jeter dans le centrisme et faire discrètement connaître la fin de l’idéologie par une note en bas de page. En cessant de constituer un véritable parti d’opposition, les Démocrates ont aplani le terrain pour l’accès au pouvoir d’un parti plus qu’impatient de l’utiliser pour promouvoir l’empire à l’étranger et le pouvoir du milieu des affaires chez nous. Gardons à l’esprit qu’un parti impitoyable, guidé par une idéologie et possédant une base électorale massive fut un élément-clé dans tout ce que le vingtième siècle a pu connaître de partis aspirant au pouvoir absolu.

Les institutions représentatives ne représentent plus les électeurs. Au contraire, elles ont été court-circuitées, progressivement perverties par un système institutionnalisé de corruption qui les rend réceptives aux exigences de groupes d’intérêt puissants composés de sociétés multinationales et des Américains les plus riches. Les institutions judiciaires, quant à elles, lorsqu’elles ne fonctionnent pas encore totalement comme le bras armé des puissances privées, sont en permanence à genoux devant les exigences de la sécurité nationale. Les élections sont devenues des non-évènements largement subventionnés, attirant au mieux une petite moitié du corps électoral, dont l’information sur les affaires nationales et mondiales est soigneusement filtrée par les médias appartenant aux firmes privées. Les citoyens sont plongés dans un état de nervosité permanente par le discours médiatique sur la criminalité galopante et les réseaux terroristes, par les menaces à peine voilées du ministre de la justice, et par leur propre peur du chômage. Le point essentiel n’est pas seulement l’expansion du pouvoir du gouvernement, mais également l’inévitable discrédit jeté sur les limitations constitutionnelles et les processus institutionnels, discrédit qui décourage le corps des citoyens et les laisse dans un état d’apathie politique.

Il ne fait aucun doute que d’aucuns rejetteront ces commentaires, les qualifiant d’alarmistes, mais je voudrais pousser plus loin et nommer le système politique qui émerge sous nos yeux de “totalitarisme inversé”. Par “inversé”, j’entends que si le système actuel et ses exécutants partagent avec le nazisme la même aspiration au pouvoir illimité et à l’expansionnisme agressif, leurs méthodes et leurs actes sont en miroir les uns des autres. Ainsi, dans la République de Weimar, avant que les nazis ne parviennent au pouvoir, les rues étaient sous la domination de bandes de voyous aux orientations politiques totalitaires, et ce qui pouvait subsister de démocratie était cantonné au gouvernement. Aux États-Unis, c’est dans les rues que la démocratie est la plus vivace – tandis que le véritable danger réside dans un gouvernement de moins en moins bridé.

Autre exemple de l’inversion : sous le régime nazi, il ne faisait aucun doute que le monde des affaires était sous la coupe du régime. Aux États-Unis, au contraire, il est devenu évident au fil des dernières décennies que le pouvoir des grandes firmes est devenu si dominant dans la classe politique, et plus particulièrement au sein du parti Républicain, et si dominant dans l’influence qu’il exerce sur le politique, que l’on peut évoquer une inversion des rôles, un contraire exact de ce qu’ils étaient chez les nazis. Dans le même temps, c’est le pouvoir des entreprises, en tant que représentatif du capitalisme et de son pouvoir sans cesse en expansion grâce à l’intégration de la science et de la technologie dans sa structure même, qui produit cette poussée totalitaire qui, sous les nazis, était alimentée par des notions idéologiques telles que le Lebensraum.

On rétorquera qu’il n’y a pas d’équivalent chez nous de ce que le régime nazi a pu instaurer en termes de torture, de camps de concentration et autres outils de terreur. Il nous faudrait toutefois nous rappeler que, pour l’essentiel, la terreur nazie ne s’appliquait pas à la population de façon générale ; il s’agissait plutôt d’instaurer un climat de terreur sourde – des rumeurs de torture – propre à faciliter la gestion et la manipulation des masses. Pour le dire carrément, il s’agissait pour les nazis d’avoir une société mobilisée, enthousiaste dans son soutien à un état sans fin de guerre, d’expansion et de sacrifices pour la nation.

Tandis que le totalitarisme nazi travaillait à doter les masses d’un sens du pouvoir et d’une force collectifs, Kraft durch Freude (“la Force par la Joie”), le totalitarisme inversé met en avant un sentiment de faiblesse, d’une inutilité collective. Alors que les nazis désiraient une société mobilisée en permanence, qui ne se contenterait pas de s’abstenir de toute plainte, mais voterait “oui” avec enthousiasme lors des plébiscites récurrents, le totalitarisme inversé veut une société politiquement démobilisée, qui ne voterait quasiment plus du tout. Rappelez-vous les mots du président juste après les horribles évènements du 11 septembre : “unissez-vous, consommez, et prenez l’avion”, dit-il aux citoyens angoissés. Ayant assimilé le terrorisme à une “guerre”, il s’est dispensé de faire ce que des chefs d’États démocratiques ont coutume de faire en temps de guerre : mobiliser la population, la prévenir des sacrifices qui l’attendent, et appeler tous les citoyens à se joindre à “l’effort de guerre”.


Au contraire, le totalitarisme inversé a ses propres moyens d’instaurer un climat de peur générale ; non seulement par des “alertes” soudaines, et des annonces récurrentes à propos de cellules terroristes découvertes, de l’arrestation de personnages de l’ombre, ou bien par le traitement extrêmement musclé, et largement diffusé, des étrangers, ou de l’île du Diable que constitue la base de Guantanamo Bay, ou bien encore de la fascination vis-à-vis des méthodes d’interrogatoire qui emploient la torture ou s’en approchent, mais également et surtout par une atmosphère de peur, encouragée par une économie corporative faite de nivelage, de retrait ou de réduction sans pitié des prestations sociales ou médicales ; un système corporatif qui, sans relâche, menace de privatiser la Sécurité Sociale et les modestes aides médicales existantes, plus particulièrement pour les pauvres. Avec de tels moyens pour instaurer l’incertitude et la dépendance, il en devient presque superflu pour le totalitarisme inversé d’user d’un système judiciaire hyper-punitif, s’appuyant sur la peine de mort et constamment en défaveur des plus pauvres.

Ainsi les éléments se mettent en place : un corps législatif affaibli, un système judiciaire à la fois docile et répressif, un système de partis dans lequel l’un d’eux, qu’il soit majoritaire ou dans l’opposition, se met en quatre pour reconduire le système existant de façon à favoriser perpétuellement la classe dirigeante des riches, des hommes de réseaux et des corporations, et à laisser les plus pauvres des citoyens dans un sentiment d’impuissance et de désespérance politique, et, dans le même temps, de laisser les classes moyennes osciller entre la peur du chômage et le miroitement de revenus fantastiques une fois que l’économie se sera rétablie. Ce schéma directeur est appuyé par des médias toujours plus flagorneurs et toujours plus concentrés ; par l’imbrication des universités avec leurs partenaires privés ; par une machine de propagande institutionnalisée dans des think tanks subventionnés en abondance et par des fondations conservatrices ; par la collaboration toujours plus étroite entre la police locale et les agences de renseignement destinées à identifier les terroristes, les étrangers suspects et les dissidents internes.

Ce qui est en jeu, alors, n’est rien de moins que la transformation d’une société raisonnablement libre en une variante des régimes extrémistes du siècle dernier. Dans de telles circonstances, les élections nationales de 2004 constituent une crise au sens premier du terme, un tournant. La question est : dans quel sens ?

Source : Sheldon Wolin, The Nation, le 26/02/2012

Traduit par les lecteurs du site www.les-crises.fr. Traduction librement reproductible en intégralité, en citant la source.

mercredi, 27 avril 2016

Ten Sci-Fi Dystopias That Are Everyday Realities Today


Ten Sci-Fi Dystopias That Are Everyday Realities Today

Mark Oliver 

Ex: http://www.lewrockwell.com

Ray Bradbury once said, “I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.” Really, that’s the whole point of science fiction. The genre has never been about predicting new technologies. Instead, its purpose is to warn us about the dark future to come, if we don’t change our path.

Occasionally, we listen and learn, and then society improves. But other times, we don’t. And while the present day seems quite ordinary to us, the reality is that our modern era was once a horrible, terrifying nightmare that sci-fi writers desperately tried to stop.


‘Number 12 Looks Just Like You’ Warned Us About South Korea’s Plastic Surgery Obsession

twilight zone 2

Photo credit: CBS Productions via Twilightzone.wikia.com

When The Twilight Zone first aired on TV, cosmetic surgery barely existed. It was only used for the absolute worst medical cases. The idea of someone getting their face restructured just for the sake of looking pretty still seemed outlandish to most people.

But not to the writers of The Twilight Zone. As it turns out, they knew exactly what was coming.

In the episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” we’re taken to a future where every person is expected to go through a “transformation” at age 18. This surgery completely changes their face to resemble one of a small number of gorgeous models. It’s such a big change that teenagers are appointed therapists to deal with the stress of waiting to become beautiful.

When they wrote it, the Twilight Zone writers were just worried about girls using too much make-up. But in South Korea, the world is more like “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” than even the writers could have predicted.

A shocking one in three girls in South Korea have had plastic surgery, and just like in the story, the results are drastic. So much so that plastic surgeons now have to hand out certificates proving that the attractive girl in question is really the same drab-looking person on her ID.

Just like in the story, plastic surgery is a common graduation gift for girls after high school. It really seems like they’re living in the Twilight Zone. Girls suffering through high school, unable to live up to the unreal standards that adults have created, and then conforming to one of a few faces as soon as they turn 18.


‘The Veldt’ Warned Us About Video Game Violence

video game

When Ray Bradbury wrote his short story, “The Veldt,” televisions were just coming into homes for the first time, and these inventions changed everything, especially parenting. It’s kind of hard to imagine how parents did it before Dora the Explorer was around to help out. Raising a child was a much different thing back in the day . . . and Bradbury was terrified about how it might change.

In “The Veldt,” Bradbury writes about a family that uses a “nursery”—basically, an interactive TV—to keep their kids entertained. The children end up being raised more by the nursery than by the parents, and that’s when the kids start going savage. It gets so bad that, when the worried parents finally shut the nursery down, the kids murder them.

Perhaps Bradbury’s story sounds kind of far-fetched. How could TV make a kid murder his parents? Well, the thing is, it actually happened. The exact events of the story played out in real life.

A 14-year-old boy named Noah Crooks was obsessed with video games, and just like in the story, his mother began to worry about how it was affecting him. His grades were going down, and he was becoming more and more prone to violence. And just like in the story, his mother decided to shut the video games down.

Noah didn’t take this well. He erupted in a fit of rage and murdered his own mother.

Sure, Noah isn’t exactly normal, but neither are the kids in the story. They’re portrayed as an extreme symptom of a larger problem. Ray Bradbury wasn’t saying everyone would murder their parents. Instead, he argued that children would lose enough parental guidance that it could possibly happen. And maybe Bradbury was right. Maybe TV and video games have really messed us up, but we’re just so used to them that we don’t even realize it.


‘The Machine Stops’ Warned Us About Facebook Friendships


When it came out in 1909, “The Machine Stops” seemed like a bit of an overreaction. The telephone had just started to enter into people’s homes, and E.M. Forster was already worried that society was somehow ruined. He imagined a ridiculous future where people would spend all their time indoors, sitting at machines, while sending short, pithy thoughts to thousands of “friends” they’d never met, and “liking” things as their main source of human interaction.

Sure, this probably sounded paranoid in 1909. After all, it was just a telephone. But today, our reality is almost exactly like the world in “The Machine Stops.” The story’s depiction of long-distance interactions is eerily similar to social media. The idea of having thousands of online friends you’ve never met is a terrifyingly dead-on prediction of Facebook. And the way people in the story send out short, one-sentence thoughts is basically an old-timey Twitter.

But it’s more than just the inventions, though. The whole culture Forster predicted in 1909 is just like ours. For example, Forster portrayed social media as a form of distraction. When the protagonist of the story starts to feel sadness for her son, she’s immediately pulled out of her thoughts by the ability to “like” things. And according to some people, that’s exactly what happens in real life. Some claim that social media really does distract us from our families and emotions by giving us hard-to-ignore jolts of stimulation.

There’s also our attitude toward the outdoors. In the story, going outside for pleasure is considered weird. Now, most people won’t say that out loud, but it does seem to be our view today. According to one study, only about 1 percent of Americans actually participate in nature-based activities.

The final message of the story is that our connection to nature and our families is what brings us happiness, not social media. Similarly, a study of college students showed that heavy Facebook users are more likely to be depressed, so maybe that message hits home for us, too.

For a story written in 1909, the overlaps are incredible. The only thing Forster got wrong was that he thought some robotic dictator would force us into this scenario. In reality, we were happy to do it ourselves.


‘The Fun They Had’ Warned Us About Online Learning

Woman working in home office hand on keyboard close up

When Isaac Asimov wrote “The Fun They Had,” he wasn’t really worried about any particular issue. Actually, he only wrote this story—a tale of kids learning on computers—as a favor for a friend. But what might’ve seemed inconsequential in Asimov’s time is quickly becoming a reality today.

The story tells about a future where children learn exclusively at home, on computers. When the computers break down, the kids find out that students used to learn in classrooms, and suddenly, they begin wondering about “the fun they had” in the past.

We aren’t quite at that point yet, but we’re getting there. When Asimov penned this tale, all education took place in classrooms, and barely anyone was homeschooled. Today, the rate of homeschooled kids has tripled to nearly two million in America alone.

Learning on computers is becoming a reality, too. As of 2011, 30 percent of all college students were learning via the Internet. But it’s not just limited to adults, though. Schools are already promoting online, computer-based teaching in nurseries. According to advocates, this will soon be the norm.

When you think of Asimov’s time period, this was a truly crazy prediction. In the 1950s, personal computers didn’t even exist, and the idea of giving up school must’ve seemed fairly far-fetched. But today, the technological innovations that Asimov wrote about are quickly becoming the way we learn.


‘Marionettes, Inc.’ Warned Us About ‘Waifus’


Ray Bradbury’s “Marionettes, Inc.” is a little silly.

In this short story, two men have such a hard time putting up with their wives’ affections that they buy look-alike robots to stand in for themselves at home. But the twist is that the women like the robots better than their husbands. And in the end, the main character is stuffed into a crate and permanently replaced by the robo-hubby.

On its face, this sounds pretty ridiculous. It’s not like we’re so unwilling to put a little work into our relationships that we’d replace our partners with dolls . . . are we?

Well, in Japan, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Japan is dealing with an epidemic of growing disinterest in sex. Currently, 61 percent of unmarried Japanese men have never dated anyone, and 45 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 24 say they have no interest in having sex whatsoever. So why did half of Japan lose interest in having relationships with other people? Because it’s too hard.

Experts have consistently blamed this phenomenon of so-called “herbivore” asexuals on people just giving up. Things are so serious that one economic analyst actually proposed a tax hike on sexually attractive people. He hopes this will give uglier men a chance when it comes to dating, thus increasing the national birthrate.

But while these “herbivores” say they have no interest in sex, that’s not exactly true. While they might not put in the effort necessary to attract human girls, they’re perfectly happy to start romantic relationships with artificial ones. These men spend their time playing with virtual girlfriends on computers, purchasing erotic figurines of cartoon characters, or dating “waifus”—pillows with pictures of girls on them.

This phenomenon isn’t just limited to Japan, either. America has “iDollators,” men who have given up on attracting human women. Instead, they’ve “married” realistic sex dolls, as seen in the video above.

There’s something about “Marionettes, Inc.” that feels like Bradbury just wrote it for a laugh. But weirdly enough, we’re suddenly living in a world where life-like dolls really are creeping into our bedrooms.


‘The Brain Center At Whipple’s’ Warned Us That Robots Would Take Our Jobs

twilight zone 4

Photo credit: CBS Productions A.V. Club

In 1964, Rod Serling wrote a Twilight Zone episode that ended with one its trademark twists. The episode focuses on Wallace V. Whipple, a man who fires the employees at his manufacturing company and replaces them with robots. In the episode’s ironic ending, Whipple ends up getting replaced by a robot himself.

Similar to many other Twilight Zone episodes, “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” actually predicted the future. First of all, while robot factories are completely a thing these days, you might not realize how space-age they are. We’re far past the point where we just have a few machines and computers to make the job easier. More and more, factories are increasingly operated by robots, just like Serling predicted.

Experts are predicting that, over the next 20 years, we are going to see about 50 percent of all jobs disappear. But we’re not just talking about factory jobs, and that’s what’s so spot-on about “The Brain Center at Whipple’s.” Just like Wallace V. Whipple, the managers who had us replaced are starting to be replaced by robots themselves.

A computer program has been created and tested that not only chooses employees, but it actually seems to make better hiring decisions than humans do. When the program was put in charge of picking who to hire, its top choices stayed on the staff for an average of 29 days longer than the other applicants. So for those you at Amazon who are losing jobs to delivery drones, take a little comfort. The robots are coming for your boss, too.


‘Solution Unsatisfactory’ Warned Us About The Cold War


The world changed after America invented the atomic bomb. This terrifying weapon wreaked such destruction that it brought an end to World War II. It also gave us a world where America was a superpower, and nations carried enough weapons to destroy the planet, thus giving rise to the Cold War. And when that icy conflict ended, it left us in an era where the US patrols other countries, limiting their access to weapons of mass destruction in the name of peace.

That’s not a history lesson. That’s a summary of Robert Heinlein’s story “Solution Unsatisfactory,” written before the Manhattan Project even began.

Heinlein wrote this story before the US had entered World War II. The plot was inspired—according to Heinlein—by an editor asking him to write a story about “radioactive dust” being used as a weapon. But the weird thing about “Solution Unsatisfactory” isn’t that Heinlein got the atomic bomb right. (In fact, he thought it would be more like a biological weapon.) It’s that he predicted the next 60 years of history almost perfectly.

Like Heinlein guessed, the introduction of nuclear weaponry caused us to live in constant terror of imminent nuclear destruction. During the Cold War, children even watched “edutainment” videos on how to survive an apocalypse as part of a regular school curriculum. But Heinlein’s story goes even further. He warns of a future when America would play the part of world police.

In his story, America holds enough weapons to destroy the entire planet. It then uses them to create a “Peace Patrol” that forces everyone else to give up their militaries. It’s almost exactly what’s happening today, with America’s current efforts to keep countries like Iran from becoming nuclear powers.

Heinlein ends his story by warning that America probably won’t be able to keep up its role as international peace officer, and the world will probably destroy itself. That should be a pretty troubling prediction, given how much of the future Heinlein actually got right.

However, the only thing he didn’t predict is how complacent we’d become to this dystopian life. Heinlein ended his story by writing, “I can’t be happy in a world where any man, or group of men, has the power of death over you and me.” And really, whether we talk about it or not, that’s the world we live in right now. Only we’ve just learned to go on with it, to stop worrying and love the dystopia.


‘Static’ Warned Us About Our Obsession With Nostalgia

twilight zone 3

If you want proof that our culture has become obsessed with nostalgia, just log onto Buzzfeed. You don’t have to search hard to find an article with a title like “Only ’90s Kids Will Remember This.”

The Twilight Zone warned us about this problem, too. The 1961 episode “Static” tells the story of a man in his late 50s who finds an old radio that only plays programs from his childhood. He becomes obsessed with the radio, and he won’t do anything but listen to it. Soon, his friends become worried about his mental health, and they take his radio away.

Does that sound familiar? The radio is basically Nickelodeon’s TV station that only plays ‘90s shows, or any other “retro TV” station or website devoted to pop culture, for that matter. Basically, every aspect of our entertainment is obsessed with the past.

Take movies, for example. Josh Kurp of Uproxx looked at the top 10 grossing movies for each year since 1990. He found that, out of every hit so far this decade, there are only six that aren’t remakes or sequels. It seems we’re perpetually revisiting our childhood, just like the man by the radio. And this might be more of an issue than we realize.

Originally, “nostalgia” was a mental illness, not something we were supposed to take pride in. The word came about to describe a crippling longing for the past, which in turn leads to depression. These days, some worry that we’re getting stuck in a rut because of our focus on the past, both artistically and culturally. Perhaps, like the man in the Twilight Zone episode, we’re all sitting by a machine, playing back our past memories . . . and perhaps that’s a problem.


Fahrenheit 451 Warned Us About Our Obsession With Reality TV

reality tv

Fahrenheit 451 is about more than just burning books. It’s about a culture that willingly gives up on its intellectualism and social connections, all thanks to TV. Sure, nobody is setting books on fire right now, but some other parts of the novel are eerily similar to our reality today.

In the book, the hero’s wife, Mildred, spends most of her time watching a “parlor family” on TV as they play out their ordinary lives. She seems more emotionally invested in these characters than she is in her own family. Mildred insists that she has an obligation to keep up with what they’re doing, and she ignores her husband to focus on the show, even putting “audible seashells” in her ears to shut off the world around her.

It’s eerily close to modern reality TV shows, especially ones like the Kardashians. People today have a weirdly deep level of knowledge about that family. If you visit the right websites, you can find daily updates on everything the Kardashians are doing. Some people have, at least in a half-kidding tone, even admitted to knowing more about these socialites than their own families.

Bradbury’s “audible seashells” are real, too. Only today, they’re in the form of earphones. That’s more than just a technological prediction, though. These buds have changed society, just as Bradbury assumed they would.

Headphones have been credited with changing the world of art by removing its social requirements. Where music was once a public art, people now have their own tastes because they listen to their iPods alone. And people often put on headphones as a way of saying, “Don’t bother me. I want to be alone.” So while we aren’t burning books yet, it’s probably because we’d have to gather with other people first.


The Sheep Look Up Warned Us About Beijing’s ‘Airpocalypse’

Asian man wearing mouth mask against air pollution

John Brunner’s 1972 book, The Sheep Look Up, warns of a world ravaged by pollution. The people in the story use water filters to drink, and only the poorest risk drinking tap water. They wear masks when they go outside in order to survive the smog. And chemicals have absolutely devastated both water and land.

If you live in China, this might just sound like a news report.

Modern China has turned into the exact place Brunner described. People in China exclusively drink purchased water because it’s unsafe to drink from the tap. Even the poor avoid tap water if possible, since major health problems can occur if you drink anything that comes out of a Chinese sink.

And, yes, people wear masks outside. But things have gone even further than most people would expect. Air pollution in Beijing has recently reached what’s being called “doomsday levels” or the “airpocalypse.” Pollution there is 18 times higher than the safe level, making it an absolute necessity to don a mask.

One of the most extreme cases of pollution can be found in the waters of Qingdao. Due to chemicals, the water has been overrun with so much green algae that it completely covers the surface. It’s an absolute catastrophe with apocalyptic implications, but for the people in China, it’s just everyday life. Because that’s all you can do when you live in a dystopia. Just carry on.

Mark Oliver is a writer and a teacher.

vendredi, 15 avril 2016

Le Meilleur des mondes ou l’illusion d’un bonheur éternel


Le Meilleur des mondes ou l’illusion d’un bonheur éternel

Le visionnaire Aldous Huxley, dans sa célèbre dystopie Le meilleur des mondes, crée une société fictive mêlant productivisme, technocratisme, eugénisme et contrôle intégral de l’individu. En préfigurant les totalitarismes, il a montré avant l’heure en quoi le scientisme aveugle ne pouvait mener qu’au désastre.

Paru en 1932, période de la montée des nationalismes et des totalitarismes, Le meilleur des mondes est devenu une référence du roman d’anticipation, à l’instar du 1984 de George Orwell. Cette dystopie, arborant un visage terrifiant, se déroule en 600 N.F (Nouvelle Ford). Ford, devenu une sorte de Jésus Christ moderne dans le livre, est l’un des créateurs d’une forme de travail dans laquelle les ouvriers consomment ce qu’ils produisent pour un salaire de 5 dollars. C’est la naissance de la célèbre Ford T noire si uniforme, si novatrice, initiatrice de la consommation de masse. Pétri d’une culture autant scientifique que littéraire, Aldous Huxley est l’auteur de quarante-sept livres qui ont pour principaux thèmes les dangereuses mutations des sociétés occidentales et la quête spirituelle des êtres.

La dystopie d’Huxley est eugéniste, elle n’hésite pas à mettre à mort les enfants qui ne correspondent pas aux critères prédéfinis. Les êtres humains ne sont plus vivipares, les enfants sont créés dans des tubes par des machines et leur destin est tracé dès le départ. Lors de leur développement, si une difformité ou une malformation apparaît, ils appartiendront aux castes inférieures Deltas et Epsilon, celles des monstres. On peut délibérément augmenter le nombre de cette caste en intervenant tôt dans la gestation et en modifiant le milieu de croissance. En revanche si un surplus d’intelligence est détecté, les êtres appartiendront à l’élite, la caste des Alphas et Bêtas. Dès leur naissance, les enfants sont conditionnés. Les mécanismes cérébraux qui sous-tendent la mémoire, les pensées, les émotions, les comportements sont sous contrôle permanent grâce à des procédés multiples et sophistiqués. Des livres et des fleurs sont montrés accompagnés très tôt aux enfants accompagnés systématiquement d’une décharge électrique ; l’objectif est d’associer de façon permanente douleur et lecture ou douleur et fleurs. La lecture est proscrite car pouvant amener des idées subversives, de même que la contemplation de la Nature susceptible de favoriser la solitude, état insupportable dans cette société où la présence des autres autour de soi se doit d’être permanente. L’innovation scientifique poussée à l’extrême empêche les gens de vieillir, et les prive de la survenue des marques dues au temps, comme les rides. Nous sommes sur le chemin du rêve transhumaniste, celui de l’homme augmenté, qui grâce à la science voit ses capacités croître jusqu’à faire de lui un être immortel. Mais serait-il toujours humain à ce moment-là ? La réalité de la mort donne du prix à la vie ; s’en affranchir, est-ce vivre encore ?

La dénonciation du bonheur obligatoire

Dans cette société huxleyienne, il est interdit d’être malheureux. Dès qu’une pensée mauvaise traverse l’esprit, il suffit de  prendre du Soma, une drogue définie par l’Administrateur comme constituant « tous les avantages du Christianisme et de l’alcool sans aucun de leurs défauts », c’est une sorte d’anxiolytique, incontournable pour retrouver le sourire. Le conditionnement des individus les pousse non seulement à être heureux de leur sort et de la caste à laquelle ils appartiennent  mais les détermine à penser qu’une situation autre est inenvisageable. Le gouvernement instaure une « paix sociale » dans laquelle toute révolte est impossible,  insensée puisque non nécessaire et non voulue ; tous les besoins sont supposés être comblés. Lorsque Bernard Marx commence à s’interroger sur lui-même et sur son instrumentalisation, qu’il tente d’en discuter avec Lenina, sa nouvelle conquête, celle-ci s’en étonne. Le conditionnement qu’elle a subi l’empêche de se voir comme un objet sexuel. Sa chosification attriste Bernard Marx qui ressent pour elle un désir monogame – suprême perversion ! – mais elle-même ne s’en émeut en rien.

Le bonheur permanent prôné se révèle dévastateur, les individus ne peuvent encaisser la moindre contrariété.  Ils deviennent fragiles, incapables de supporter la violence ou la critique car ils n’ont jamais été confrontés à de telles situations. À l’âge adulte, ils restent des enfants, inaptes à accepter la frustration, refusant les limites imposés par toute autre personne que celle ayant officiellement autorité sur eux. La société de bonheur permanent décrite par Huxley se révèle par certains côtés proches de celle de l’American way of life. Ainsi, le Cinéma Sentant, concept permettant aux spectateurs de sentir sur eux-mêmes toutes les actions du film, est à rapprocher par son  côté aliénant, asservissant de celui décrit par  Guy Debord, quand il évoque la T.S.F comme préfiguratrice de la société du spectacle : « L’aliénation du spectateur au profit de l’objet contemplé s’exprime ainsi : plus il contemple, moins il vit ; plus il accepte de se reconnaître dans les images dominantes du besoin, moins il comprend sa propre existence et son propre désir… »


On peut également rapprocher la société décrite d’un État totalitaire. Quand en 1951, Hannah Arendt publie Les origines du totalitarisme, elle explique que ce phénomène politique inédit incarne l’effondrement d’une sagesse qui servait de socle à la politique occidentale. Comme dans l’ouvrage d’Huxley, la nouveauté de l’organisation réside dans sa finalité qui consiste à rassembler des masses et non plus des classes ; cette multitude de gens informes, indifférents les uns aux autres, embrigadés, ce qui donne la possibilité de les conditionner et d’installer un lien vertical fort.

Modernité ou totalitarisme

aldousr_n301g9B1V71rqpa8po1_400.jpgLe Sauvage est le seul personnage à ne pas avoir subi de conditionnement. Lorsque Bernard Marx le ramène pour le présenter à son père, le chef Tomakin, le Sauvage se révèle incapable de comprendre encore moins de suivre les règles de cette civilisation. On apprend que lorsqu’il a été mis au monde, sa mère ne lui a exprimé aucun amour, n’a eu envers lui aucun geste d’affection. Rien de plus normal. Sa mère Linda, issue de cette société du bonheur permanent, n’a jamais été habituée à manifester le moindre sentiment. Les mots tels que « monogamie », « mère », et « père » étaient supprimés, bannis  du vocabulaire de la communauté. Le Sauvage reproche à cette société la perte de relation avec soi qu’elle instaure. Les individus considérés uniquement comme des consommateurs sont obnubilés par la satisfaction de leurs besoins basiques. Ils ne recherchent aucune spiritualité et encore moins d’explications sur ce qui régit le monde qui les entoure…

Ainsi, le Sauvage est peiné quand l’un de ses amis rit moqueusement lors d’une lecture de Shakespeare. Que ce soit Dieu, Shakespeare, la Solitude, tout ce qui est sérieux est considéré comme dérisoire, car dépassé par la modernité. Dans le monde décrit par Huxley, tout ce qui est incompréhensible des contemporains du Sauvage est considéré par principe comme obsolète. Ce dernier est regardé  avec stupéfaction lorsqu’il ose jeter le Soma et parler de liberté. Lorsqu’il est arrêté par l’Administrateur et que celui-ci lui demande s’il souhaite acquérir « le droit de vieillir, de devenir laid et impotent ; du droit d’avoir la syphilis et le cancer », il répond « je les réclame tous ». Il préfère largement vivre de façon lucide et endurer les réalités, aussi atroces soient-elles, d’une vraie vie, être capable d’affronter les douleurs du monde plutôt que de subir un  bonheur artificiel qui ne repose sur rien.

Le personnage du Sauvage qui s’inscrit dans un premier temps dans la tradition du « bon sauvage » popularisée par Daniel Defoe dans Robinson Crusoë, évolue par la suite. Il arrive à prendre de la distance, à réfléchir par lui-même et affirmer son opposition. Huxley par son biais exprime sa méfiance profonde envers l’État. Il consacrera dans son ouvrage : Retour au meilleur des mondes un chapitre à « l’excès d’organisation » qui mène au totalitarisme. Dans cet essai de 1958, Huxley constate combien ses prédictions entraient déjà dans les mœurs, bien plus rapidement qu’il ne l’escomptait. Il exprime ses craintes d’un Etat omniscient où « un homme soit […] obligé de penser, de sentir et d’agir comme le veulent les représentants de l’État ». Que dirait-il de notre monde avec son « prêt-à-penser » et ses injonctions péremptoires comme « manger cinq fruits et légumes par jour », « se faire dépister c’est prendre soin de son avenir » ou « les médicaments ne les prenez pas n’importe comment » ?

mardi, 30 juin 2015

Orwell, Huxley and America’s Plunge into Authoritarianism


Legitimizing State Violence

Orwell, Huxley and America’s Plunge into Authoritarianism

Ex: http://www.counterpunch.org

In spite of their differing perceptions of the architecture of the totalitarian superstate and how it exercised power and control over its residents, George Orwell and Aldus Huxley shared a fundamental conviction.  They both argued that the established democracies of the West were moving quickly toward an historical moment when they would willingly relinquish the noble promises and ideals of liberal democracy and enter that menacing space where totalitarianism perverts the modern ideals of justice, freedom, and political emancipation. Both believed that Western democracies were devolving into pathological states in which politics was recognized in the interest of death over life and justice. Both were unequivocal in the shared understanding that the future of civilization was on the verge of total domination or what Hannah Arendt called “dark times.”

While Neil Postman and other critical descendants have pitted Orwell and Huxley against each other because of their distinctively separate notions of a future dystopian society,[1] I believe that the dark shadow of authoritarianism that shrouds American society like a thick veil can be lifted by re-examining Orwell’s prescient dystopian fable 1984 as well as Huxley’s Brave New World in light of contemporary neoliberal ascendancy. Rather than pit their dystopian visions against each other, it might be more productive to see them as complementing each other, especially at a time when to quote Antonio Gramsci “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” [2]

Both authors provide insights into the merging of the totalitarian elements that constitute a new and more hybridized form of authoritarian control, appearing less as fiction than a threatening portend of the unfolding 21st century. Consumer fantasies and authoritarian control, “Big Brother” intelligence agencies and the voracious seductions of privatized pleasures, along with the rise of the punishing state—which criminalizes an increasing number of behaviors and invests in institutions that incarcerate and are organized principally for the production of violence–and the collapse of democratic public spheres into narrow market-driven orbits of privatization–these now constitute the new order of authoritarianism.

Orwell’s “Big Brother” found more recently a new incarnation in the revelations of government lawlessness and corporate spying by whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden.[3] All of these individuals revealed a government that lied about its intelligence operations, illegally spied on millions of people who were not considered terrorists or had committed no crime, and collected data from every conceivable electronic source to be stored and potentially used to squelch dissent, blackmail people, or just intimidate those who fight to make corporate and state power accountable.[4] Orwell offered his readers an image of the modern state in which privacy was no longer valued as a civil virtue and a basic human right, nor perceived as a measure of the robust strength of a healthy and thriving democracy. In Orwell’s dystopia the right to privacy had come under egregious assault, but the ruthless transgressions of privacy pointed to something more sinister than the violation of individual rights. The claim to privacy, for Orwell, represented a moral and political principle by which to assess the nature, power, and severity of an emerging totalitarian state. Orwell’s warning was intended to shed light on the horrors of totalitarianism, the corruption of language, the production of a pervasive stupidity, and the endless regimes of state spying imposed on citizens in the mid-20th-century.

orw84.jpgOrwell opened a door for all to see a “nightmarish future” in which everyday life becomes harsh, an object of state surveillance, and control—a society in which the slogan “ignorance becomes strength” morphs into a guiding principle of mainstream media, education, and the culture of politics. Huxley shared Orwell’s concern about ignorance as a political tool of the elite, enforced through surveillance and the banning of books, dissent, and critical thought itself. But Huxley, believed that social control and the propagation of ignorance would be introduced by those in power through the political tools of pleasure and distraction. Huxley thought this might take place through drugs and genetic engineering, but the real drugs and social planning of late modernity lies in the presence of an entertainment and public pedagogy industry that trades in pleasure and idiocy, most evident in the merging of neoliberalism, celebrity culture, and the control of commanding cultural apparatuses extending from Hollywood movies and video games to mainstream television, news, and the social media.

Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984 has been upgraded in the 2015 edition. As Zygmunt Bauman points out, if the older Big Brother presided over traditional enclosures such as military barracks, prisons, schools, and “countless other big and small panopticons, the updated Big Brother is not only concerned with inclusion and the death of privacy, but also the suppression of dissent and the widening of the politics of exclusion.[5] Keeping people out is the extended face of Big Brother who now patrols borders, hospitals, and other public spaces in order to “spot “the people who do not fit in the places they are in, banishing them from the place and departing them ‘where they belong,’ or better still never allowing them to come anywhere near in the first place.”[6]

This is the Big Brother that pushes youthful protests out of the public spaces they attempt to occupy. This is the hyper-nationalistic Big Brother clinging to notions of racial purity and American exceptionalism as a driving force in creating a country that has come to resemble an open air prison for the dispossessed. This is the Big Brother whose split personality portends the dark authoritarian universe of the 1 percent with their control over the economy and use of paramilitarised police forces, on the one hand, and, on the other, their retreat into gated communities manned by SWAT-like security forces.

The increasing militarization of local police forces who are now armed with weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan has transformed how the police respond to dealing with the public. Cops have been transformed into soldiers just as dialogue and community policing have been replaced by military-style practices that are way out of proportion to the crimes the police are trained to address. For instance, The Economist reported that “”SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers. That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for “barbering without a license”. Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera, who was suspected of organizing cockfights.”[7]

In the advent of the recent display of police force in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland it is unfair to view the impact of the rapid militarization of local police on poor black communities as nothing short of terrifying and symptomatic of the violence that takes place in authoritarian societies. For instance, according to a recent report produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots

Movement entitled Operation Ghetto Storm, ‘police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra judicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012…This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours’. Michelle Alexander adds to the racist nature of the punishing state by pointing out that “There are more African American adults under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”[8] Meanwhile the real violence used by the state against poor minorities of color, women, immigrants, and low income adults barely gets mentioned, except when it is so spectacularly visible that it cannot be ignored as in the cases of Eric Garner who was choked to death by a New York City policeman after he was confronted for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes. Or the case of Freddie Gray who had his spine severed and voice box crushed for making eye contact with a cop. These cases are not exceptional. For too many blacks, the police have turned their neighborhoods into war zones where cops parading as soldiers act with impunity.

Fear and isolation constitute an updated version of Big Brother. Fear is managed and is buttressed by a neoliberal logic that embraces the notion that while fear be accepted as a general condition of society, how it is dealt with by members of the American public be relegated to the realm of the private, dealt with exclusively as an individual consideration, largely removed from the collapse of authoritarian control and democratic rule, and posited onto the individual’s fear of the other. In the surveillance state, fear is misplaced from the political sphere and emergence of an authoritarian government to the personal concern with the fear of surviving, not getting ahead, unemployment, and the danger posed by the growing legions of the interminable others.  As the older order dies, a new one struggles to be born, one that often produces a liminal space that gives rise to monsters, all too willing to kidnap, torture, and spy on law abiding citizens while violating civil liberties.[9] As Antonio Gramsci once suggested, such an interregnum offers no political guarantees, but it does provide or at least gestures towards the conditions to reimagine “what is to be done,” how it might be done, and who is going to do it.[10]

Orwell’s 1984 continues to serve as a brilliant and important metaphor for mapping the expansive trajectory of global surveillance, authoritarianism, and the suppression of dissent that has characterized the first decades of the new millennium. The older modes of surveillance to which Orwell pointed, including his warnings regarding the dangers of microphones and giant telescreens that watch and listen are surprisingly limited when compared with the varied means now available for spying on people. Orwell would be astonished by this contemporary, refashioned “Big Brother” given the threat the new surveillance state poses because of its reach and the alleged “advance” of technologies that far outstretch anything he could have imagined—technologies that pose a much greater threat to both the personal privacy of citizens and the control exercised by sovereign power.

In spite of his vivid imagination, “Orwell never could have imagined that the National Security Agency (NSA) would amass metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day. Orwell could not have foreseen that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use.”[11] Edward Snowden and other critics are correct about the dangers of the state’s infringement of privacy rights, but their analysis should be taken further by linking the issue of citizen surveillance with the rise of “networked societies,” global flows of power, and the emergence of a totalitarian ethos that defies even state-based control.[12] For Orwell, domination was state imposed and bore the heavy hand of unremitting repression and a smothering language that eviscerated any appearance of dissent, erased historical memory, and turned the truth into its opposite. For Orwell, individual freedom was at risk under the heavy hand of state terrorism.

In Orwell’s world, individual freedom and privacy were under attack from outside forces. For Huxley, in contrast, freedom and privacy were willingly given up as part of the seductions of a soft authoritarianism, with its vast machinery of manufactured needs, desires, and identities. This new mode of persuasion seduced people into chasing commodities, and infantilized them through the mass production of easily digestible entertainment, disposable goods, and new scientific advances in which any viable sense of agency was undermined. The conditions for critical thought dissolved into the limited pleasures instant gratification wrought through the use of technologies and consuming practices that dampened, if not obliterated, the very possibility of thinking itself. Orwell’s dark image is the stuff of government oppression whereas Huxley’s is the stuff of distractions, diversions, and the transformation of privacy into a cheap and sensational performance for public display. Neil Postman, writing in a different time and worried about the destructive anti-intellectual influence of television sided with Huxley and believed that repression was now on the side of entertainment and the propensity of the American public to amuse themselves to death. [13] His attempt to differentiate Huxley’s dystopian vision from Orwell’s is worth noting. He writes:

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. 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 that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. … 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 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.[14]

Echoes of Huxley’s insights play out in the willingness of millions of people who voluntarily hand over personal information whether in the service of the strange sociality prompted by social media or in homage to the new surveillance state. New surveillance technologies employ by major servers providers now focus on diverse consumer populations who are targeted in the collection of endless amounts of personal information as they move from one site to the next, one geopolitical region to the next, and across multiple screens and digital apparatuses. As Ariel Dorfman points out, “social media users gladly give up their liberty and privacy, invariably for the most benevolent of platitudes and reasons,”[15] all the while endlessly shopping online, updating Facebook, and texting. Indeed, surveillance technologies are now present in virtually every public and private space – such as video cameras in streets, commercial establishments, workplaces, and even schools as well as the myriad scanners at entry points of airports, retail stores, sporting events, and so on – and function as control mechanisms that become normalized through their heightened visibility. In addition, the all-encompassing world of corporate and state surveillance is aided by our endless array of personal devices that chart, via GPS tracking, our every move, our every choice, and every pleasure.

orwell-eye.jpegAt the same time, Orwell’s warning about “Big Brother” applies not simply to an authoritarian-surveillance state but also to commanding financial institutions and corporations who have made diverse modes of surveillance a ubiquitous feature of daily life. Corporations use the new technologies to track spending habits and collect data points from social media so as to provide us with consumer goods that match our desires, employ face recognition technologies to alert store salesperson to our credit ratings, and so it goes. Heidi Boghosian points out that if omniscient state control in Orwell’s 1984 is embodied by the two-way television sets present in each home, then in “our own modern adaptation, it is symbolized by the location-tracking cell phones we willingly carry in our pockets and the microchip-embedded clothes we wear on our bodies.”[16] In this instance, the surveillance state is one that not only listens, watches, and gathers massive amounts of information through data mining, allegedly for the purpose of identifying “security threats.” It also acculturates the public into accepting the intrusion of commercial surveillance technologies – and, perhaps more vitally, the acceptance of privatized, commodified values – into all aspects of their lives. In other words, the most dangerous repercussions of a near total loss of privacy involve more than the unwarranted collecting of information by the government: we must also be attentive to the ways in which being spied on has become not only normalized, but even enticing, as corporations up the pleasure quotient for consumers who use new digital technologies and social networks – not least of all by and for simulating experiences of community.

Many individuals, especially young people, now run from privacy and increasingly demand services in which they can share every personal facet of their lives. While Orwell’s vision touches upon this type of control, there is a notable difference that he did not foresee. According to Pete Cashmore, while Orwell’s “Thought Police tracked you without permission, some consumers are now comfortable with sharing their every move online.”[17] The state and corporate cultural apparatuses now collude to socialize everyone – especially young people – into a regime of security and commodification in which their identities, values, and desires are inextricably tied to a culture of commodified addictions, self-help, therapy, and social indifference. Intelligence networks now inhabit the world of major corporations such as Disney and the Bank of America as well as the secret domains of the NSA, FBI and fifteen other intelligence agencies. As Edward Snowden’s revelations about the PRISM program revealed, the NSA also collected personal data from all of the major high tech giant service providers who according to a senior lawyer for the NSA, “were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data.”[18]

The fact is that Orwell’s and Huxley’s ironic representations of the modern totalitarian state – along with their implied defense of a democratic ideal rooted in the right to privacy and the right to be educated in the capacity to be autonomous and critical thinkers– has been transformed and mutilated almost beyond recognition by the material and ideological registers of a worldwide neoliberal order. Just as we can envision Orwell’s and Huxley’s dystopian fables morphing over time from “realistic novels” into a “real life documentary,” and now into a form of “reality TV,” privacy and freedom have been radically altered in an age of permanent, non-stop global exchange and circulation. That is, in the current moment, the right to privacy and freedom have been usurped by the seductions of a narcissistic culture and casino capitalism’s unending desire to turn every relationship into an act of commerce and to make all aspects of daily life subject to market forces under watchful eyes of both government and corporate regimes of surveillance. In a world devoid of care, compassion, and protection, personal privacy and freedom are no longer connected and resuscitated through its connection to public life, the common good, or a vulnerability born of the recognition of the frailty of human life. Culture loses its power as the bearer of public memory, civic literacy, and the lessons of history in a social order where the worst excesses of capitalism are left unchecked and a consumerist ethic “makes impossible any shared recognition of common interests or goals.”[19] With the rise of the punishing state along with a kind of willful amnesia taking hold of the larger culture, we see little more than a paralyzing fear and apathy in response the increasing exposure of formerly private spheres to data mining and manipulation, while the concept of privacy itself has all but expired under a “broad set of panoptic practices.”[20] With individuals more or less succumbing to this insidious cultural shift in their daily lives, there is nothing to prevent widespread collective indifference to the growth of a surveillance culture, let alone an authoritarian state.

The worse fears of Huxley and Orwell merge into a dead zone of historical amnesia as more and more people embrace any and every new electronic device regardless of the risks it might pose in terms of granting corporations and governments increased access to and power over their choices and movements. Detailed personal information flows from the sphere of entertainment to the deadly serious and integrated spheres of capital accumulation and policing as they are collected and sold to business and government agencies who track the populace for either commercial purposes or for fear of a possible threat to the social order and its established institutions of power. Power now imprisons not only bodies under a regime of surveillance and a mass incarceration state but also subjectivity itself as the threat of state control is now coupled with the seductions of the new forms of passive inducing soma: electronic technologies, a pervasive commodified landscape, and a mind numbing celebrity culture.

Underlying these everyday conveniences of modern life, as Boghosian documents in great detail, is the growing Orwellian partnership between the militarized state and private security companies in the United States. Each day, new evidence surfaces pointing to the emergence of a police state that has produced ever more sophisticated methods for surveillance in order to enforce a mass suppression of the most essential tools for democratic dissent: “the press, political activists, civil rights advocates and conscientious insiders who blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance and government abuse.”[21] As Boghosian points out, “By claiming that anyone who questions authority or engages in undesired political speech is a potential terrorist threat, this government-corporate partnership makes a mockery of civil liberties.”[22] Nowhere is this more evident than in American public schools where a youth are being taught that they are a generation of suspects, subject to the presence of armed police and security guards, drug sniffing dogs, and an array of surveillance apparatuses that chart their every move, not to mention in some cases how they respond emotionally to certain pedagogical practices.

Whistleblowers are not only punished by the government; their lives are also turned upside down in the process by private surveillance agencies and major corporations who now work in tandem. For instance, the Bank of America assembled 15 to 20 bank officials and retained the law firm of Hunton & Williams in order to devise “various schemes to attack WikiLeaks and Greenwald whom they thought were about to release damaging information about the bank.”[23] It is worth repeating that Orwell’s vision of surveillance and the totalitarian state look mild next to the emergence of a corporate-private-state surveillance system that wants to tap into every conceivable mode of communication, collect endless amounts of metadata to be stored in vast intelligence storage sites around the country, and use that data to repress any vestige of dissent.[24]

As Huxley anticipated, any critical analysis must move beyond documenting abuses of power to how addressing contemporary neoliberal modernity has created a social order in which individuals become complicit with authoritarianism. That is, how is unfreedom internalized? What and how do state and corporate controlled institutions, cultural apparatuses, social relations, and policies contribute to making a society’s plunge into dark times self-generating as Huxley predicted? Put differently, what is the educative nature of a repressive politics and how does it function to secure the consent of the American public? And, most importantly, how can it be challenged and under what circumstances? Aided by a public pedagogy, produced and circulated through a machinery of consumption and public relations tactics, a growing regime of repression works through the homogenizing forces of the market to support the widespread embrace of an authoritarian culture and police state.

brave-new-world-cover.jpgRelentlessly entertained by spectacles, people become not only numb to violence and cruelty but begin to identify with an authoritarian worldview. As David Graeber suggests, the police “become the almost obsessive objects of imaginative identification in popular culture… watching movies, or viewing TV shows that invite them to look at the world from a police point of view.”[25] But it is not just the spectacle of violence that ushers individuals into a world in which brutality becomes a primary force for mediating relations as well as the ultimate source of pleasure, there is also the production of an unchecked notion of individualism that both dissolves social bonds and removes any viable notion of agency from the landscape of social responsibility and ethical consideration.

Absorbed in privatized orbits of consumption, commodification, and display, Americans vicariously participate in the toxic pleasures of the authoritarian state. Violence has become the organizing force of a society driven by a noxious notion of privatization in which it becomes difficult for ideas to be lifted into the public realm. Under such circumstances, politics is eviscerated because it now supports a market-driven view of society that has turned its back on the idea that social values, public trust, and communal relations are fundamental to a democratic society. This violence against the social mimics not just the death of the radical imagination, but also a notion of banality made famous by Hannah Arendt who argued that at the root of totalitarianism was a kind of thoughtlessness, an inability to think, and a type of outrageous indifference in which “There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing.” [26]

By integrating insights drawn from both Huxley and Orwell, it becomes necessary for any viable critical analysis to take a long view, contextualizing the contemporary moment as a new historical conjuncture in which political rule has been replaced by corporate sovereignty, consumerism becomes the only obligation of citizenship, and the only value that matters is exchange value. Precarity has replaced social protections provided by the state, just as the state cares more about building prisons and infantilizing the American public than it does about providing all of its citizens with quality educational institutions and health care. America is not just dancing into oblivion as Huxley suggested, it is also being pushed into the dark recesses of an authoritarian state. Orwell wrote dystopian novels but he believed that the sheer goodness of human nature would in the end be enough for individuals to develop modes of collective resistance he could only imagine in the midst of the haunting spectre of totalitarianism. Huxley was more indebted to Kafka’s notion of destabilization, despair, and hopelessness. For Huxley, the subject had lost his or her sense of agency and had become the product of a scientifically manufactured form of idiocy and conformity. Progress had been transformed into its opposite and science now needs to be liberated from itself. As Theodor Adorno has pointed out, where Huxley fails is that he has no sense of resistance. According to Adorno, “The weakness of Huxley’s entire conception is that it makes all its concepts relentlessly dynamic but nevertheless arms them against the tendency to turn into their own opposites.” [27] Hence, the forces of resistance are not simply underestimated but rendered impotent.

The authoritarian nature of the corporate-state surveillance apparatus and security system with its “urge to surveil, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication of any sort on the planet”[28] can only be fully understood when its ubiquitous tentacles are connected to wider cultures of control and punishment, including security-patrolled corridors of public schools, the rise in super-max prisons, the hyper-militarization of local police forces, the justification of secret prisons and state-sanctioned torture abroad, and the increasing labeling of dissent as an act of terrorism in the United States. [29] This is part of Orwell’s narrative but it does not go far enough. The new authoritarian corporate-driven state deploys more subtle tactics to depoliticize public memory and promote the militarization of everyday life. Alongside efforts to defund public and higher education and to attack the welfare state, a wide-ranging assault is being waged across the culture on all spheres that encourage the public to hold power accountable. If these public institutions are destroyed, there will be few sites left in which to nurture the critical formative cultures capable of educating people to challenge the range of injustices plaguing the United States and the forces that reproduce them. One particular challenge comes from the success of neoliberal tyranny to dissolve those social bonds that entail a sense of responsibility toward others and form the basis for political consciousness. Under the new authoritarian state, perhaps the gravest threat one faces is not simply being subject to the dictates of what Quentin Skinner calls “arbitrary power,” but failing to respond with outrage when “my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose.”[30] The situation is dire when people no longer seem interested in contesting such power. It is precisely the poisonous spread of a broad culture of political indifference that puts at risk the fundamental principles of justice and freedom which lie at the heart of a robust democracy. The democratic imagination has been transformed into a data machine that marshals its inhabitants into the neoliberal dream world of babbling consumers and armies of exploitative labor whose ultimate goal is to accumulate capital and initiate individuals into the brave new surveillance/punishing state that merges Orwell’s Big Brother with Huxley’s mind- altering soma.

Nothing will change unless people begin to take seriously the subjective underpinnings of oppression in the United States and what it might require to make such issues meaningful in order to make them critical and transformative. As Charles Derber has explained, knowing “how to express possibilities and convey them authentically and persuasively seems crucially important”[31] if any viable notion of resistance is to take place. The current regime of authoritarianism is reinforced through a new and pervasive sensibility in which people surrender themselves to the both the capitalist system and a general belief in its call for security. It does not simply repress independent thought, but constitutes new modes of thinking through a diverse set of cultural apparatuses ranging from the schools and media to the Internet. The fundamental question in resisting the transformation of the United States into a 21st-century authoritarian society must concern the educative nature of politics – that is, what people believe and how their individual and collective dispositions and capacities to be either willing or resistant agents are shaped.

I want to conclude by recommending five initiatives, though incomplete, that might help young people and others challenge the current oppressive historical conjuncture in which they along with other oppressed groups now find themselves. My focus is on higher education because that is the one institution that is under intense assault at the moment because it has not completely surrendered to the Orwellian state.[32]

First, there is a need for what can be called a revival of the radical imagination. This call would be part of a larger project “to reinvent democracy in the wake of the evidence that, at the national level, there is no democracy—if by ‘democracy’ we mean effective popular participation in the crucial decisions affecting the community.”[33] Democracy entails a challenge to the power of those individuals, financial elite, ruling groups, and large-scale enterprises that have hijacked democracy. At the very least, this means refusing to accept minimalist notions of democracy in which elections become the measure of democratic participation. Far more crucial is the struggle for the development public spaces and spheres that produce a formative culture in which the American public can imagine forms of democratic self-management of what can be called “key economic, political, and social institutions.”[34]

One step in this direction would be to for young people, intellectuals, scholars and other to go on the offensive in defending higher education as a public good, resisting as much as possible the ongoing attempt by financial elites to view its mission in instrumental terms as a workstation for capital. This means fighting back against a conservative led campaign to end tenure, define students as consumers, defund higher education, and destroy any possibility of faculty governance by transforming most faculty into adjuncts or what be called Walmart workers. Higher education should be harnessed neither to the demands of the warfare state nor the instrumental needs of corporations. In fact, it should be a viewed as a right rather than as an entitlement. Nowhere is this assault on higher education more evident than in the efforts of billionaires such as Charles and David Koch to finance academic fields, departments, and to shape academic policy in the interest of indoctrinating the young into the alleged neoliberal, free market mentality. It is also evident in the repressive policies being enacted at the state level by right-wing politicians. For instance, in Florida, Governor Rick Scott’s task force on education has introduced legislation that would lower tuition for degrees friendly to corporate interests in order to “steer students toward majors that are in demand in the job market.”[35] In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker drew up a proposal to remove the public service philosophy focus from the university’s mission statement which states that the university’s purpose is to solve problems and improve people’s lives. He also scratched out the phrase “the search for truth” and substituted both ideas with a vocabulary stating that the university’s goal is to meet “the state’s work force needs.”[36] But Walker’s disdain for higher education as a public good can be more readily understood given his hatred of unions, particularly those organized for educators. How else to explain his egregious comparison of union protesters to the brutal terrorists and thugs that make up ISIS and his ongoing attempts to eliminate tenure at Wisconsin’s public universities as well as to eviscerate any vestige of shared governance.[37]

bravhuxley2.jpegAnother egregious example of neoliberalism’s Orwellian assault on higher education can be found in the policies promoted by the Republican Party members who control the North Carolina Board of Governors. Just recently it has decimated higher education in that state by voting to cut 46 degree programs. One member defended such cuts with the comment: “We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.”[38] The ideology that drives this kind of market-driven assault on higher education was made clear by Republican governor, Pat McCrory who said in a radio interview “If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”[39] This is more than an example of crude economic instrumentalism, it is also a recipe for instituting an academic culture of thoughtlessness and a kind of stupidity receptive to what Hannah Arendt once called totalitarianism.

Second, young people and progressives need create the institutions and public spaces in which education becomes central to as a counter-narrative that serves to both reveal, interrogate, and overcome the common sense assumptions that provide the ideological and affective webs that tie many people to forms of oppression. Domination is not just structural and its subjective roots and pedagogical mechanisms need to be viewed as central to any politics that aims to educate, change individual and collective consciousness, and contribute to broad-based social formations. Relatedly, a coalition of diverse social movements from unions to associations of artists, educators, and youth groups need to develop a range of alternative public spheres in which young people and others can become cultural producers capable of writing themselves back into the discourse of democracy while bearing witness to a range of ongoing injustices from police violence to the violence of the financial elite.

Third, America has become a society in which the power at the state and national levels has become punitive for most Americans and beneficial for the financial and corporate elite. Punishment creep now reaches into almost every commanding institution that holds sway over the American public and its effects are especially felt by the poor, blacks, young people, and the elderly. While the American public is distracted by Bruce Jenner’ sex change, millions of young men are held in prisons and jails across the United States, and most of them for nonviolent crimes. Working people are punished for a lifetime of work by having their pensions either reduced or taken away. Poor people are denied Medicaid because right-wing politicians believe the poor should be financially responsible for their health care. And so it goes. The United States is one of the few countries that allow teenagers to be tried as adults, even though there are endless stories of such youth being abused, beaten, and in some cases committing suicide as a result of such savage treatment. Everywhere we look in American society, routine behavior is being criminalized. If you owe a parking ticket, you may end up in jail. If you violate a dress code as a student you may be handcuffed by the police and charged with a criminal offense. A kind of mad infatuation with violence is matched by an increase in state lawlessness. In particular, young people have been left out of the discourse of democracy. They are the new disposables who lack jobs, a decent education, hope, and any semblance of a future better than the one their parents inherited.

In addition, an increasing numbers of youth suffer mental anguish and overt distress even, perhaps especially, among the college bound, debt-ridden, and unemployed whose numbers are growing exponentially. Many reports claim that “young Americans are suffering from rising levels of anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide. For example, “One out of every five young people and one out of every four college students … suffers from some form of diagnosable mental illness.”[40] According to one survey, “44 percent of young aged 18 to 24 say they are excessively stressed.”[41] One factor may be that there are so few jobs for young people. In fact the Jobless rate for Americans aged 15 to 24 stands at 15.8 percent, more than double the unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent for all ages, according to the World Bank.”[42] Facing what Richard Sennett calls the “spectre of uselessness,” the war on youth serves as a reminder of how finance capital has abandoned any viable vision of democracy, including one that would support future generations. The war on youth has to be seen as a central element of state terrorism and crucial to critically engaging the current regime of neoliberalism.

Fourth, As the claims and promises of a neoliberal utopia have been transformed into an Orwellian and Dickensian nightmare, the United States continues to succumb to the pathologies of political corruption, the redistribution of wealth upward into the hands of the 1 percent, the rise of the surveillance state, and the use of the criminal justice system as a way of dealing with social problems. At the same time, Orwell’s dark fantasy of an authoritarian future continues without enough massive opposition as students, low income, and poor minority youth are exposed to a low intensity war in which they are held hostage to a neoliberal discourse that translates systemic issues into problems of individual responsibility. This individualization of the social is one of the most powerful ideological weapons used by the current authoritarian regime and must be challenged.

Under the star of Orwell, morality loses its emancipatory possibilities and degenerates into a pathology in which misery is denounced as a moral failing. Under the neo-Darwinian ethos of survival of the fittest, the ultimate form of entertainment becomes the pain and humiliation of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, who are no longer an object of compassion, but of ridicule and amusement. This becomes clear in the endless stories we are now hearing from U.S. politicians disdaining the poor as moochers who don’t need welfare but stronger morals. This narrative can also be heard from conservative pundits such as New York Times columnist, David Brooks, who epitomize this view. According to Brooks, poverty is a matter of the poor lacking virtue, middle-class norms, and decent moral codes.[43] For Brooks, the problems of the poor and disadvantaged can be solved “through moral education and self-reliance…high-quality relationships and strong familial ties.”[44]   In this discourse soaring inequality in wealth and income, high levels of unemployment, stagnant economic growth and low wages for millions of working Americans are ignored.   What Brooks and other conservatives conveniently disregard are the racist nature of the drug wars, the strangle hold of the criminal justice system on poor black communities, police violence, mass unemployment for black youth, poor quality education in low income neighborhoods, and the egregious effect of mass incarceration on communities of color are ignored. Paul Krugman gets it right in rebutting the argument that all the poor need are the virtues of middle class morality and a good dose of resilience.[45] He writes:

So it is…disheartening still to see commentators suggesting that the poor are causing their own poverty, and could easily escape if only they acted like members of the upper middle class….Shrugging your shoulders as you attribute it all to values is an act of malign neglect. The poor don’t need lectures on morality, they need more resources — which we can afford to provide — and better economic opportunities, which we can also afford to provide through everything from training and subsidies to higher minimum wages.[46]

Lastly, any attempt to make clear the massive misery, exploitation, corruption, and suffering produced under casino capitalism must develop both a language of critique and possibility. It is not enough to simply register what is wrong with American society, it is also crucial to do so in a way that enables people to recognize themselves in such discourses in a way that both inspires them to be more critical and energizes them to do something about it. In part, this suggests a politics that is capable of developing a comprehensive vision of analysis and struggle that “does not rely on single issues.”[47] It is only through an understanding of the wider relations and connections of power that the American public can overcome uninformed practice, isolated struggles, and modes of singular politics that become insular and self-sabotaging. This means developing modes of analyses capable of connecting isolated and individualized issues to more generalized notions of freedom, and developing theoretical frameworks in which it becomes possible to translate private troubles into broader more systemic conditions. In short, this suggests developing modes of analyses that connect the dots historically and relationally. It also means developing a more comprehensive vision of politics and change. The key here is the notion of translation, that is, the need to translate private troubles into broader public issues and understand how systemic modes of analyses can be helpful in connecting a range of issues so as to be able to build a united front in the call for a radical democracy.

This is a particularly important goal given that the fragmentation of the left has been partly responsible for its inability to develop a wide political and ideological umbrella to address a range of problems extending from extreme poverty, the assault on the environment, the emergence of the permanent warfare state, the roll back of voting rights, and the assault on public servants, women’s rights, and social provisions, and a range of other issues that erode the possibilities for a radical democracy. The dominating mechanisms of casino capitalism in both their symbolic and material registers reach deep into every aspect of American society. Any successful movement for a radical democracy will have to wage a struggle against the totality of this new mode of authoritarianism rather than isolating and attacking specific elements of its anti-democratic ethos.

The darkest side of the authoritarian state feeds and legitimizes not only state violence, the violation of civil liberties, a punishing state, and a culture of cruelty, but also a culture for which violence becomes the only mediating force available to address major social problems. Under such circumstances, a culture of violence erupts and punishes the innocent, the marginalized, and those everyday people who become victims of both hate crimes and state terrorism. The killings in South Carolina of nine innocent black people once again registers the lethal combination of racist violence, a culture of lawlessness, and political irresponsibility. In this case, politics becomes corrupt and supports both the ideological conditions that sanction racist violence and the militarized institutional gun culture that it celebrates rather than scorns it. Should anyone be surprised by these killings in a state where the Confederate flag waves over the state capital, where the roads are named after Confederate generals, and where hate crimes are not reported? South Carolina is only the most obvious example of a racist legacy that refuses to die throughout the United States. Violence has become the DNA of American society. And it will continue until a broken and corrupt political, cultural, and market-driven system, now controlled largely by ideological, educational, economic, and religious fundamentalists, can be broken. Until then the bloodshed will continue, the spectacle of violence will fill America’s screen culture, and the militarization of American society will continue. Neither Orwell nor Huxley could have imagined such a violent dystopian society.

What will American society look like in the future? For Huxley, it may well mimic a nightmarish image of a world in which ignorance is a political weapon and pleasure as a form of control, offering nothing more that the swindle of fulfillment, if not something more self-deluding and defeating. Orwell, more optimistically, might see a more open future and history disinclined to fulfill itself in the image of the dystopian society he so brilliantly imagined. He believed in the power of those living under such oppression to imagine otherwise, to think beyond the dictates of the authoritarian state and to offer up spirited forms of collective resistance willing to reclaim the reigns of political emancipation. For Huxley, there was hope in a pessimism that had exhausted itself; for Orwell optimism had to be tempered by a sense of educated hope. Only time will tell us whether either Orwell or Huxley was right. But one thing is certain, history is open and the space of the possible is always larger than the one currently on display.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.


[1] Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1985, 2005).

[2]. Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Ed. & Trans. Quintin Hoare & Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers, 1971. p. 276.

[3] I take up in great detail the nature of the surveillance state and the implications the persecution of these whistle blowers has for undermining any viable understanding of democracy. See: Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout (February 10, 2014). Online: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21656-totalitarian-paranoia-in-the-post-orwellian-surveillance-state.

[4] For an excellent description of the new surveillance state, see Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide (New York: Signal, 2014); Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (New York: Times Books, 2014);

[5] Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon, Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2013).

[6] Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (London: Polity, 2004), pp.132-133.

[7] Editorial, “Cops or Soldiers: America’s Police Have Become Militarized,” The Economist (May 22, 2014). Online: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21599349-americas-police-have-become-too-militarised-cops-or-soldiers

[8]Michelle Alexander, “Michelle Alexander, The Age of Obama as a Racial Nightmare,” Tom Dispatch (March 25, 2012). Online: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175520/best_of_tomdispatch%3A_michelle_alexander,_the_age_of_obama_as_a_racial_nightmare/

[9] Heidi Boghosian, Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance, (City Lights Books, 2013).

[10]. Instructive here is Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Cambridge: Polity, 2012).

[11] Marjorie Cohn, “Beyond Orwell’s Worst Nightmare,” Huffington Post (January 31, 2014).

[12] See, for example, Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996) and Zygmunt Bauman, Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011).

[13] Ibid., pp. xix-xx

[14] Ibid., Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death.

[15] Ariel Dorfman, “Repression by Any Other Name,” Guernica (February 3, 2014).

[16] Boghosian, op cit., p. 32.

[17] Pete Cashmore, “Why 2012, despite privacy fears, isn’t like Orwell’s 1984”, CNN (January 23, 2012). Online: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-770499

[18] Spencer Ackerman, “US tech giants knew of NSA data collection, agency’s top lawyer insists,” The Guardian (March 19, 2014). Online: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/19/us-tech-giants-knew-nsa-data-collection-rajesh-de

[19] Ibid. Boghosian, p. 22..

[20] Jonathan Crary, 24/7 (London: Verso, 2013), p. 16.

[21] Mark Karlin, “From Spying on ‘Terrorists Abroad’ to Suppressing Domestic Dissent: When We Become the Hunted,” Truthout, (August 21, 2013).

[22] Ibid., pp. 22-23.

[23] Arun Gupta, “Barrett Brown’s Revelations Every Bit as Explosive as Edward Snowden’s,” The Guardian (June 24, 2013).

[24] Bruce Schneier, “The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership,” Bloomberg (July 31, 2013).

[25] David Graeber, “Dead Zones of the Imagination,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (2012), p. 119.

[26] Ibid., p. 48.

[27] Theodor W. Adorno, “Aldous Huxley and Utopia”, Prisms, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1967), pp. 106-107.

[28] Tom Engelhardt, “Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Surveillance State Scorecard,” Tom Dispath.com (November 12, 2013).

[29] I take up many of these issues in Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting (San Francisco: City Lights Publishing, 2014); The Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm Press, 2012), and Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2011).

[30] Quoted in Quentin Skinner and Richard Marshall, “Liberty, Liberalism and Surveillance: a historic overview,” Open Democracy (July 26, 2013).

[31] Charles Derber, private correspondence with the author, January 29, 2014.

[32]Stanley Aronowitz, “What Kind of Left Does America Need?,” Tikkun, April 14, 2014


[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Lizette Alvarez, “Florida May Reduce Tuition for Select Majors,” New York Times (December 9, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/education/florida-may-reduce-tuition-for-select-majors.html?_r=0

[36] Valerie Strauss, “How Gov. Walker tried to quietly change the mission of the University of Wisconsin,” The Washington Post (February 5, 2015). Online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/05/how-gov-walker-tried-to-quietly-change-the-mission-of-the-university-of-wisconsin/

[37] Monica Davey and Tamar Lewinjune , “Unions Subdued, Scott Walker Turns to Tenure at Wisconsin Colleges,” New York Times (June 4, 2015). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/politics/unions-subdued-scott-walker-turns-to-tenure-at-wisconsin-colleges.html?_r=0

[38] Andy Thomason, “As Degrees Are Cut, Critics continue to Decry Dismantling of U. of North Carolina,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 27, 2015). Online: http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/as-degrees-are-cut-critics-continue-to-decry-dismantling-of-u-of-north-carolina/99587

[39] Ibid.

[40] Therese J. Borchard. “Statistics About College Depression,” World of Psychology (September 2, 2010). Online: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/09/02/statistics-about-college-depression/; Allison Vuchnich and Carmen Chai, “Young Minds: Stress, anxiety plaguing Canadian youth,” Global News (May 6, 2013). Online: http://globalnews.ca/news/530141/young-minds-stress-anxiety-plaguing-canadian-youth/

[41] Paul Luke, “Seriously stressed-out students on the rise on post-secondary campuses

Burdened by debt and facing a shaky job market, many students feel overwhelmed,” The Province (April 21, 2014). Online: http://www.theprovince.com/business/Seriously+stressed+students+rise+post+secondary+campuses/9756065/story.html

[42] See http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.ZS

[43] See, for instance, David Brooks, “The Nature of Poverty,” New York Times (May 1, 2015). Online:


[44] Sean Illing, “Why David Brooks Shouldn’t Talk About Poor People,” Salon (May 1, 2015). Online: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/05/david_brooks_shouldn_t_talk_about_the_poor_the_new_york_times_columnist.single.html?print

[45] For an excellent rebuttal of the politics of resilience, see Brad Evans and Julien Reid, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (London: Polity Press, 2014).

[46] Paul Krugman, “Race, Class, and Neglect,” New York Times (May 4, 2015). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/opinion/paul-krugman-race-class-and-neglect.html?_r=0

[47] Ibid.


samedi, 27 juin 2015

Cómo nos controlan desde el poder


Cómo nos controlan desde el poder

Después de varias crisis económicas, parece que finalmente hemos interiorizado y aceptado que existe la lucha de clases. No hace falta mantener un discurso radical para defender la idea de que en la sociedad actual existen distintas clases, y que éstas se encuentran en constante lucha por la defensa de sus intereses respectivos, que pocas veces coinciden entre clase y clase. Hoy en día cualquier persona con algo de conciencia y buena información sabe que pertenece a una clase social.

Siguiendo la lógica de la jerarquía, la clase de arriba controla a la de abajo. El poder siempre está arriba en la pirámide de las clases sociales. En cuanto a las formas que tiene el poder de controlar a las clases dominadas, es muy interesante la visión que aportan dos autores: George Orwell, famoso por sus obras ‘Rebelión en la granja’ y ’1984′, y Aldous Huxley, muy conocido también por su libro ‘Un mundo feliz’.

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Las ideas de Orwell y de Huxley, aunque diferentes, apuntan en una misma dirección: existe una clase dominante que controla a una clase dominada sin que ésta sea consciente. Para cada autor los modos de control son diferentes, pero vienen a demostrar que la lucha de clases la están ganando las clases altas, tal y como ellas mismas reconocen. Warren Buffett, uno de los hombres más ricos del mundo, dijo en el año 2006 que: “Claro que hay una guerra de clases, y es mi clase, la de los ricos, quienes la estamos ganando.”

Orwell: nos controlan a través de lo que no nos gusta

¿Qué es lo que menos nos gusta? El miedo. A nadie le gusta pasar miedo. La persona que vive con miedo no es dueño de su vida, pues está a merced del miedo y de quien se lo transmite. Eso lo han entendido muy bien las clases dominantes, que saben que es más fácil controlar a una población atemorizada que a una libre de miedos. Por ello hoy en día el uso del miedo en la política es muy frecuente.

Se han desarrollado teorías que hablan del miedo como el principal factor de control, como la “Doctrina del Shock”, propuesta por Naomi Klein, que señala al sistema capitalista como principal culpable en la dispersión del miedo. Según Klein el sistema aprovecha momentos de terror y confusión como desastres naturales, atentados terroristas o crisis económicas para llevar a cabo políticas neoliberales, intentando que la población no se de cuenta, y excusándose en que “no queda otro remedio”.

El miedo no sólo se utiliza a nivel nacional para que los gobernantes de un país consigan llevar a cabo políticas económicas o sociales, sino que también se aplica a escala global para consolidad un sistema de bloques que hemos analizado en muchas ocasiones en esta web. La división del mundo en Centro-Periferia o entre Occidente y el resto motiva ciertas tensiones que, ante los ojos de la ciudadanía, han de quedar muy bien explicadas: “ellos son los malos y nosotros los buenos”.


Así, tal y como está configurado el mundo actualmente, tenemos una serie de países que han sido utilizados por Occidente para generar miedo entre su población. Países acusados de patrocinar el terrorismo (Irán, Libia, Siria…) o países relacionados con la falta de libertad (Cuba, Venezuela…) son objeto de ataques mediáticos en Europa y Estados Unidos, y sirven como elemento de “unificación social”, de forma que la población occidental apoya a sus líderes cuando se enfrentan a este tipo de países tan indeseables. El uso del miedo a escala global se analiza con más profundidad en el siguiente artículo:

ARTÍCULO RELACIONADO: La geopolítica del miedo (Juan Pérez Ventura, Junio 2013)

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Huxley: nos controlan a través de lo que nos gusta

Nos gusta estar distraídos. Como seres humanos tenemos esa necesidad de escapar por un momento del mundo real y relajarnos en un mar de programas de televisión, lecturas de revistas, redes sociales… No hay nada malo en abstraerse de la realidad de vez en cuando y distraernos con las cosas que nos gustan. El problema es que hoy en día no nos distraemos un rato, sino que vivimos distraídos. Y lo peor es que lo sabemos. Y nos gusta.

Es mucho más cómodo estar sentado en el sofá viendo la televisión que mirar por la ventana e intentar comprender cómo funciona el mundo y pensar en cómo se pueden cambiar las cosas. El poder de atracción de elementos como los videojuegos, la televisión, el deporte o la vida íntima de los famosos es mucho mayor que el interés por saber la verdad sobre el mundo en el que vivimos. Pero esta dura realidad no es fruto de un intrínseco gusto por la ignorancia por parte del ser humano, sino que es fomentada por parte de las clases dominantes.


El ser humano es curioso por naturaleza. Le gusta hacerse preguntas y conocer cosas. El estado de ignorancia y de pasividad actual ha sido artificialmente creado por el poder, a través de complejos mecanismos de desinformación y con una variada oferta de productos distractores. De forma que, aunque hay buena parte de culpa en la propia ciudadanía, que se deja seducir y distraer, lo cierto es que es el poder el responsable principal de que la sociedad actual sea una sociedad inculta, desinformada y fácilmente manipulable.

Por ello una de las formas que tenemos para escapar del control de las clases dominantes es no dejarnos informar por ellas. La información es el arma más valiosa en la sociedad actual, y hoy en día está en manos del poder. Por eso no hay que dejarse informar, hay que informarse. A un ciudadano bien informado es mucho más complicado engañarle, y ese ciudadano bien informado será más libre que el que disfruta sentado en el sofá viendo la televisión.

ARTÍCULO RELACIONADO: Desinformación (Juan Pérez Ventura, Octubre 2012)

PROFUNDIZAR EN EL ANÁLISIS: Además de distraernos con los medios de comunicación, las tesis de Huxley también consideran como elemento atractivo que permite el control de la población a través del gusto el consumo. Una sociedad consumista es más fácilmente controlable, pues la producción de bienes de consumo también está controlada por las clases dominantes. En este aspecto es interesante el análisis que se hace en el siguiente artículo: La sociedad de consumo: vivir es consumir.

La realidad: nos controlan

Sea a través del miedo, como defiende Orwell, o a través de distracciones que nos gustan, como mantiene Huxley, lo cierto es que, de una forma u otra, estamos siendo controlados. Esa es la realidad.

El sistema de clases sociales se mantiene precisamente porque existe ese control por parte de las clases dominantes, que disponen de muchas más herramientas para conservar su privilegiado estatus social. A través de los medios de comunicación, de la religión, de las empresas multinacionales, de las guerras… incluso a través de la democracia.

ControlUna vez identificados los modos de control, lo que debe hacer la ciudadanía es luchar por su libertad. ¿Cómo? Contra la desinformación, información, contra el miedo, valor.

Aunque es complicado llegar a un estado de libertad total, el simple hecho de saber cómo funciona el mundo y ser consciente de que existe este sistema de control de clases ya es un pequeño logro. Y si es imposible ganar la lucha de clases, tampoco pasa nada. Siempre nos quedará el sofá.

Si te gusta nuestra web puedes ayudarnos a crecer con una pequeña donación a través de:

Juan Pérez Ventura

Creador de la web 'El Orden Mundial en el S.XXI'. Graduado en Geografía por la Universidad de Zaragoza y estudiando el 'Máster en Relaciones Internacionales, Seguridad y Desarrollo' en Barcelona. Inquieto por comprender cómo funciona el mundo y apasionado de la divulgación de conocimiento. Además de blogger, soy un viajero incansable.

samedi, 03 janvier 2015

Ernst Jünger's The Glass Bees


Ernst Jünger's The Glass Bees

Matthew Gordon

(From Synthesis)

& http://www.wermodandwermod.com

Ernst Jünger
Louise Bogan & Elizabeth Mayer (transl.)
The Glass Bees
New York Review Books, 2000

THE Glass Bees is an introspective novel about a quiet but dignified cavalry officer called Richard. Unable to adjust to life after war and needing money, he applies for a security job at the headquarters of the mysterious oligarch Zapparoni. Confronted with mechanical and psychological trials, the dream becomes a nightmare, and Richard is forced to contemplate his place in the modern world and the nature of reality itself.

Although philosophical and lyrical, this book is nonetheless a tense page-turner with all the qualities of great sci-fi drama. The poetic imagery is highly expressive, but there are times when the sentences are clumsy and over-long, the meaning of a passage can be lost over a seemingly unnecessary paragraph break. Whether this is down to Jünger's original German or the fault of translation I couldn't possibly say. Nonetheless Ernst Jünger stands among the most lucid and skilful of continental modern writers.

Jünger's vision of the future isn't the ultra-Jacobin "boot stamping on a human face" of Nineteen-Eighty-Four - it is a subtler, more Western dystopia. Jünger is amazingly prescient in this, although he is rarely given credit for it; he predicts that the media and entertainment will rule the psyches of men, that miniaturisation and hyperreal gratification will become our new Faustian obsession and that for all the wonders and benefits of technology it is ultimately dehumanising and alienating. The new world won't be ruled by crude and brutal tyrants like Hitler, Stalin or Kim Jong Ill, but by benevolent and private businessmen, like Rupert Murdoch. We won’t be dominated by the authoritarian father-ego of Freud, but by the hedonistic-pervert of Lacan. Jünger anticipates the theory of hyperreality formulated by Baudrillard, and it is interesting that this book was published before theories on post-modernism and deconstruction became vogue.

Faced with this less than perfect future, Jünger's doesn't try to incite revolution or political struggle – his message remains the same throughout his work – but to inspire individual autonomy. Despite all outward constraints, uprightedness and self-reliance is real freedom. Jünger depicts a superficial and spiritually bankrupt future, but if he is to be believed, the potential for man to be his true self is always the same.

samedi, 29 novembre 2014

Neoliberal Violence in the Age of Orwellian Nightmares


The Struggle Against Dystopia

Neoliberal Violence in the Age of Orwellian Nightmares

Ex: http://www.counterpunch.org

The shadow of Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society with its all-embracing reach of surveillance and repression now works its way through American politics like a lethal virus. Orwell’s dystopian apparition of a totalitarian society with its all-embracing reach of surveillance and repression has come to fruition, reshaping the American body politic in the guise of a poorly orchestrated Reality TV show. As Orwell rightly predicted, one of the more significant characteristics of an authoritarian society is its willingness to distort the truth while simultaneously suppressing dissent. But Orwell was only partly right. Today, rather than just agressively instill a sense of fear, dread and isolation, contemporary totalitarian commitment also wins over large number of individuals through appeals to our most debased instincts projected on to hapless others. Our lurid fascination with others’ humiliation and pain is often disguised even to ourselves as entertainment and humor, if perhaps admittedly a little perverse. Under the new authoritarianism fear mixes with the endless production of neoliberal commonsense and a deadening coma-inducing form of celebrity culture. Huxley’s Soma now joins hands with Orwell’s surveillance state.

State terrorism works best when it masks the effects of its power while aggressively producing neoliberal commonsense through diverse cultural apparatuses in order to normalize the values and conditions that legitimate its reign of terror. For instance, Umberto Eco argues that one element of authoritarianism is the rise of an Orwellian version of newspeak, or what he labels as the language of “eternal fascism,” whose purpose is to produce  “an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax [whose consequence is] to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”   Dwight Macdonald, writing in the aftermath of World War II and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, argues that as more and more people are excluded from the experience of political agency and exhibit “less and less control over the policies” of their governments, ethics is reduced to the status of mere platitudes and politics becomes banal.  What has become clear to many Americans is that the electoral system is bankrupt. As the political process becomes more privatized, outsourced, and overrun with money from corporations and billionaires, a wounded republic is on its death bed, gasping for life.   In addition, as the state becomes more tightly controlled, organized, and rationalized by the financial elite, politics and morality are deprived of any substance and relevance, thus making it difficult for people to either care about the obligations of critical citizenship or to participate in the broader landscape of politics and power. Far easier to wax ironic or cynical.

For Orwell, the state was organized through traditional forms of authoritarian political power. What Orwell could not have imagined was the reconfiguration of the state under a form of corporate sovereignty in which corporations, the financial elite, and the ultra-rich completely controlled the state and its modes of governance. Hyper-capitalism was no longer merely protected by the state, it has become the state. As is well known, the fossil fuel companies, megabanks, and defense industries such as Boeing, General dynamics Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin now control the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rule in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many. This was recently made clear by a Princeton University scientific study that analyzed policies passed by the U.S. government from 1981 to 2002 and discovered that vast majority of such policies had nothing to do with the needs and voiced interests of the American people. As the authors pointed out, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”[1] Put bluntly, the study made clear that the opinions of the public per se simply do not count. The study concluded that rather than being a democracy the United States had become an oligarchy where power is effectively wielded by “the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.”[2]

As a result of this mode of governance, individual and social agency are in crisis and are disappearing in a society in which 99 percent of the public, especially young people and minorities of class and color are considered disposable. At a time when politics is nation-based and power is global, the rulers of the Orwellian state no longer care about the social contract and make no compromises in their ruthless pursuits of power and profits. The social contract, especially in the United States, is on life support as social provisions are cut, pensions are decimated, and the certainty of a once secure job disappears. The new free-floating global elite are unrestrained by the old rules of politics and not only refuse to make any political concessions, they also no longer believe in long-term social investments and are more than willing to condemn those populations now considered disposable to a savage form of casino capitalism.

Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of a mad version of neoliberal rationality have created new social formations and a social order in which it becomes difficult to form communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. In the manner of Huxley’s cautionary forewarning, people now participate willingly in their own oppression. Neoliberalism has created a society of ruling brutes for whom pain and suffering are now viewed as entertainment, warfare a permanent state of existence, and militarism as the most powerful force shaping masculinity. Politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of [3]social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological script of political zombies who, as Alain Badiou points out, now control a lifeless version of democracy. Atomization, emotional self-management, and the ideology of self-interests are the curse of both neoliberal societies and democracy itself. Terror now takes the form of the atomization of individual agency and the politics of a moral coma.[4] Poverty, joblessness, low wage work, and the threat of state sanctioned violence produce among many Americans the ongoing fear of a life of perpetual misery and an ongoing struggle simply to survive. Collective paralysis now governs American society, reinforced by a fixed hedonism. Risk taking is individualized through a shameless appeal to resilience.[5] Insecurity coupled with a climate of fear and surveillance dampens dissent and promotes a kind of ethical tranquilization fed daily by the mobilization of endless moral panics, whether they reference immigrants allegedly storming American borders or foreign terrorists blowing up shopping centers. Such conditions more often than not produce withdrawal, insecurity, paranoia, and cynicism rather than rebellion among the American populace.


Americans now live under a form of casino capitalism that revels in deception, kills the radical imagination, depoliticizes the public, and promulgates what might be called an all-embracing punishing state. Idealism and hope for a better future has been replaced by a repressive disciplining machine and a surveillance state that turns every space into a war zone, criminalizes social problems, and legitimates state violence as the most important practice for addressing important social issues. The carceral state and the surveillance state now work together to trump security over freedom and justice while solidifying the rule of the financial elite and the reigning financial services such as banks, investment houses, and hedge funds, all of which profit from the expanding reach of the punishing state. Americans now live in what Robert Jay Lifton once described as a “death-saturated age”[6] as political authority and power have been transformed into a savage form of corporate governance and rule. The United States has moved from a market economy to a market society in which all vestiges of the public good and social contract are viewed with disdain and aggressively eliminated.

The basic elements of casino capitalism and its death wish for democracy are now well known: government should only exists to protect the ruling elite; self-interest is the only organizing principle of agency, risk is privatize; consumption is the only obligation of citizenship; sovereignty is market-driven; deregulation, privatization, and commodification are legitimate elements of the corporate state; market ideology is the template for governing all of social life, exchange values are the only values that matter, and the yardstick of profit is the only viable measure of the good life and advanced society. With the return of the new Gilded Age, not only are democratic values and social protections at risk, but the civic and formative cultures that make such values and protections central to democratic life are being eviscerated. At the heart of neoliberalism in its diverse forms is the common thread of breeding corporate and political monsters, widespread violence, the decimation of political life, and the withdrawal into private

We are witnessing the emergence of new forms of repression that echo the warnings of Aldous Huxley and reach deeply into the individual and collective psyches of the populace. Extending Huxley’s analysis, I want to argue that under regimes of neoliberalism, material violence is matched by symbolic violence through the proliferation of what I call disimagination machines. Borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman’s use of the term, “disimagination machine,” I extend its meaning to refer to images, along with institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics, and collective resistance.[7] The “disimagination machine” is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to an idiotic celebrity culture and advertising apparatus that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue. Put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world.

Neoliberalism’s disimagination machines, extending from schools to print, audio, and screen cultures, are now used to serve the forces of ethical tranquilization as they produce and legitimate endless degrading and humiliating images of the poor, youthful protesters, and others considered disposable. The public pedagogy and market-driven values of neoliberalism constitute a war zone that suppresses any vestige of critical thought while creating the conditions and policies for expanding the boundaries of terminal exclusion. Viewed as unworthy of civic inclusion, immigrants, youth, protesters and others deemed alien or hostile to the mechanizations of privatization, consumption, and commodification are erased from any viable historical and political context. Such groups now fill the landscape of neoliberalism’s dream world. Vast numbers of the American public are now subject to repressive modes of power that criminalize their behavior and relegates them to those public spaces that accelerate their invisibility while exposing them to the harsh machinery of social death.


The neoliberal politics of disposability with its expanding machineries of civic and social death, terminal exclusion, and zones of abandonment constitute a new historical conjuncture and must be addressed within the emergence of a ruthless form of casino capitalism, which is constituted not only as an economic system but also a pedagogical force rewriting the meaning of common sense, agency, desire, and politics itself. The capitalist dream machine is back with huge profits for the ultra-rich, hedge fund managers, and major players in the financial service industries. In these new landscapes of wealth, exclusion, and fraud, the commanding institutions of a savage and fanatical capitalism promote a winner-take-all ethos and aggressively undermine the welfare state while waging a counter revolution against the principles of social citizenship and democracy.

Politics and power are now on the side of lawlessness as is evident in the state’s endless violations of civil liberties, freedom of speech, and the most constitutional rights, mostly done in the name of national security. Lawlessness wraps itself in repressive government policies such as the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, Military Commissions, and a host of other legal illegalities. These would include the “right of the president “to order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists,”[8] use secret evidence to detain individuals indefinitely, develop a massive surveillance panoptican to monitor every communication used by citizens who have not committed a crime, employ state torture against those considered enemy combatants, and block the courts from prosecuting those officials who commit such heinous crimes.[9] The ruling corporate elites have made terror rational and fear the modus operandi of politics.

Power in its most repressive forms is now deployed not only by the police and other forces of repression such as the 17 American intelligence agencies but also through a predatory and commodified culture that turns violence into entertainment, foreign aggression into a video game, and domestic violence into goose-stepping celebration of masculinity and the mad values of militarism. The mediaeval turn to embracing forms of punishment that inflict pain on the psyches and the bodies of young people, poor minorities, and immigrants, in particular, is part of a larger immersion of society in public spectacles of violence. Under the neo-Darwinian ethos of survival of the fittest, the ultimate form of entertainment becomes the pain and humiliation of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, who are no longer an object of compassion, but of ridicule and amusement. Pleasure loses its emancipatory possibilities and degenerates into a pathology in which misery is celebrated as a source of fun. High octane violence and human suffering are now considered consumer entertainment products designed to raise the collective pleasure quotient. Brute force and savage killing replayed over and over in the culture now function as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that saps democracy of any political substance and moral vitality, even as the body politic appears engaged in a process of cannibalizing its own youth. It gets worse. The visibility of extreme violence in films such as John Wick (2014) and The Equalizer (2014) offer one of the few spaces amid the vacuity of a consumer culture where Americans can feel anything anymore.

Needless to say, extreme violence is more than a spectacle for upping the pleasure quotient of those disengaged from politics; it is also part of a punishing machine that spends more on putting poor minorities in jail than educating them. As American society becomes more militarized and “civil society organizes itself for the production of violence,”[10] the capillaries of militarization feed on and shape social institutions extending from the schools to local police forces. The police, in particular, have been turned into soldiers who view the neighbourhoods in which they operate as war zones. Outfitted with full riot gear, submachine guns, armoured vehicles, and other lethal weapons imported from the battlefields of Iraq and Iran, their mission is to assume battle-ready behaviour. Is it any wonder that violence rather than painstaking neighbourhood police work and community outreach and engagement becomes the norm for dealing with alleged ‘criminals’, especially at a time when more and more behaviours are being criminalised? Is it any wonder that the impact of the rapid militarization of local police forces on poor black communities is nothing short of terrifying and symptomatic of the violence that takes place in advanced genocidal states? For instance, according to a recent report produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement entitled Operation Ghetto Storm, “police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra judicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012…This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours.” The report suggests that ‘the real number could be much higher’.[11] Michelle Alexander adds to the racist nature of the punishing state by pointing out that “There are more African American adults under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”[12] Meanwhile the real violence used by the state against poor minorities of color, women, immigrants, and low income adults barely gets mentioned, except when it is so spectacularly visible and cruel that it cannot be ignored as in the case of Eric Garner who was choked him to death by a New York City policeman after he was confronted for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes.

The authoritarian state empties politics of all vestiges of democracy given that the decisions that shape all aspects of the commanding institutions of society are now made largely in private, behind closed doors by the anonymous financial elite, corporate CEOs, rich bankers, the unassailable leaders of the military-industrial complex, and other kingpins of the neoliberal state. At the same time, valuable resources and wealth are extracted from the commons in order to maximize the profits of the rich while the public is treated to a range of distractions and diversions that extend from “military shock and awe overseas” to the banalities of a commodified culture industry and celebrity obsessed culture that short-circuits thought and infantilizes everything it touches. In the end, as Chomsky points out this amounts to an attempt by a massive public relations industry and various mainstream cultural apparatuses “to undermine democracy by trying to get uninformed people to make irrational choices.”[13]

Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a poisonous public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war, and exploitation. Even as markets unravel and neoliberalism causes increased misery, “the broader political and social consensus remains in place” suggesting that the economic crisis is not matched by a similar crisis in consciousness, ideas, language, and values.[14] Underlying the rise of the authoritarian state and the forces that hide in the shadows is a hidden politics indebted to promoting crippling forms of historical and social amnesia. The new authoritarianism is strongly indebted to what Orwell once called a “protective stupidity” that corrupts political life and divest language of its critical content.[15]

Yet, even as the claims and promises of a neoliberal utopia have been transformed into a Dickensian nightmare as the United States, and increasingly Canada, succumb to the pathologies of political corruption, the redistribution of wealth upward into the hands of the 1 percent, the rise of the surveillance state, and the use of the criminal justice system as a way of dealing with social problems, Orwell’s dark fantasy of a fascist future continues without massive opposition. Domestic terrorism now functions to punish young people whenever they exercise the right of dissent, protesting peacefully, or just being targeted because they are minorities of class and color and considered a threat and in some cases disposable, as was recently evident in the killing by a white policemen of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The emergence of the warrior cop and the surveillance state go hand in hand and are indicative not only of state-sanctioned racism but also of the rise of the authoritarian state and the dismantling of civil liberties. Brutality mixed with attacks on freedom of dissent and peaceful protest prompts memories of past savage regimes such as the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The events in Ferguson speak to a history of violence in United States that Americans have chosen to forget at their own risk. Historical amnesia takes a toll. For instance, amid the growing intensity of state terrorism, violence becomes the DNA of a society that not only has a history of forgetting, but also refuses to deal with larger structural issues such as massive inequality in wealth and power, a government that now unapologetically serves the rich and powerful corporate interests, the growing militarization of everyday life, while elevating the power of money to an organising principle of governance.[16] What all of this suggests is a dismantling of what Hannah Arendt called “the prime importance of the political.”[17]

Underlying the carnage caused by neoliberal capitalism is a free market ideology in which individuals are cut off from the common good along with any sense of compassion for the other.[18] Economic Darwinism individualizes the social by shredding social bonds that are not commodified and in doing so depoliticizes, atomizes, and infantilizes the broader public. All problems are now defined as a problem of faulty character and a lack of individual resilience and responsibility. At the same time, freedom is reduced to consumerism and a modern day version of narcissism becomes the only guiding principle for living one’s life. Only under such circumstances can a book titled Selfish written by the vacuous Kim Kardashian and filled with 2000 selfies be published and celebrated in the mainstream media, mirroring a deeply disturbing principle of the larger society. What is crucial to recognize is that the central issues of power and politics can lead to cynicism and despair if casino capitalism is not addressed as a system of social relations that diminishes—through its cultural politics, modes of commodification, and market pedagogies—the capacities and possibilities of individuals and groups to move beyond the vicissitudes of necessity and survival in order to fully participate in exercising some control over the myriad forces that shape their daily lives.

What exists in the United States today and increasingly in Canada is fundamentally a new mode of politics, one wedded to a notion of power removed from accountability of any kind, and this poses a dangerous and calamitous threat to democracy itself, because such power is difficult to understand, analyze, and counter. The collapse of the public into the private, the depoliticization of the citizenry in the face of an egregious celebrity culture, and the disabling of education as a critical public sphere makes it easier for neoliberal capital with its hatred of democracy and celebration of the market to render its ideologies, values, and practices as a matter of common sense, removed from critical inquiry and dissent.

orn1.jpgWith privatization comes a kind of collective amnesia about the potential democratic role of government, the importance of the social contract, and the importance of public values. For instance, war, intelligence operations, prisons, schools, transportation systems, and a range of other operations once considered public have been outsourced or simply handed over to private contractors who are removed from any sense of civic and political accountability. The social contract and the institutions that give it meaning have been transformed into entitlements administered and colonized by largely the corporate interests and the financial elite. Policy is no longer being written by politicians accountable to the American public. Instead, policies concerning the defense budget, deregulation, health care, public transportation, job training programs, and a host of other crucial areas are now largely written by lobbyists who represent mega corporations. How else to explain the weak deregulation policies following the economic crisis of 2007 or the lack of a public option in Obama’s health care policies? Or, for that matter, the more serious retreat from any viable notion of the political imagination that “requires long-term organizing—e.g., single-payer health care, universally free public higher education and public transportation, federal guarantees of housing and income security.”[19] The liberal center has moved to the right on these issues while the left has become largely absent and ineffective. Yet the fight for developing a radical democracy must continue on a domestic and global scale.

Democracy is not compatible with capitalism but is congruent with a version of democratic socialism in which the wealth, resources, and benefits of a social order are shared in an equitable and just manner. Democracy as a promise means that society can never be just enough and that the self-reflection and struggles that enable all members of the community to participate in the decisions and institutions that shape their lives must be continually debated, safeguarded, and preserved at all costs. The rebuilding of a radical democracy must be accompanied with placing a high priority on renewing the social contract, embracing the demands of the commons, encouraging social investments, and the regeneration of the social contract. These are only a few of the issues that should be a central goal for the development of a broad-based radical social movement. I want to emphasize that I am not suggesting that developing a new understanding of politics as a call to reclaim a radical democracy be understood as simply a pragmatic adjustment of the institutions of liberal democracy or a return to the social democracy of the New Deal and Great Society.

On the contrary, any rethinking of the political can only be comprehended as part of a radical break from liberalism and formalistic politics if there is to be any move towards a genuine democracy in which matters of equality, power, and justice are central to what can be called a radical democratic politics. Such a task necessitates a politics and pedagogy that not only expands critical awareness and promotes critical modes of inquiry but also sustains public spheres, builds new modes of solidarity and connections and promotes strategies and organizations that create not simply ruptures such as massive demonstrations but real changes that are systemic and long standing. If such a politics is to make any difference, it must be worldly; that is, it must incorporate a critical public pedagogy and an understanding of cultural politics that not only contemplates social problems but also addresses the conditions for new forms of democratic political exchange and enables new forms of agency, power, and collective struggle. The collapse of the United States into neoliberal authoritarianism signals not simply a crisis of politics and democracy, but a crisis of ideas, values, and agency itself. Hence, calling for a revival of the educative nature of politics and the radical imagination is more than a simply call to find ways to change consciousness; it is first and foremost an attempt to understand that education is at the center of a struggle over what kinds of agency will be created in the interest of legitimating the present and producing a particular kind of future. This is an imminently educative, moral, and political task and it is only through such recognition that initial steps can be taken to challenge the powerful ideological and affective spaces through which neoliberalism produces the desires, identities, and values that bind people to its forms of predatory governance.

The moral, political, and economic violence of neoliberalism must be made visible, its institutional structures dismantled, and the elite interests it serves exposed. The fog of historical, social and political amnesia must be eliminated through the development of educational programs, pedagogical practices, ideological interventions, and public narratives that provide the critical and analytical tools to enable the public to analyze both underlying ideologies and institutions of neoliberal capitalism as well as the intellectual and economic resources needed to provide meaningful alternatives to the corporate authoritarianism that passes itself off as an updated mode of democracy. What is important here is that the struggle against neoliberalism focus on those forms of domination that pose a threat to those public spheres essential to developing the critical formative cultures that nourish modes of thinking, analysis, and social formations necessary for a radical democracy.

In addition, the left has to do more than chart out the mechanisms through which neoliberal authoritarianism sustains itself. And for too many on the left this means simply understanding the economic forces that drive neoliberal global capitalism. While this structural logic is important, it does not go far enough. As Stuart Hall has insisted “There’s no politics without identification. People have to invest something of themselves, something that they recognize is meaningful to them, or speaks to their condition and without that moment of recognition” any effort to change the way people inhabit social relations of domination will fail.[20] Pierre Bourdieu takes this logic further in arguing that left has often failed to recognize “that the most important forms of domination are not only economic but also intellectual and pedagogical, and lie on the side of belief and persuasion”[21] He insists, rightly, that it is crucial for the left and other progressives to recognize that intellectuals bear an enormous responsibility for challenging this form of domination by developing tactics “that lie on the side of the symbolic and pedagogical dimensions of struggle.”[22]

If neoliberal authoritarianism is to be challenged and overcome, it is crucial that intellectuals, unions, workers, young people, and various social movements unite to reclaim democracy as a central element in fashioning a radical imagination that foregrounds the necessity for drastically altering the material and symbolic forces that hide behind a counterfeit claim to participatory democracy. This means imagining a radical democracy that can provide a living wage, decent health care, public works, and massive investments in education, child care, housing for the poor, along with a range of other crucial social provisions that can make a difference between living and dying for those who have been cast into the ranks of the disposable.


There are new signs indicating that the search for a new understanding of politics and the refashioning of a radical imagination are emerging, especially in Greece, Germany, Spain, and Denmark, where expressions of new political formations can be found in political groups such as Podemos, Die Linke, Syriza, and the Red-Green Alliance. While these political formations have differences, what they share is a rejection of stale reformism that has marked liberal politics for the last 40 years. These new political formations are offering alternatives to a new kind of social order in which capitalism does not equal democracy. But more importantly, they are not tied merely to unions and older political factions and are uniting with social movements under a broad and comprehensive vision of politics and change that goes beyond identity politics and organizes for the long haul. Moreover, as Juan Pablo Ferrero points out, these parties not only take seriously the need for economic change but also the need for new cultural formations and modes of change.[23] The struggle against neoliberal common sense is as important as the struggle against those institutions and material modes of capital that are the foundation of traditional politics of resistance. Language, communication, and pedagogy are crucial to these movements as part of their attempt to construct a new kind of informed and critical political agent, one freed from the orbits of neoliberal privatization and the all-embracing reach of a commodified and militarized society.

What Podemos, Syriza, and other new political movements on the left make clear is that the fight against neoliberalism and the related anti-democratic tendencies that inform it must not settle for simply reforming the existing parameters of the social order. Neoliberalism has created an economic, cultural, and social system and social order that is not only as broken as it is dangerous, but also pathological in the violence and misery it produces. Any viable struggle must acknowledge that if the current modes of domination are to change, a newly developed emphasis must be placed on creating the formative culture that inspires and energizes young people, educators, artists, and others to organize and struggle for the promise of a substantive democracy.

At the same time, particular injustices must be understood through the specificity of the conditions in which they develop and take hold and also in relation to the whole of the social order. This means developing modes of analyses capable of connecting isolated and individualized issues to more generalized notions of freedom, and developing theoretical frameworks in which it becomes possible to translate private troubles into broader more systemic conditions. At the very least, a new political imaginary suggests developing modes of analyses that connects the dots. This is a particularly important goal given that the fragmentation of the left has been partly responsible for its inability to develop a wide political and ideological umbrella to address a range of problems extending from extreme poverty, the assault on the environment, the emergence of the permanent warfare state, the abolition of voting rights, the assault on public servants, women’s rights, and social provisions, and a range of other issues that erode the possibilities for a radical democracy. Neoliberalism stands for the death of democracy and the commodification and repression of any movement that is going to successfully challenge it.


One of the most serious challenges facing progressives is the task of developing a discourse of both critique and possibility. This means insisting that democracy begins to fail and political life becomes impoverished in the absence of those vital public spheres such as higher education in which civic values, public scholarship, and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity, and civic courage. Such a challenge demands not only confronting symptoms as a way of decreasing the misery and human suffering that people experience on a daily basis, but most importantly addressing the root causes that produce the despotism and culture of cruelty that marks the current period. The time has come to develop a political language in which civic values, social responsibility, and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, and a renewed sense of social agency. A revitalized politics for imagining a radical democracy must promote an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization, and set of strategies to challenge the neoliberal nightmare engulfing the planet. The dystopian worlds of Orwell and Huxley are sutured in fear, atomization, and a paralyzing anxiety. Unfortunately, these dystopian visions are no longer works of fiction. The task ahead is to relegate them to the realm of dystopian fiction so they can remind us that a radical democracy is not simply a political project, but a way of life that has to be struggled over endlessly.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.


[1] Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, Volume 12 / Issue 03 (September 2014), p 581.

[2]Tom McKay, “Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy,” Popular Resistance (April 16, 2014). Online:


[3] Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History, trans. Gregory Elliott (London, UK: Verso, 2012), p. 6.

[4] Leo Lowenthal, “Atomization of Man,” False Prophets: Studies in Authoritarianism, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), pp. 191-182

[5] Brad Evans and Julien Reid, Resilient Life: The Art of living Dangerously (London: Polity, 2014).

[6] Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479. See Lynn Worsham’s brilliant use of Lifton’s work in her “Thinking with Cats (More to Follow),” JAC 30:3-4 (2010), pp. 405-433.

[7] Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

[8] Jonathan Turley, “10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free,” The Washington Post, (January 13, 2012). Online:


[9] For a clear expose of the emerging surveillance state, see Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide (New York: Signal, 2014); Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (New York: Times Books, 2014); Heidi Boghosian, Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance, (City Lights Books, 2013).

[10] Catherine Lutz, “Making War at Home in the United States: Militarization and the Current Crisis,” American Anthropologist, (104:3, 2002), pp. (723)

[11] Adam Hudson, “1 Black Man Is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes: America Is Perpetually at War with Its Own People,” AlterNet (March 28, 2013). Online: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/1-black-man-killed-every-28-hours-police-or-vigilantes-america-perpetually-war-its; see also the report titled Operation Ghetto Storm. Online: http://mxgm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Operation-Ghetto-Storm.pdf

[12]Michelle Alexander, “Michelle Alexander, The Age of Obama as a Racial Nightmare,” Tom Dispatch (March 25, 2012). Online: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175520/best_of_tomdispatch%3A_michelle_alexander,_the_age_of_obama_as_a_racial_nightmare/

[13] Noam Chomsky, “The Kind of Anarchism I believe in, and What’s Wrong with Litertarians,” AlterNet (March 28, 2013). Online: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/noam-chomsky-kind-anarchism-i-believe-and-whats-wrong-libertarians

[14] Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey, and Michael Rustin, “After neoliberalism: analysing the present,” Soundings (Spring 2013). Online”


[15] Orville Schell, “Follies of Orthodoxy,” What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics, (New York, NY: Perseus Books Group, 2007), xviii

[16] See, especially, Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (New York: Public Affairs, 2013), Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2010), and (and Jill Nelson, ed. Police Brutality (New York: Norton, 2000).

[17] Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, (Brooklyn, NY. : Melville House Publishing, 2013), pp. 33-34.

[18] Paul Buchheit, “The Carnage of Capitalism,” AlterNet (August 17, 2014). Online:


[19] Adolph Reed Jr., “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals,” Harper’s Magazine (March 2014), p. 29.

[20] Stuart Hall and Les Back, “In Conversation: At Home and Not at Home”, Cultural Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4, (July 2009), pp. 680-681

[21] Pierre Bourdieu and Gunter Grass, “The ‘Progressive’ Restoration: A Franco-German Dialogue,” New Left Review 14 (March-April, 2002), P. 2.

[22] Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 11.

[23] Juan Pablo Ferrero, “Are you ready for a new kind of left-wing politics?” The Conversation (October 29, 2014). Online: http://theconversation.com/are-you-ready-for-a-new-kind-of-left-wing-politics-33511


jeudi, 11 avril 2013

Le Meilleur des Mondes, c'est maintenant


Aldous Huxley

Le Meilleur des Mondes, c'est maintenant

par Stéphane Blanchonnet

Ex: http://a-rebours.ouvaton.org/

article d'abord paru sur a-rebours.fr puis repris dans L'AF2000

   Au moment où un gouvernement entreprend de liquider l'institution du mariage en en dénaturant la définition, au moment où un prétendu "droit" au mariage et un prétendu "droit" à l'enfant se substituent à la plus naturelle des institutions sociales (quelles que soient les variations de ses modalités dans le temps et l'espace), il est urgent de se replonger dans un livre où l'auteur représente une société future dans laquelle la famille traditionnelle a été abolie, les notions de père et mère ont disparu des mémoires, la reproduction et la sexualité ont été totalement dissociées (les enfants sont tous le résultat d'une fécondation et d'une gestation artificielles), la liberté sexuelle, enfin, est devenu le plus efficace moyen de contrôle social de l’État sur des individus sevrés de plaisir mais devenus pour cette raison irresponsables et incapables de responsabilité comme d'esprit critique. Ce livre, vous l'aurez sans doute reconnu, est le remarquable roman Le Meilleur des Mondes d'Aldous Huxley, qui est aussi un profond apologue, dans la grande tradition des fables et des contes philosophiques.

    Dans son essai, Retour au Meilleur des Mondes, paru en 1958 (vingt-cinq ans après le roman), Huxley se livre à une passionnante comparaison entre son propre livre et le chef d'œuvre de George Orwell, 1984. Il y écrit notamment ces lignes qui expliquent que là où Orwell avait en vue les régimes autoritaires et militaristes, lui-même dénonçait plutôt les potentialités totalitaires des démocraties libérales : « La société décrite dans le roman d'Orwell est continuellement en état de guerre, aussi le but de ses dirigeants est-il d'abord, bien entendu, d'exercer le pouvoir, générateur de grisantes délices, et ensuite de maintenir leurs sujets dans cet état de tension croissante qu'une lutte permanente exige de ceux qui la livrent. En faisant croisade contre la sexualité, les chefs parviennent à entretenir le degré de tension voulu chez leurs satellites et en même temps à satisfaire de manière extrêmement agréable leur propre appétit de puissance. Celle qui est décrite dans Le Meilleur des Mondes est une société mondiale dans laquelle la guerre a été éliminée et où le premier but des dirigeants est d'empêcher à tout prix leurs sujets de créer des désordres. Ils y parviennent (entre autres méthodes) par la légalisation d'un degré de liberté sexuelle (rendu possible par l'abolition de la famille) qui garantit pratiquement les populations de toute forme de tension émotive destructrice (ou créatrice). Dans 1984, l'appétit de puissance se satisfait en infligeant la souffrance ; dans Le Meilleur des Mondes en infligeant un plaisir à peine moins humiliant. »

    L'ouvrage d'Huxley est sans doute le plus intéressant pour comprendre la logique de notre société consumériste, hédoniste et surtout progressiste qui prétend émanciper les individus en les déracinant (la table rase permanente à l'égard de la culture, des traditions et désormais de la filiation) alors qu'elle ne fait que les couper des contraintes normales qui, en circonscrivant le périmètre de la nature humaine, lui permettent tout simplement d'exister en tant que telle. Ceux qui participent à ce mouvement littéralement insensé vers l'indifférenciation et l'indétermination absolues ne voient pas qu'un changement, qui n'est qu'un processus, un ”accident" pour parler comme les philosophes, suppose un sujet à ce processus, une "substance", donc une nature, un certain nombre de déterminations sans lesquelles il n'est pas plus de conservation nécessaire que de progrès légitime mais un pur chaos inintelligible !


dimanche, 07 avril 2013

Ignorance programmée

Ignorance programmée

Ex: http://diktacratie.com/ignorance-programmee/

par Kelly Schmalz

Pourquoi nous trouvons nous si démunis à une époque où les savoirs sont accessibles et les bibliothèques ouvertes à tous ? Pourquoi même les étudiants déplorent une connaissance lacunaire des mécanismes de l’appareil gouvernemental ? Pourquoi sommes-nous tels des enfants face à des maîtres ? Pourquoi ce qui relève de l’évidence prend des allures de révélations ou de secrets d’initiés ?

Les révolutions démocratiques du XVIIIe exigeaient de la population française qu’elle devienne dans sa majorité, des citoyens éclairés et critiques quand à l’évolution de leur République.Comme le déplore le sociologue Christopher Lasch dans Culture de masse ou culture populaire ?  « Notre système d’éducation, de surcroît, repose de plus en plus sur ce principe implicite qui veut que les démocraties puissent fonctionner même lorsque les citoyens ne sont pas éduqués »

Or sans instruction politique le citoyen est relégué au rang de simple spectateur ! Cette évidence n’offusque pourtant pas le caviardage socialiste qui défend une inculture de masse en prétendant se soucier des aspirations populaires ! Faisant au passage l’économie du minimum ; car sauf utilité universitaire, qui connaît la Constitution ? Pourtant, ce qui chez nous apparait comme révolutionnaire, s’applique ailleurs, notamment au Venezuela. Ainsi les enfants du gouvernement Chavez apprennent à lire sur la Constitution !

Le pouvoir reste donc aux mains de ceux qui usent et abusent d’outils technocratiques à défaut d’être démocratiques, basant ainsi la mécanique sur les inégalités de classe. Et afin de toujours rester sur le haut du panier, la caste dominante sait pour quels enseignements opter : Science-Po, ENA, droit… En témoigne également la fulgurante et récente mode des prestigieuses écoles de commerce made in america… Butin assuré !

Prenons la dette souveraine par exemple, et son remboursement que l’on présente comme une fatalité. Comment en saisir les enjeux lorsque la création monétaire est survolée dans tous les enseignements de base ? Alors qu’elle est la clé même pour comprendre tout le fonctionnement économique de nos oligarchies bancaires mondiales. Comment pouvons nous continuer d’accepter toutes ces rhétoriques fallacieuses construites sur ces ignorances ? L’infantilisation progressive du citoyen, suivie d’une perfusion régulière d’abrutissements en tout genre, signera la mort clinique de son esprit critique.

Ainsi toutes les obscénités sont permises. Jacques Attali, conseiller d’état, ne se gênera pas pour culpabiliser le petit peuple – qui lui produit des richesses ! -, d’avoir été trop gourmand, et de mériter alors la récession ! Le pouvoir du peuple ne s’exerce que pour essuyer les bévues programmées ! Manipulation bien perverse au regard de l’absence totale de participation aux décisions…

Consulter le peuple sans jamais lui avoir fourni les moyens de comprendre les véritables enjeux, ce n’est ni plus ni moins qu’un jeu truqué…  

samedi, 06 avril 2013

Isaac Asimov: Rivedere 1984

di Isaac Asimov

Avevo scritto un articolo in quattro parti per il Field Newspaper Syndicate all’inizio di ogni anno per molto tempo fin agli anni ’80, pensando all’avvicinarsi del 1984, FNS mi chiese di scrivere un critica al racconto 1984 di George Orwell. Ero riluttante. Non ricordavo quasi nulla del e lo dissi – ma Denison Demac, la ragazza amabile che era il mio contatto con FNS, semplicemente mi spedì una copia del testo e disse “leggilo“. Così lo lessi e mi sorpresi meravigliato di ciò che leggevo. Ero sorpreso di quanta gente parlasse del testo in modo così spigliato, senza averlo mai letto; o se l’avevano fatto, non lo ricordavano affatto. Sentì di voler scrivere la critica solo per avvertire la gente. (mi dispiace; mi piace farlo.)

A. Lo scritto 1984
Nel 1949, un libro intitolato 1984 venne pubblicato. Era stato scritto da Eric Arthur Blair con lo pseudonimo di George Orwell. Il libro cercava di mostrare come la vita sarebbe stata in un mondo totalitario in cui il governo si mantiene al potere con la forza bruta, distorcendo la verità, riscrivendo in continuo la storia, insomma ingannando il popolo.  Il mondo da incubo esisteva a 35 anni nel futuro, così che le persone di mezza età, al momento della pubblicazione del libro, avrebbero potuto constatare se avrebbero vissuto una vita normale.  Io, al contrario, ero già sposato quando apparve il libro, e oggi siamo a meno quattro anni dall’anno apocalittico (il ’1984′ è divenuto l’anno associato con tale minaccia grazie al libro di Orwell), e io ero contentissimo di poterlo vedere.
In questo capitolo, parlerò del libro, ma prima: chi era Blair/Orwell e perché scrisse questo libro?
Blair nacque nel 1903 figlio di funzionario inglese, il padre era nel Indian civil service e Blair stesso visse la vita di un ufficiale imperiale inglese. Andò a Eton, servì in Birmania, ecc. Tuttavia, era sempre al verde per esser un “English gentleman” completo. Allora inoltre, non voleva passare il resto della sua vita alla scrivania; voleva essere uno scrittore. Ancora, si sentiva in colpa per la sua condizione di borghese medio-alto. Così negli anni ’20 fece quello che molti giovani americani fecero negli anni ’60. In breve divenne un cosiddetto ‘hippie‘ ante litteram. Viveva negli slum di Londra e Parigi, confondendosi e identificandosi con i vagabondi e i diseredati degli slum, cercando di sollevare la propria coscienza e, allo stesso tempo, di raccogliere materiale per i suoi primi libri. Divenne di sinistra, un socialista, combatté con i lealisti in Spagna negli anni ’30. Si ritrovò intrappolato nella lotta settaria tra fazioni di sinistra, e finché credeva in un socialismo da bravo inglese, era inevitabile che fosse nel lato perdente. Opposti a lui vi erano gli appassionati anarchici, sindacalisti, e comunisti spagnoli, che amaramente subivano il fatto che le necessità della lotta ai fascisti di Franco venissero sostituite dallo scontro fratricida. I comunisti, i meglio organizzati, vinsero e Orwell lasciò la Spagna, era convinto che lo avrebbero ucciso. Da allora fino alla morte, condusse una guerra letteraria contro i comunisti, determinato a vincere, con le parole, la battaglia che aveva perso sul terreno.
Durante la seconda guerra mondiale, dove venne scartato dal servizio militare, si associò con l’ala sinistra  del British Labour party, ma non legò molto con il partito, poiché il suo blando socialismo gli sembrava fin troppo ben organizzato. Non era preoccupato, apparentemente, dal totalitarismo nazista, per lui c’era spazio solo per la guerra privata contro lo stalinismo. Perciò, quando il Regno Unito combatteva contro il nazismo, e l’URSS combatteva da alleato nella lotta e contribuì molto in vite umane perdute e in coraggio risoluto, Orwell scrisse “La fattoria degli animali” una satira della Rivoluzione Russa e di ciò che seguì, dipingendola come la rivolta di animali domestici contro i padroni umani. Completò “La fattoria degli animali” nel 1944 e ebbe problemi nel trovare un editore fin quando arrivò il momento buono per attaccare i sovietici. Appena finita la guerra, l’Urss divenne il nemico e “La fattoria degli animali” venne pubblicata. Venne accolta con ovazione e Orwell divenne sufficientemente ricco per andare in pensione e dedicarsi al suo capolavoro: 1984.
Il libro descrive una società come una super Russia stalinista mondiale in stile anni ’30, cioè come veniva dipinta dai settari di ultrasinistra. Altre forme di totalitarismo giocavano un ruolo secondario. Vi erano uno o due menzioni del nazismo e della inquisizione. All’inizio almeno due o tre riferimenti agli ebrei, avrebbero dovuto dimostrare la loro persecuzione, ma ciò sparisce subito e Orwell non vuole che il lettore identifichi i cattivi con i nazisti. L’immagine è lo stalinismo, e solo lo stalinismo.
Quando il libro apparve nel 1949, la guerra fredda era al culmine. Il libro divenne, perciò, popolare. Era una questione di patriottismo in occidente comprarlo e parlarne e, forse, persino leggerne una parte; è mia opinione che molta gente che lo ha comprato lo ha più discusso che letto, poiché è un libro ostico, statico, ripetitivo e didascalico. Fu molto popolare, all’inizio, presso le persone di destra, conservatrici, per essi era chiara la polemica contro l’Urss, e il quadro della vita lì mostrata nella Londra del 1984 era proprio quella immaginata dai conservatori nella Mosca del 1949.
Durante l’era di McCarthy negli USA, 1984 divenne sempre più popolare presso i liberals, poiché sembrava che gli USA dei primi anni ’50 scivolassero verso il controllo del pensiero e che tutti i mali che Orwell aveva descritto si stessero avverando. Quindi, in una prefazione di una edizione pubblicata in paperback dalla New American Library nel 1961, il psicoanalista e filosofo liberale Erich Fromm conclude così: “Il libro di Orwell è un potente allarme, e potrebbe essere una sfortuna se il lettore interpretasse 1984 come l’ennesima descrizione della barbarie stalinista, e non è detto che appaia, da noi, in quel modo.
Anche quando lo stalinismo e il McCarthyismo scomparvero, sempre più statunitensi divennero consapevoli di come fosse divenuto “grande” il governo; di come fossero alte le tasse; di come la vita quotidiana e gli affari fossero sempre più regolati dalle leggi; di come l’informazione riguardante ogni fatto della vita privata entrasse nei documenti del governo, ma anche del sistema bancario privato.
1984, quindi, significava non più stalinismo, o dittatura, ma il semplice governo.  Anche il paternalismo governativo sembrava ispirato a 1984 e la frase il “grande fratello ti vede” significava tutto ciò che era troppo grande per il controllo del singolo.
Non vi era solo un grande governo o un grande business che fosse sintomo del 1984, ma anche una grande scienza, un grande lavoro, un grande tutto. Infatti, la 1984-fobia penetrò nella coscienza di molti di coloro che non avevano letto il libro o avevano nozione del suo contenuto; ci si preoccupava di ciò che sarebbe accaduto entro il 31 Dicembre 1984. Una volta arrivato il 1985, con gli USA che erano ancora una realtà, e affrontava i molti problemi quotidiani, come esprimeremo la paura sugli aspetti della vita che ci riempiono di apprensione? Quale data inventeremo per sostituire il 1984?
Orwell non visse per vedere il proprio libro divenire un successo. Non vide il modo in cui fece del 1984 un anno che avrebbe perseguitato una intera generazione di statunitensi. Orwell morì di tubercolosi in un ospedale di Londra, nel gennaio 1950, pochi mesi dopo la pubblicazione del libro, all’età di 46 anni. Era consapevole della sua fine imminente, e l’amarezza l’aveva riversata nel libro.

B. La fantascienza di 1984
Molti pensano che 1984 sia un racconto di science fiction, ma l’unica cosa che supporti ciò e che 1984 sia ambientato nel futuro. Non è così! Orwell odia il futuro e la storia è più geografica che temporale.
La Londra in cui si svolge la storia si svolge a 30 anni di distanza, dal 1949 al 1984, e si svolge a migliaia di miglia a Est, a Mosca. Orwell immagina il Regno Unito colpito da una rivoluzione simile a quella Russa e che abbia attraversato tutti gli stadi dello sviluppo sovietico. Non prevede variazioni sul tema. I Sovietici ebbero una serie di purghe negli anni ’30, così il Ingsoc (English Socialism) ha avuto le sue purghe negli anni ’50. I Sovietici convertirono uno dei loro rivoluzionari, Leon Trotsky, in un nemico, e al contrario, il suo oppositore Josip Stalin, in un eroe. L’Ingsoc, tuttavia, converte uno dei suoi rivoluzionari, Emmanuel Goldstein, in un nemico, e il suo oppositore, con baffi come Stalin, in un eroe. Non è difficile fare piccole modifiche, Goldstein, come Trotsky, “dalla faccia di ebreo, con la grande cresta di capelli bianchi e la barbetta di capra“. Orwell apparentemente non vuole confondere il tema dando un nome diverso a Stalin e così lo chiama semplicemente ‘Grande Fratello‘.
All’inizio della storia, è chiaro che la televisione (appena nata al momento della stesura del libro) serviva come continuo mezzo di indottrinamento del popolo, che non può essere spenta. (e, apparentemente, in una Londra fatiscente, in cui nulla funziona, tale dispositivo è sempre acceso.)
Il grande contributo orwelliano alla tecnologia del futuro é che la televisione funziona nei due sensi, e la gente che è forzata a vederla può essere veduta e ascoltata e essere sottoposta a una costante supervisione anche quando dorme o è in bagno. Ecco, perciò, il significato della frase ‘il Grande Fratello ti vede‘. Questo è il peggior mezzo per controllare tutti. Avere una persona che è sotto controllo ogni momento significa averne un’altra che la guarda sempre (almeno nella società orwelliana) e farebbe assai poco, per questo vi è un grande sviluppo dell’arte della recitazione e dell’espressione mimica. Una persona non può guardare più di un’altra in piena concentrazione, e può solo farlo in un breve periodo di tempo, prima che l’attenzione scemi. Posso testimoniare, in breve, che dovrebbero esserci almeno cinque persone per osservarne una. E certo, gli osservatori stessi sarebbero osservati, poiché nessuno nel mondo orwelliano è libero dal sospetto. Perciò, il sistema di oppressione attraverso la TV interattiva non può funzionare.
Orwell stesso lo capisce, limitando il lavoro ai membri del partito. I ‘proles‘ (proletariato), verso cui Orwell non può nascondere il suo atteggiamento borghese inglese, sono largamente lasciati a presentarsi come subumani. (A un certo punto nel libro, dice che ogni prolet che mostra abilità è ucciso – come facevano gli spartani con gli iloti 25 secoli fa.) Inoltre, vi è un sistema di spie volontarie in cui i bambini controllano i genitori e i vicini si spiano tra di loro. Non è possibile che funzioni bene, poiché se tutti spiano tutti, il resto verrebbe abbandonato.
Orwell non era capace di concepire i computer o i robot, o di mettere tutti sotto il controllo non umano. I nostri computers arriva a farlo con l’IRS (servizio immigrazione, NdC), nel credito bancario e così via, ma nel 1984 la cosa non ci coinvolge direttamente, tranne che nella più fervida immaginazione.  Computer e tirannia non vanno necessariamente mano nella mano. I Tiranni hanno lavorato bene senza i computer (vedi i nazisti) e le nazioni più computerizzate oggi, sono le meno tiranniche (ancora oggi è così? NdC).
Orwell era privo della capacità di vedere o inventare dei piccoli cambiamenti. Il suo eroe trova difficile nel mondo di 1984 avere lacci per scarpe o lame per rasoi. Così il vero mondo degli anni ’80, utilizza mocassini e rasoi elettrici. Allora, anche Orwell aveva la fissazione tecnofobica che ogni progresso tecnologico è una scorciatoia. Perciò, l’eroe quando scrive, “mette la penna nel calamaio e ne risucchia l’inchiostro. Fa così perché sente che la bella carta color crema sia destinata a essere scritta con un vero pennino invece che essere graffiata con una penna a inchiostro“. Presumibilmente, la “penna a inchiostro” è la penna a sfera che era appena stata introdotta quando 1984 venne scritto. Ciò significa che Orwell descrive che qualcosa sia scritta con un vero pennino ma rimane graffiata dalla penna a sfera. Ciò è, tuttavia, precisamente il contrario del vero. Se sei abbastanza vecchio da ricordare che i pennini graffiano fragorosamente e si sa che la penna a sfera non lo fa.
Tutto questo non è science fiction, ma una nostalgia distorta del passato che non c’è mai stato. Sono sorpreso che Orwell si sia fermato al pennino e che non abbia fatto usare a Winston una grossa penna d’oca. Né Orwell era particolarmente previdente negli aspetti strettamente sociali del futuro che presenta, con il risultato che il mondo orwelliano di 1984 è incredibilmente arcaico comparato con quello vero degli anni ’80. Orwell non immagina nuovi vizi, al contrario. Egli era tutto gin e tabacco, e parte dell’orrore del suo quadro di 1984 è l’eloquente descrizione della bassa qualità del gin e del tabacco. Non prevedeva nuove droghe, non la marijuana, né gli allucinogeni sintetici. Non un aspetto della s.f. dello scrittore è precise e esatto nella sua previsione, ma certamente ci si sarebbe aspettato che inventasse qualche differenza.
Nella sua disperazione (o rabbia), Orwell dimentica le virtù umane. Tutti i caratteri sono, in un modo o nell’altro, deboli o sadici, sleali, stupidi o repellenti. Questo dovrebbe essere il modo in cui la gent,e o come Orwell vuole indicare, siano sotto la tirannia, ma mi sembra che sotto le peggiori tirannie, vi siano uomini e donne coraggiosi che affrontano i tiranni fino alla morte e che tali personalità storiche abbiano illuminato l’oscurità circostante. Solo per questo 1984 non assomiglia al vero mondo degli anni ’80. Né prevede alcuna differenza nel ruolo delle donne o nella debolezza dello stereotipo femminile del 1949. Vi sono solo due caratteri di donna di qualche importanza. Una forte donna ‘prole’ senza cervello che  è sempre lavandaia, che canta sempre canzoni popolari con parole del tipo famigliare negli anni ’30 e ’40 (a cui Orwell descrive fastidiosamente come ‘spazzatura’, in piena e beata assenza di anticipazione dell’hard rock).
L’altra è l’eroina, Julia, che è sessualmente promiscua (ma almeno mostra coraggio per il suo interesse nel sesso) ed è d’altronde senza cervello. Quando l’eroe, Winston, legge il suo libro che spiega la natura del mondo orwelliano, lei risponde addormentandosi, ma visto che Winston legge in modo estremamente soporifero, ciò è una buona indicazione del buon senso di Julia piuttosto che del contrario.
In breve, se 1984 deve essere considerato science fiction, allora è pessima science fiction.

C. Il governo di 1984
Il 1984 di Orwell è il ritratto di un governo totalitario, e ciò aiuta a comprendere la nozione del ‘big government’ assai eclettico. Dobbiamo ricordare, che il mondo dei tardi anni ’40, quando Orwell scrive il libro, vi era un solo vero e cattivo “big governments” con un vero tiranno-individuale il cui desiderio, anche se ingiusto crudele e vizioso, era legge. Inoltre sembrava un tiranno irremovibile eccetto che dalla forza esterna.
Benito Mussolini dell’Italia, dopo 21 anni di dominio assoluto, venne rovesciato, ma solo a causa della sua sconfitta in guerra. Adolf Hitler della Germania, dittatore assai più forte e brutale, dominò con pugno di ferro per dodici anni, e anche se sconfitto, non venne abbattuto dall’interno. Sebbene l’area che dominava si restringeva e gli eserciti nemici lo circondavano a est e a ovest, rimaneva dittatore assoluto nell’area da lui controllata, anche quando era solo nel bunker in cui si suicidò. Finchè si tolse di mezzo, nessuno poté abbatterlo. (Vi furono dei complotti contro di lui, certo, ma fallirono sempre, grazie, spesso, alla fortuna, che sembrava incredibile solo pensando a qualcuno come lui.)
Orwell, tuttavia, non badava a Mussolini o Hitler. Il suo nemico era Stalin, e al momento in cui venne pubblicato 1984, Stalin governava l’URSS da 25 anni ininterrotti, era sopravvissuto a una guerra tremenda in cui la sua nazione soffrì perdite enormi e ora era più forte che mai. A Orwell, ciò sembrava che né il tempo né la fortuna potessero abbattere Stalin, ma che sarebbe vissuto per sempre, aumentando di forza. Era così che Orwell presentava il Grande Fratello. Certo, non era vero. Orwell non vise abbastanza da vedere la morte di Stalin, tre anni dopo la pubblicazione di 1984, e non molto dopo il suo regime fu denunciato come dittatura – indovinate da chi? – dalla leadership sovietica. L’URSS è ancora URSS, ma non è stalinista, e i nemici dello stato non sono più fucilati (Orwell diceva ‘vaporizzati‘ invece, ma tale piccola differenza era tutto quello che sapeva fare) pratica presto abbandonata. Anche quando morì Mao Tse-tung in Cina, e mentre egli stesso non venne denunciato, i suoi più stretti collaboratori, la “Banda dei quattro“, vennero subito rimossi dallo stato di divinità, e ora la Cina è rimasta Cina, ma non è più maoista. Franco della Spagna  morì nel suo letto e fino al suo ultimo respiro, rimase il leader indiscusso per quasi 40 anni, subito dopo il suo ultimo respiro, il fascismo sparì subito dalla Spagna, così in Portogallo dopo al morte di Salazar.
In breve, Grande Fratello muore, o dovrebbe farlo, e quando muore, il governo muta sempre in senso moderato. Non si sa come i nuovi dittatori si sentano, ma dovranno morire, anche. Alla fine nei veri anni ’80 sappiamo i dittatori passano e che il “Grande Fratello“  non è una minaccia reale.
Se nessun governo, infatti, degli anni ’80, sembra così pericoloso. L’avanzata della tecnologia concede nuove armi potenti – esplosivi, mitragliatrici, auto veloci in mano a terroristi urbani che possono rapire, sequestrare, uccidere e  prendere ostaggi con impunità mentre i governi sono più o meno aiuti privi di aiuto. Inoltre la immortalità del Grande Fratello, che Orwell presenta come i due modi altri modi di mantenere una dittatura eterna.
Primo -presenta qualcuno o qualcosa da odiare. Nel mondo orwelliano era Emmanuel Goldstein da odiare e che era costruito e orchestrato in funzione di masse robotizzate. Nulla di nuovo, certo. Ogni nazione nel mondo ha usato i vicini allo scopo di odiare. Tale tipo di cosa è facilmente gestito e emerge come la seconda natura dell’umanità che meraviglia perché vi sono gli odi guidati organizzati nel mondo orwelliano. Necessita poca psicologia delle masse per fare odiare gli Arabi con gli Israeliani, Greci con i Turchi e cattolici Irlandesi con i protestanti Irlandesi – e viceversa in ogni caso. Per essere sicuri i nazisti organizzavano incontri di massa da delirio a cui ogni partecipante sembrava unirsi, ma non vi erano effetti permanenti. Una volta arrivata la guerra sul suolo Germanico, i tedeschi si arrendevano e non hanno mai più detto Sieg-Heil nella loro vita.
Secondo – riscrivere la storia. Quasi ogni individuo che incontriamo in 1984 ha come lavoro, la rapida riscrittura del passato, il riaggiustamento delle statistiche, la revisione dei giornali, con tutti preoccupati di fare attenzione al passato comunque. Tale preoccupazione orwelliana per le minuzie storiche è tipica del settario politico che sempre riporta ciò che è stato detto sin passato per provare a chiunque dell’altro lato che è sempre citato qualcosa che è sttao detto o fatto dell’avversario. Coma sa ogni politico, nessuna prova di qualsiasi tipo è mai richiesto.  È solo necessario fare una dichiarazione – qualsiasi – per avere una audience che vi crede. Nessuno vedrà la bugia rispetto ai fatti e, se lo fa, non crederanno ai fatti.
Pensate che i tedeschi nel 1939 fingessero di credere che i polacchi gli avessero attaccati e iniziando la Seconda Guerra Mondiale? No! Quando gli si disse che era così essi vi credettero come io credo che essi attaccarono i polacchi. Sicuro, i sovietici pubblicarono nuove edizioni della loro Enciclopedia in cui politici che avevano lunghe citazioni nelle prime edizioni, venivano all’improvviso cancellati totalmente, e ciò è senza dubbio il germe della nozione orwelliana, ma la possibilità di portare ciò al livello di descritto in 1984 sembra nullo – non perché è oltre la malvagità umana,  ma perché non è necessaria.
Orwell presenta la ‘Neolingua‘ come organo della repressione – la conversione dell’inglese in uno strumento limitato e abbreviato dove il vocabolario reale dei dissensi sparisce. Parzialmente acquisì la nozione dell’indubbia abitudine dell’abbreviare. Diede degli esempi: la ‘Internazionale Comunista‘ divenne ‘Comintern‘ e ‘Geheime Staatspolizei‘ divenne ‘Gestapo‘, ma non è una invenzione del moderno totalitarismo. ‘Vulgus mobile‘ divenne ‘mob‘; ‘taxi cabriolet‘ divenne ‘cab’; ‘quasi-stellar radio source’ divenne ‘quasar’; ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ divenne ‘laser’ e così via. Non ci sono segnali che la compressione della lingua renda più debole il modo di esprimere.
In realtà l’offuscamento politico tende a usare molte parole invece che poche, lunghe invece che corte, a estendere invece che a ridurre. Ogni leader poco istruito o dalla intelligenza limitata si nasconde dietro una esuberante e inebriante loquacità. Quindi, quando Winston Churchill suggerisce lo sviluppo di un ‘Inglese Basico’ come lingua internazionale (indubbiamente similmente alla “Neolingua“), la suggestione era forte. Non possiamo, tuttavia, avvicinarci alla Neolingua nella sua forma condensata, ma abbiamo già una Neolingua nella sua forma estesa e sempre l’avremo.  Abbiamo un gruppo di giovani tra noi che dice cose come “Vabbene, uomo, sai, è come prenderli tutti assieme, sai, uomo, penso, come sai tu” e così per cinque minuti quando la parola che i giovani cercano è il loro ‘Huh?‘ Perciò, tuttavia, non è Neolingua, è sempre stato così da noi. È qualcosa che in Veterolingua è chiamato ‘mancanza di articolazione’ e non è ciò che Orwell aveva in mente.

D. La situazione internazionale di 1984
Sebbene Orwell sembri, di massima, essersi inesorabilmente bloccato nel mondo del 1949, in un aspetto si mostra assai previdente, cioè la previsione della tripartizione del mondo negli anni ’80.
Il mondo internazionale di 1984 è un mondo di tre superpotenze: Oceania, Eurasia e Estasia – e che combacia, assai rozzamente, con le tre attuali superpotenze degli anni ’80: gli USA, l’URSS e la Cina. (Potremmo anche fare con USA, Unione Europea e Cina degli anni ’90; NdC)
L’Oceania è la combinazione di USA e Impero inglese, chi è stato un ufficiale imperiale civile, non avverte che l’impero inglese stava esalando l’ultimo respiro nei tardi anni ’40 e stava  per dissolversi. Sembra supporre, in effetti, che l’impero inglese sia il membro dominante della coalizione anglo-americana. Alla fine, L’intera azione si svolge a Londra e frasi come gli ‘USA’ e ‘americani’ sono rare, se mai, menzionate. Ma, ciò è assai tipico nei racconti di spie inglesi in cui, fin dalla seconda guerra mondiale, il Regno Unito (adesso l’ottava potenza militare economica del Mondo) appare come la grande avversaria dell’URSS, o della Cina, o di qualche inventata cospirazione internazionale, con gli USA mai menzionata o ridotta a piccola comparsa con la cortese partecipazione di qualche agente della CIA.
Eurasia è, naturalmente, l’URSS, cui Orwell fa assorbire tutto il continente Europeo. Eurasia, inoltre, include oltre all’Europa, la Siberia, e la sua popolazione è per 95 % europea in ogni modo. Quindi, Orwell descrive gli Eurasiani come ‘uomini dall’aspetto robusto con visi asiatici privi di espressione‘.  Orwell viveva in un periodo in cui gli ‘Europei‘ e gli ‘Asiatici‘ erano rispettivamente l”eroe‘ e il ‘cattivo‘, era impossibile attaccare l’URSS con spontaneità se non pensandola come ‘Asiatica’. Ciò avvenne sotto l’inebriante Neolingua Orwelliana detta ‘doppio-pensiero‘, qualcosa che Orwell, come ogni uomo ritiene, buona cosa. Certo, potrebbe darsi che Orwell non pensi all’Eurasia, o all’URSS, ma la sua grande ‘bestia nera’ è Stalin. Stalin era un georgiano, e la Georgia, che si estende nel Caucaso meridionale, geograficamente è in Asia. Eastasia è, certo, la Cina e varie nazioni tributarie. Qui fa una profezia. Al momento della stesura di 1984, i comunisti cinesi non avevano il controllo del paese e molti (gli USA soprattutto) ritenevano che l’anticomunista, Chiang Kai-shek, avesse il controllo. Una volta che i comunisti ottennero il potere, divenne credo accettato degli occidentali che i cinesi fossero sotto il controllo dei sovietici e che la Cina e l’URSS formassero un blocco monolitico comunista.
Orwell no solo previde la vittoria comunista (vedeva la vittoria dovunque, infatti) ma inoltre previde che Russia e China non avrebbero formato una potenza   monolitica ma sarebbero stati nemici mortali. In tale caso, è stata la sua esperienza di settario di sinistra ad aiutarlo. Non aveva le superstizioni di destra riguardo alla sinistra come unificazione di indistinti cattivi. Sapeva che avrebbero combattuto tra loro spietatamente sopra i punti assai controversi della dottrina come i più pii cristiani. Inoltre previde uno stato permanente di guerra tra le tre potenze; una condizione di permanente mutazione delle sempre instabili alleanze, ma sempre due contro il più forte. Questa era il vecchio sistema di “equilibrio del potere” presente fin dall’antica Grecia, nell’Italia medievale, e nella prima Europa moderna.
L’errore di Orwell risiede nel pensare che vi fosse una guerra per mantenere  il controllo dell’equilibrio. In effetti, nella parte più risibile del libro, presenta la guerra come mezzo per consumare le risorse e la produzione mondiale e quindi mantenere la stratificazione sociale  con classi superiori, medie   e inferiori. (ciò suona come un vera spiegazione di sinistra  della guerra come risultato di una cospirazione attuata con grande difficoltà.) Nei fatti odierni, le decadi dal 1945 sono state segnate dall’assenza di guerre rispetto ai decenni precedenti. Vi sono state guerre locali a profusione, ma non una generale. Ma la guerra non è ritenuta un mezzo disperato per consumare le risorse del mondo. Ciò può essere fatto con altri metodi, come l’incremento senza fine della popolazione e dell’uso dell’energia, mai considerate da Orwell. Orwell non prevede alcuni significativo mutamento economico che sono stati attuati dopo la fine della seconda guerra mondiale. Non prevede il ruolo del petrolio o del declino della sua disponibilità o l’aumento del suo prezzo o l’incremento della potenza di quelle nazioni che lo controllano. Non ricordo alcun riferimento al ‘petrolio‘. Ma forse in ciò è Orwell abbastanza vicino da prevederlo, se sostituiamo
guerra fredda‘ con ‘guerra‘. Vi sono stati eventi, in effetti, da continuare, più o meno, la ‘guerra fredda‘ che serviva a mantenere l’occupazione elevata e a risolvere a breve termine i problemi economici (al costo di crearne di assai più grandi a lungo termine). E questa Guerra Fredda è sufficiente da esaurire le risorse. Inoltre, l’alleanza mutevole, come previsto da Orwell è assai vicina alla realtà. Quando gli USA sembravano potentissimi, URSS e Cina erano ferocemente anti-statunitensi, e si allearono. Quando la potenza USA diminuì, l’URSS e Cina si divisero. E ognuno si contrappose egualmente contro gli altri due. Allora, quando l’URSS apparve divenire abbastanza potente, si ebbe una alleanza tra USA e Cina, e cooperarono per contrastare l’URSS, e parlare moderatamente ognuno dell’altro.
In 1984 ogni cambio di alleanza sfociava in una orgia di storia riscritta. In realtà, tale follia non era necessaria. IL pubblico scivolava facilmente da un punto all’altro, accettando il cambio di circostanza senza alcun problema per il passato. Invece, i giapponesi, negli anni ’50, cambiarono da cattivi senza speranza in amici, mentre i cinesi passarono nella direzione opposta, senza aver commesso nessuna Pearl Harbour. Nessuno ci fece caso, per buona stupidità. Orwell ha volontariamente dimenticato l’uso della bomba atomica nella guerra tra le tre potenze, sicuro che tali bombe non sarebbero state usate nelle guerre dopo il 1945. Ciò, tuttavia, a causa che le sole grandi potenze nucleari USA e URSS, hanno impedito la guerra tra di loro. Se ci fosse una guerra adesso,  assai dubbio che le parti non credano, infine, necessario premere il bottone. In ciò, Orwell manca, forse, di poco la realtà. Londra, tuttavia, ha sofferto attacchi di missili, cosa che richiama le armi V-1 o V-2 del 1944, e la città è in una bolgia stile 1945. Orwell non può rendere 1984 assai differente dal 1944 in tale aspetto. Orwell, infatti, rende chiaro che in 1984, il comunismo universale delle tre superpotenze ha soffocato la scienza e ridotto il suo uso tranne che per le necessità della guerra. Non vi sono domande su quale nazione investe di più nella scienza dove le applicazioni per la guerra sono chiare, né vi è modo di porre domande sulla separazione delle applicazioni per la guerra da quelle per la pace.
La Scienza è una unità, e ogni cosa può essere concepita in relazione alla guerra e alla distruzione. La Scienza, inoltre, non è stata soffocata ma continua non solo negli USA e nell’Europa Occidentale e Giappone, ma anche in URSS e in Cina. I progressi della scienza sono numerosi, ma si può pensare ai laser e ai computer come armi dalle infinite applicazioni pacifiche.
Insomma: George Orwell in 1984 era, secondo me, impegnato in una guerra privata con lo stalinismo, piuttosto che cercare di prevedere il futuro. Non diede alla scienza alcuna plausibile funzione prevedibile in futuro, e oggi, in ogni caso il mondo di 1984 non è correlato al mondo reale degli anni ’80. Il mondo può essere comunista, me non nel 1984, che per qualcuno non è una vera tarda data; o dove sembri che la civiltà stia per essere distrutta. Se accadesse, tuttavia, accadrà in modo diverso da quello descritto in 1984 e se tentate di prevenirne l’eventualità immaginando che 1984 sia accurata, allora dovrete difendervi dagli assalti provenienti da direzioni sbagliate e perderete.

Traduzione Alessandro Lattanzio

mercredi, 09 janvier 2013

Is Catastrophe Inevitable?

Is Catastrophe Inevitable?


Alex Kurtagic

Ex: http://www.amren.com/  

How liberalism may lead to collapse and Western rebirth.
Guillaume Faye, Convergence of Catastrophes, Arktos, 2012, 220 pp., $28.05 (soft cover)

Convergence of Catastrophes is the third book by French author Guillaume Faye to be published by Arktos in English. If you have read the other two (Archeofuturism and Why We Fight), you will recognize in the title a familiar theme in the author’s critique of liberal modernity: the idea that liberalism has unleashed a series of catastrophic processes now converging towards a cataclysmic global implosion.

I was keen to read this volume because it promised an elaboration on one of the key arguments Dr. Faye makes in Archeofuturism. This proved to be the case, though one difference is that Dr. Faye’s prose has shifted to reflect a higher degree of rage, directed at Europe’s and particularly France’s liberal establishment.

Dr. Faye frankly addresses the unfolding, slow-motion policy car crash no politician wants to talk about. Though in a different order and separated into more categories, he identifies the following lines of catastrophe converging in the West today:

  1. The collapse of the earth’s ecosystem, caused by overpopulation, half-hearted or absent environmental policies, and the belief that the Third World needs to be “developed” to the American standard—which Faye thinks would require several earths’ worth of resources.
  2. The degeneracy of European culture and man, brought about by egalitarianism, secularism, and social liberalism.
  3. The clash of civilizations, particularly between a degenerate Europe and a vigorous Islam, which Faye considers extremist by nature and never moderate (Dr. Faye deems the idea of a secular, moderate Islam a myth invented by scared Western politicians).
  4. The demographic coma in Europe, resulting in a shrinking and ageing population, and the lack of political will to reverse this with pro-natalist policies rather than immigration.
  5. The colonization of Europe by settlers from the Third World, who see the continent as a welfare El Dorado and whose continued arrival will increase ethnic tensions to the point of ethnic civil war.
  6. The giant economic crisis caused by the failure of the casino economy of finance capitalism, which will lead to a collapse worse than the Great Depression and to universal poverty and a new Middle Ages.

The tone of Convergence is lighter than in Archeofuturism and Why We Fight, though each page drips with sarcasm, cynicism, and animated exasperation. There is no mincing of words here.

Dr. Faye takes the darkest view of everything, predicting always the worst possible outcomes. In his view it is too late; for decades the warning signs have been ignored, suppressed, and explained away by politicians, academics, and the media. Nothing has been done. They have let structural problems grow worse in the belief that disaster will somehow be averted or that things will magically work themselves out. Though he does not state it explicitly, it is clear that Dr. Faye has no hope of any kind of counter-cultural movement with the power to halt the final cataclysm.

Towards the end of the book, Dr. Faye outlines three possible collapse scenarios: a soft one, a hard one, and a very hard one. In the soft one a total systemic breakdown is averted, but Western societies live on impoverished and in a state of permanent crisis. In the very hard one there is total breakdown. Western civilization is destroyed and the world population collapses, ushering in a new Middle Ages. Dr. Faye considers this both the most likely and the most desirable scenario. For him, history is cyclical. We are at the end of a cycle, and the harder scenario clears the decks for a new beginning, founded on entirely different—and better—philosophical suppositions. For this reason, Dr. Faye believes that this grim convergence of catastrophes is positive and necessary, and that the prospect of a new beginning should be reason for hope.

For the future, Convergence offers the vision outlined in Archeofuturism: a diversified world with a highly developed zone in the northern hemisphere and agricultural or subsistence societies in the south. Dr. Faye sees this as not only environmentally more sustainable, but as a more accurate reflection of the diversity of human societies; only a fraction of humanity, in his view, is suited to a techno-industrial society.

I generally agree with Dr. Faye’s thesis of converging catastrophes, but I fear it includes a slight element of wishful thinking. It seems Dr. Faye looks forward to the collapse; his attitude is the mirror image of the liberals’, who are either complacent or in denial. This may lead him to paint a scenario that satisfies him and that begins to unfold within his lifetime—in other words, he imagines he will be there to gloat as liberals bite the dust. He also suggests that Europeans will rise naturally from the ashes, without stressing that this depends on what we do now; it is not the natural outcome of collapse. This assumption is dangerous, because there are no guarantees of anything.

There is no guarantee that Europeans will rise from the ashes.

I am less willing than Dr. Faye to predict cataclysm sometime within the next eight years (when he wrote Archeofuturism in 1999, he predicted disaster by 2020). Nor would I assume that the lines of catastrophe will all converge within a narrow timeframe, or that European man will necessarily exist in the post-collapse world, even in smaller numbers.

To begin with, collapse scenarios can take a variety of forms, including forms in which the collapse would not be recognized as such by those living through it, or even by those living after it. A soft collapse, for example, can be one in which life remains pleasurable, so collapse is never widely recognized as such. Standards of morality weaken, the race degenerates, and a culture dissolves gradually, giving way to another that takes over therapeutically, subtly enslaving people who do not mind because they love their slavery. There may be a few bumps here and there along the way, of course, but, on the whole, this is how it unfolds. Does this not sound like the collapse of WASPdom in the United States?

Dr. Faye’s soft collapse scenario I would describe as either “deferred” or “slow.” In the first, the collapse has already occurred, but the final cataclysm is endlessly postponed, more or less like the financial crisis we are living through now. Through subterfuge, ways keep being found to levitate what should already be on the ground. In the second, the collapse unfolds gradually, in a managed and technocratic manner, and the social temperature is always kept below the threshold needed for a revolution.

One can also debate the “hard” convergence thesis. We can accept that various catastrophic trends are in place, but will they converge close enough together in time for a complete collapse, or will the catastrophes hit in succession over a long period? It is conceivable that each line of catastrophe may progress at a different speed, and that some will prompt a delaying action, thus weakening the convergence.

For example, global warming may be slowed significantly if electric cars are improved enough to trigger a phase out of the internal combustion engine over the next 10 to 15 years. In 2004, when Convergence was originally published in French, the electric car was still a distant prospect; now it is getting closer, and with decreasing petroleum reserves, it may soon make sense for motorists to make the switch. A technological breakthrough could potentially take the environmental and even the economic trend out of the equation, or at least slow them down, though this may not matter a great deal if the other trends continue.

Of course, this does not argue against the very real prospect of declining economic conditions, continuing political paralysis, and so on; it simply argues in favor of what Dr. Faye may consider the worst and most insidious of all scenarios: a “soft” convergence and a protracted or deferred collapse, whose final denouement occurs so far in the future that there are not enough of us left for it to matter any longer.

The important point is that the outcomes of collapse are not foreordained: They depend on what we do now. If some form of collapse is inevitable, then it is imperative that we establish today the bases for the world that will follow that collapse, and that we seize control of the process—including precipitating it artificially—so as to ensure for us the most favorable outcome. I believe Faye would agree with this, although he does not say so explicitly.

I must refer to this book’s latent anti-Americanism. It is only a minor part of the narrative, but it is a flaw, and Jared Taylor’s foreword points out Dr. Faye’s careless conflation of America with the American government. For many Americans, their government is their number-one enemy, and is distinct and separate from America. In Convergence, Dr. Faye accuses America of trying to weaken Europe by promoting free trade and multiculturalism, while practicing protectionism and controlling immigration to the US, when, in fact, America enthusiastically practices the same policies it promotes in Europe. Fortunately, and as Mr. Taylor points out, Dr. Faye has since revised this position: In a speech delivered in Nashville at the 2012 American Renaissance conference, he described Americans and Europeans as brothers in arms.

Dr. Faye speaking at the 2012 American Renaissance conference.

The philosophical foundations of the American republic are classical liberalism, but I believe it is essential—even if difficult—to separate liberalism (Americanism) from America, and to re-imagine America in philosophically non-liberal terms. To this we would need to look at the parts of American heritage that existed before, or beyond the reach of, classical liberalism. One can think of the early colonial period (before) and the wild West (beyond). This may prove vital in the effort to guarantee the continuity in the 21st century of white Americans and white American culture in the New World.

Do not look to Dr. Faye for a practical action plan; his purpose is to frankly assess present trends in the West and to point out that any cataclysmic outcome marks a beginning as well as an end. It is up to each reader to decide his course of action and translate what he has learned into effective action. For more concrete policy matters, Dr. Faye has just published Mon Programme (My Program), but it is available only in French.

Despite its imperfections, Convergence is a compelling and furious read, addressing important topics with an honesty that is rarely found and never with such intensity in a single volume. Futurology is very subjective, so one must be lenient with predictions—particularly those involving complex global events; but Dr. Faye’s analysis is fundamentally correct and will be read with profit by anyone who wants to understand how the liberal global experiment will eventually end.