Orwell’s 1984 — Too Real in the 2010s

The interpretation of Orwell’s 1984 that I have is that the mere possibility that people may be being watched by a powerful, corrupt state changes behavior in a way that has significant implications across society. It’s been found in research that people change their behavior when they know they are being watched.

There’s no poking holes in the Party’s control, no loose thread for any opposition to pull. If there is a Resistance, it vanishes halfway through. The book is designed to make The Party and its machinery of oppression look entirely infallible. You accept, like the protagonist Winston Smith, that it can never be overthrown. This isn’t The Hunger Games. There is no cartoonish YA villain like President Snow for a defiant Katniss Everdeen to topple. Even Margaret Atwood, in The Handmaid’s Tale, destroyed Gilead in a far-future postscript.

But 1984? So far as we know, it’s boots on human faces all the way down.

How come? The Party doesn’t get its power from spying on its citizens, or turning them into snitches, or punishing sex crimes. All were presented as mere tools of the state. How did it come to wield that control in the first place?

Orwell, aka Eric Blair, a socialist freedom fighter and a repentant former colonial officer who had a lifelong fascination with language and politics, knew that no control could be total until you colonized people’s heads too. A state like his could only exist with loud, constant, and obvious lies.

To be a totalitarian, he knew from his contemporary totalitarians, you had to seize control of truth itself. You had to redefine truth as “whatever we say it is.” You had to falsify memories and photos and rewrite documents. Your people could be aware that all this was going on, so long as they kept that awareness to themselves and carried on (which is what doublethink is all about).

The upshot is, Winston Smith is gaslit to hell and back. He spends the entire novel wondering exactly what the truth is. Is it even 1984? He isn’t sure. Does Big Brother actually physically exist somewhere in Oceania, or is he just a symbol? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Winston is what passes for well-educated in his world; he still remembers the name “Shakespeare.” He’s smart enough not to believe the obvious propaganda accepted by the vast majority, but it doesn’t matter. The novel is about him being worn down, metaphorically and physically, until he’s just too tired and jaded to hold back the tide of screaming nonsense.

Don’t call him Winston Smith. Call him Mr. 2019. Because it’s looking increasingly like we live in Oceania. That fictional state was basically the British Isles, North America, and South America. Now the leaders of the largest countries in each of those regions — Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro — are men who have learned to flood the zone with obvious lies, because their opponents simply don’t have the time or energy to deal them all.

As we enter 2020, all three of them look increasingly, sickeningly, like they’re going to get away with it. They are protected by Party members who will endure any humiliation to trumpet loyalty to the Great Leader (big shout-out once again to Sen. Lindsay Graham) and by a media environment that actively enables political lies (thanks, Facebook).

All the Winston Smiths of our world can see what the score really is. It doesn’t seem to make any difference. But hey, at least we’re all finally aware of the most important line in 1984, which is now also its most quote-tweeted: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

In the decades following its 1949 publication, the message of 1984 became corrupted. Popular culture reduced it to a single slogan — Big Brother is Watching You — and those with only a vague memory of studying the book in school thought the surveillance state was the main thing Orwell was warning against.

That was certainly where we were at in 2013, when Edward Snowden released his treasure trove of documents that proved the vast scale of NSA spying programs. “George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information,” Snowden told UK TV viewers in his “alternate Christmas message” that year. “The types of collection in [1984] — microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have available today.”

Which was true, but also beside the point. Orwell doesn’t actually claim the surveillance system in Oceania is all that strong. It would have strained credulity to have a Party that watched all of its members all of the time. It sounded like a bad science fiction plot. (In China, where the growing state systems of facial recognition and social media post ranking make NSA programs look like amateur hour, it no longer does).

In 1984, the only time we definitively know a telescreen is watching Winston is when he’s doing morning exercise and a female instructor calls him out for not pushing hard enough. Here in the real future, people pay Peloton $2200 plus $40 a month for the same basic setup.

It isn’t that Big Brother is watching — that too is another Party lie. It’s that he may be watching, just as knowing there may be a speed camera around the next bend keeps your mph in line. Against that possibility, citizens can still rebel. For much of the book, Winston and Julia are able to escape all cameras, out in the post-atomic countryside. Avoiding surveillance doesn’t matter. What causes their capture is the fact that they fell for a lie (the “Brotherhood,” a fake Resistance operation run by the Inner Party member O’Brien).

We are invited to consider whether we too are falling for The Party’s lies. The book-within-a-book that explains the shape of Winston’s world turns out to be written by O’Brien, the master liar. The rocket bombs dropping on London are dropped by the Party. All the in-universe truth the reader has to go on is Winston’s word, and by the end — as he is tortured into genuinely seeing O’Brien hold up three fingers instead of two, then thinks he hears news of a final victory in the endless war — even that isn’t reliable.

By the end of this decade, even words like “Orwell” and “Orwellian” had become ambivalent. I realized this in 2017 when my wife, knowing my love of the book, had bought me a cap that said “Make Orwell Fiction Again.” I loved it until I found it had been made in a state that voted for Trump, by a company with a line of libertarian merch. We saw the cap as a riposte to the MAGA mentality, but it was also possible to see it as a reinforcement: Make Orwell fiction again by helping Trump fight Deep State surveillance, man!

If there is hope for Oceania in the coming decade, it may come from uniting people under the banner of all that 1984 warns against — starting with the bare-faced lies that Orwell was most concerned about. The lies that social media gatekeepers have taken way too long to notice, if they notice them at all.

If we can’t agree on basic facts of science and history, we’re lost. But if we the people can do that, there’s no surveillance system or endless war or sexcrime we can’t dismantle. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four,” Winston wrote in his diary. “If that is granted, all else follows.”

By remaining skeptical about all we read, but still reading widely and clawing our way back to a world of truths that are as simple and as objective as math, we can prove that we finally learned Orwell’s lesson. And we can make 1984 merely a masterpiece of fictional worldbuilding again.

Playing Hard to Get is Usually a Turn Off, Study Shows

“…Sexual desire seems to thrive on reduced uncertainty.” It’s not something I typically write much about, but seeing that fallacious reasoning play out enough in my life prompted me into creating an entry on it.

When you first start dating someone, at least one of your friends will tell you to “play it cool.” It’s a piece of advice that’s almost as old as dating itself, and it’s based on the idea that if you act like you’re not really eager for the relationship, you suddenly become irresistible.

According to a new study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, you can try your best with that method, but it probably won’t work.

The team, led by IDC Herzliya psychology professor Gurit Birnbaum, conducted a series of six studies – some experiments and some looking at diary entries – to see whether uncertainty about a partner’s romantic intentions affected how sexually attractive they were perceived to be.

In the first study, 51 women and 50 men, aged 19 to 31 and all single, were told they were chatting to another participant online who was in another room. Then they were told their photo would be shown to the other person and they could see a photo of who they were talking to in return. In reality, the other person in the chat was one of the researchers, and every participant was shown the same photo of someone of the opposite sex.

At the end of the chat, participants could send one final message. Some were told their chat partner was waiting for them, while others were told they weren’t. The idea was to create certainty or uncertainty about the online partner’s interest. Then, participants rated their partner’s sexual desirability and how much they wanted to talk to them again.

Those who knew the partner was eager to hear from them perceived them as more sexually attractive than those who were uncertain. The rest of the studies showed a similar pattern – that sexual desire seems to thrive on reduced uncertainty. And this was true for men and women in committed relationships too.

So where did the idea come from that playing hard to get is a turn on? According to the study authors, it could all come down to self-preservation.

“People may protect themselves from the possibility of a painful rejection by distancing themselves from potentially rejecting partners,” said Harry Reis, a professor of psychology and Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester, and co-author of the study.

Birnbaum added that the findings suggest sexual desire may “serve as a gut-feeling indicator of mate suitability that motivates people to pursue romantic relationships with a reliable and valuable partner,” and “inhibiting desire may serve as a mechanism aimed at protecting the self from investing in a relationship in which the future is uncertain.”

In other words, we all fear rejection and playing it cool makes us appear less vulnerable. But in reality, by pretending you’re not interested, that’s exactly how you come across – literally not interested.

So if playing it cool is your dating method of choice, good luck with that. It might work if you’re attracting a player or someone with an avoidant attachment style. But if you’re looking for long-term happiness with someone who’s right for you, it seems honesty really might be the best policy.

A Note to Frequent Visitors/Followers of Enlights.org

If you look at this site on a fairly regular basis, it’s likely enough that you found it through my coverage of a specific issue. This is when I cover many different issues, as I attempt to enlighten others about what’s most important and relevant about them.

The point I want to make here though is that it might be weeks or even months before I post about what you originally found this website for. During that time I may post a lot of material on different subjects, as again, I am fortunate enough to have the ability to address a wide range of topics. If you’re going to view/follow the site, you should probably be aware of this scope of coverage though.

Sometimes I provide coverage of truths that can be unpleasant and of issues that are controversial in the mainstream. If you find a serious problem with this and no longer visit the site, I will probably understand, but know that it’s rare for me to engage in self-censorship.

The corporate mass media does a horrible job overall and I sometimes feel the need to compensate for their failures. For example, society faces the existential threats of climate change, nuclear war, and arguably even of the extreme inequality that perpetuates numerous problems. That those topics are covered as infrequently as they are by mass media outlets is an ongoing, corrupted, and irresponsible scandal to me.

This post will probably be updated at a later date, but what’s said here is adequate for now. If you have a question or comment, you can leave a comment below or send me an email or contact me otherwise.

Trump Regime Plans to Allow Oil/Gas Drilling off Almost All of U.S. Coast

A very horrible move that’s not only terrible for the affected environments, but a step in the wrong direction for using fossil fuels over clean renewables. The Trump regime’s recent policy changes as a result of its servitude to Big Oil will probably cause some major oil spill(s) in the years ahead.

The Trump administration has unveiled a plan that would open almost all US offshore territory to oil and gas drilling, including previously protected areas of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans.

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, said a new oil and gas leasing programme, which would run from 2019 to 2024, would make more than 90% of the outer continental shelf available for what would be the largest ever number of lease sales to fossil fuel companies.

The draft plan includes nearly 50 lease sales in all but one of 26 planning areas in US waters, including 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic. The plan reverses protections put in place by the Obama administration and would introduce drilling for the first time to the Atlantic seaboard – a prospect fiercely opposed by communities along the east coast.

[…]

But the prospect of oil rigs deployed across huge areas of US territorial waters brought immediate condemnation from an unlikely alliance of environmental groups and some senior Republicans.

Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, said he opposed drilling off the state’s coast due to environmental concerns.

“I have already asked to meet immediately with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the critical need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott said.

Other states reacted with hostility to the new plan, with the governors of New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina all expressing concerns about the potential impact upon marine ecosystems and coastal economies that rely on tourism and fishing. The governors of west coast states – California, Washington and Oregon – have also condemned the prospect of drilling in the Pacific for the first time since 1984.

Opponents of drilling have raised the spectre of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. The incident on the BP rig caused 215m gallons of crude oil to flood into the gulf, coating beaches and seabirds and leaving a toxic legacy that is still felt. BP has paid more than $60bn in penalties since the disaster.

Feature on the Opioid Crisis

The Empire Files program did a feature on the opioid crisis that focuses on the behavior of criminogenic pharmaceutical corporations. It is particularly notable for noting that big pharmaceutical corporations have targeted and still do target economically ravaged places suffering from significant despair.

Economic despair is at the core of the opioid epidemic. A lot of those people addicted to opioids would have done much better if they had meaningful work to occupy their time and give them a sense of purpose. Unfortunately though, in many sectors the economic system is so dysfunctional that it fails to provide even basic elements of meaningful community work for people.

There’s a disturbing graph that shows utilization of capacity, and it reveals that there are many, many billions of dollars being lost due to capacity such as buildings not being used. It isn’t because there’s a lack of needed work — on the contrary, looking around plenty of places will have a reasonable person saying that there’s a lot that needs to be done. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of capacity (23 percent in the graph) pointlessly sitting idle, and there’s an economic system that isn’t putting them together for productive benefits.

Screenshot-2017-12-5 Capacity Utilization Total Industry

The U.S. government could enact a massive infrastructure project that would create millions of jobs and/or it could provide low interest loans to support worker cooperatives in economically downtrodden communities. There are other solutions too, and they also need significant will to be applied. The point to make here though is that the situation doesn’t have to be that bleak for the communities, and there’s actually a clear enough method to reconstruct what has been mismanaged.

U.S. Airstrikes Killing More Civilians Under the Trump Regime

Airwars-reporting

Periodic reminder that the death of those civilians constitute war crimes and cruel, terrorizing militarism.

According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration. Airwars reports that under Obama’s leadership, the fight against IS led to approximately 2,300 to 3,400 civilian deaths. Through the first seven months of the Trump administration, they estimate that coalition air strikes have killed between 2,800 and 4,500 civilians.

Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the “frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.” In May, for example, such actions led to the deaths of at least 57 women and 52 children in Iraq and Syria.

The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

[…]

While urban warfare has increased, Trump’s team has substantially escalated air strikes and bombings. According to CENTCOM data, the military has already used 20 percent more missiles and bombs in combined air operations in 2017 than in all of 2016. One notable airstrike in March, for example, killed 105 Iraqi civilians when U.S. forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in order to take out two snipers in Mosul. In fact, a Human Rights Watch analysis of bomb craters in West Mosul estimates that U.S. coalition forces are routinely using larger and less precise bombs – weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds – than in prior operations.

Thoughts on Gun Control Entry

Gun control isn’t an issue I focus on much, as I view the issues of gun control, abortion, and parts of religion as the types of topics discussed too often already. They’re issues that much of the corporate mass media focuses on a lot, to keep a lot of people fighting amongst themselves while the corrupt few with concentrated power keep exploiting them.

The support for certain measures of gun control poll at large majority support though, and the highest measure of support is for background checks, at over 85 percent.

8-12-2015-3-56-39-PM - Copy.png

It gets trickier from there, especially considering how threatened some Americans feel by even mentioning gun control. Beyond theoretical considerations, I arrived at my own findings by looking at the statistics on the issue. Australia hasn’t had any mass shootings in the 20 years since its gun reforms, for example. The vast majority of civilian homicides aren’t from gun usage in self defense either, which is an interesting take given that there are at least over 275 million guns in the U.S., or about a gun per person there. As there are also about 33,000 deaths related to guns annually and roughly 15,000 street homicides annually in the U.S., it’s a significant note that only a small fraction of them occur from self defense. It’s also significant to note the several hundred vulnerable children that are killed every year in accidental gun firings.

Even if there were gun control measures such as background checks, bans on the sale of guns for the legitimately mentally ill, Canadian-style gun licensing requirements, and a ban on semiautomatic weapons, it doesn’t seem to me as though it’s really solving the core problem. Much of criminality is really a result of poverty, after all. Gun control laws alone aren’t going to solve the major undercurrent of a mental health problem in the U.S. either, and that’s amidst other recurring problems, such as ongoing racism. There’s also the militarization of police forces, which — considering the amount of people killed or injured by U.S. police — is itself an issue that receives too little attention.

Guns made from 3D printers are also set to become more common, and the often mistaken regulatory activity of the U.S. federal government in the last 20 years makes it seem probable that 3D-printed guns won’t be addressed well. The U.S. Congress deregulated Wall Street by (among other measures) repealing the Glass-Steagall Act (which separated decently enough depository banking and investment banking) and the disastrous economic crash happened globally less than a decade later. As it has been largely under plutocratic control since the 1980s especially, the U.S. Congress has also failed to regulate the pharmaceutical industry and fossil fuels industry. The Congress doesn’t have to operate that terribly, but it will continue to do so until people representing the general public’s interests force it to operate otherwise.

There will be another debate when the next mass shooting happens, as unfortunate as that event will be to hear about. As should be the case now, it would be a beneficial development to have strong organization for positive change and a real discussion on the core problems in society, so that more of these tragedies may be minimized or even eliminated.

Las Vegas Mass Shooting

It’s a horrific tragedy, and a reminder that there’s an undercurrent of a significant major mental health problem in the U.S.

That being said, there isn’t enough attention focused on the 60,000 people dying every year in the U.S. from opioid overdoses, the 400,000 dying every year due to smoking, the 50,000 people dying every year due to air pollution, and the 100,000 dying every year due to medical malpractice. Those are of course among the other fatal statistics, such as the deaths every year by suicide, which is actually the third leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24.

There are still a lot of good lives that can be saved through productive action, and I view that kind of organized activity as the important antidote to despair to remember.

Newly Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story — Requiem for Zeitgeist

It was published a few days ago in The Nation.

I left a quarter tip beneath my half-filled glass, and moved toward the exit. He caught me roughly by the shoulder. “Omar Zeitgeist was a German, the only man on earth with the know-how of the cosmic bomb,” he whispered. “I was his bodyguard.”

“Cosmic bomb like the H-bomb?” I ventured.

“The cosmic bomb is to the H-bomb what an earthquake is to hiccups,” he said acidly. “Works on the same principle as what holds the universe together, only backwards.”

“Bully for it,” I said.

“Zeitgeist had no laboratory, worked out everything in his head.” My informant tapped his temple significantly and made clucking noises. “Our counterspies knew that he was very close to solving the riddle of the cosmic bomb when the war ended. No twig was left unbent in the search for him that followed Germany’s surrender. Several full regiments of men from good families were assigned to the sole task of finding Zeitgeist. Not a few of these searchers were found floating facedown in the Rhine, the Rhône, the Elbe, the Ruhr, the Aller, the Altmühl, the Unstrut, and other waterways, with bullets in their heads. They were not alone in their quest.”