Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Resources exist for totalitarian control

ARE we moving towards a dystopian society? Aldous Huxley thought so in his 1932 novel Brave New World and so did George Orwell in his 1949 novel 1984. How far does our current and likely future situation reflect the concerns of these two writers?

A key element in Huxley’s novel was the normal practice of the conception and selective moulding of human embryos in hatchery and conditioning centres, creating the people the state and society required to keep functioning, ranging from the very clever Alphas to the nearly mindless Epsilons.

Today we have claims that first gene-edited babies have been created for the purpose of eradicating inherited diseases but with the potential for parents using IVF to select their children on the basis of desirable traits, including intelligence.

In Brave New World “unorthodox behaviour is a heinous offence” and in 1984 “thought crime” is punishable by death if detected by the Thought Police. “Orthodoxy means not thinking.”

We seem to be moving in this direction with our current insistence on “political correctness” and the growing expectation, especially among the younger population, that we must not upset others by saying things and arguing points that they do not wish to hear or consider. Quite recently, an Oxford University professor was pilloried, even by academics, for suggesting that the British Empire had some positive values among the negative, while currently any question raised about self-declared gender change is frequently met with abuse.

Biology is the key to all social control in Brave New World and in 1984 it is technology. In every apartment there is a two-way telescreen that cannot be switched off, monitoring what is said and done 24/7. Hidden microphones are placed in all but the most rural areas.

Today, it is reported that Britain has one of the highest densities of surveillance in the world, with nearly six million CCTV cameras, including the new facial recognition devices, 500,000 in London alone.

Mobile phones, camera drones, supermarket accounts and smart appliances connected to the internet, ranging from children’s toys to doorbells, create recorded personal data that could provide a future totalitarian regime with information about us far in excess of Orwell’s telescreens and microphones.

The Ministry of Truth in 1984 specialises in rewriting the record of the past through Newspeak.

In 2019, we have “fake news”, “alternative facts” and deliberate lies dismissed as “mis-speaking”.

Finally, in Huxley’s novel any passing anxiety or unhappiness in individuals is dealt with by the state supply of soma tablets, which create a benign, stress-free condition.

Today, cannabis, with a potency that has apparently doubled over the last 12 years, is widely used as a recreational drug at all social levels. Its use is so prevalent and unstoppable that there is a strong move to make it legal.

Clearly, we are not yet a dystopian society. However, if we should ever have a Fascist or Marxist government the resources for totalitarian control are already firmly in place.

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