The Western Path

The Western Path

Friday, August 26, 2016

The One-Party State

Here in Canada, as in most other Western countries, there is basically a one-party system. The elite of the supposed left and right spend their time together -- same restaurants, same marriages, same golf courses. For a change of pace they switch to journalism -- and so much for freedom of the press. During an election, it would be possible to make a list of all the slogans, mix up those items, and then ask someone to match the slogans with the parties. But it would turn out that the matching could not be done.

Actually there is only one slogan: "Bodies are good for business." So the population must be kept expanding forever. The price we pay for overpopulation and over-immigration is high unemployment, overcrowding, high urban density, environmental degradation, psychological stress, inadequate housing, traffic congestion, overloaded social services, high crime-rates, losses of water and farmland, and declining natural resources of all kinds. Overcrowding also leads to mental illness: in our overloaded cities, our nerves are often like wires that have been tightened to a point where their molecules will no longer hold.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is run by that same universal Big Brother, but in the particular one-party state known as Canada. The CBC is the mouthpiece for the political establishment. The CBC promotes the doctrine that anything good for business is good for the Party, and that anything good for the Party is good for Canada.

We are experiencing the rise of the police state, fascism with a smile. Consider the extreme sophistication of the persona designed to be the head of the government (and, no, he doesn't do his own thinking -- he's not paid for that, and he's not smart enough anyway), government spying on almost everybody, including a slow but steady integration of the entire Internet with high-level spy-ware -- and conversely the way the main chunks of the Internet are tweaked by the Wizard of Oz (Wikipedia has even found an Orwellian new definition of "objectivity"), shy as he may be, the way the biggest news-media corporations churn out images of Main Street mentality, to which everyone is expected to adhere (yes, of course we want all magazines to focus on the sex lives of Hollywood or Washington "celebrities"), the way the American Bill of Rights went to the scrap heap after the Patriot Act and a half-dozen follow-ups, but nobody cared. It's not a vast conspiracy, really. It's more like a virus -- hardly intelligent enough to be alive but alive enough to be deadly. 

People don't react to much of anything anymore, and one of the main reasons is that people don't become adults anymore. We have created a world of cultural neoteny -- prolonged childish behavior, a milieu of "dumbing down" that stretches from birth to death. "Neoteny" is a biological term referring to remaining juvenile for a long period after birth. Obviously humans do this anyway -- it takes years for an infant to turn into an adult. But a great deal of modern political sloganeering has the effect, consciously or otherwise, of keeping people silly and childish for life. Ibsen's play A Doll's House was an early look into that, at least in terms of women. Predictions of cultural neoteny can also be seen in Huxley's Brave New World and perhaps in a somewhat grimmer form in Orwell's 1984. This neoteny is pervasive, but it can be seen in such forms as the decline in literacy and the decline in education.

It's curious to note, however, that there is a definite substratum of the public that disagrees with official policies. On-line news articles that allow comments from viewers get deluged with people expressing heretical views. Then the comments get shut off, and it's back to Business as Usual -- literally. These members of the general public have never been brought together, and each person is largely unaware that there are many others holding the same views. The politically orthodox may be enforcing the rules for most daily conversation, but the disbelief gets larger as the years go by. 

If civilization is defined by the presence of writing, then the end of civilization might be defined by the disappearance of writing. People don't read books much anymore. I often find people coming up to me and asking, "Have you seen X?" They don't seem to feel the slightest bit guilty for the fact that instead of reading a book called X they have merely watched a movie called X, based on the book. Yes, it's true that film sometimes has advantages over print, but in general to make a movie out of a book one has to reduce it to action and dialogue, and all the exposition and analysis has to be erased. The time frame of a movie also means that a great deal will be cut out. Not much meaningful discussion can take place when the person to whom one is speaking is convinced that books and movies are simply different "media" providing the same educational service.

The alphabet was invented roughly three thousand years ago, and the beauty of it was that it led to the ideals of the Western way of life -- information wasn't restricted to an elite priesthood. Now, thanks to Microsoft, we're discarding literacy for "icons." The word used to refer to religious pictures, but our modern icons are just picture-writing, the same thing we discarded three thousand years ago.

There was a time when the purpose of a university education was to allow young people to explore the outer regions of space and time. Now it's just training in how to use a cash register. The lowest clerk in the huge building labeled "administration" has a more-pleasant job, and much greater job security, than the average instructor. It's money that keeps the university churning, apparently, not some vague and pretentious search for wisdom. Teachers are day-laborers, easily replaced, and it takes no great skill to deal with the reading materials supplied by the corporations for their future slaves.

Now that genuine education has been crushed, two colossal errors are being perpetuated. In the first place, "education" of the new sort is more form than substance: teachers are so afraid of being accused of heresy that the students are given little real information. The second error is that the average young person in the modern world spends about twenty thousand hours doing school work, yet nearly all of that is a waste of time, because a job at the end of that road does not require the ability to think in any Platonic or Aristotelian sense. In any case, it isn't real education at all. At most, it is just indoctrination.

We have created a world in which the state, the corporation, and the press are perfectly blended. There are no more sweaty proletarians like Hitler and Mussolini marching their private armies down Main Street. All of that was inefficient, and the answer -- as should have been obvious long ago -- was to invent "fascism with a smile." But it's somewhat beyond fascism, and perhaps should not really be called fascism at all. If I walk into a police station, I don't see Irish toughs swinging their billy clubs, I see young middle-class men and women who have been well trained in business etiquette, even if one can sense a little bloodthirstiness behind the smiles. But I get the suspicion that the building is bristling with cameras, microphones, and motion detectors. And as I head to my car but turn around, I notice that the "space age" look of the exterior is due to the strange windows, and to the fact that the building appears as invulnerable as a missile silo.

Peter Goodchild

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