You Think You Live in a Free Country?
In 1959, two men working for UNIVAC wander into a bar after the late shift. A woman aggressively flirts with one of them. He pursues the flirtation and is arrested by her two male companions. The other is told the name of a magistrate and sent off to arrange bail. After returning to secure his duped friend's release, one of the cops asks if he believes he lives in a free country. He considers this question for the first time in his life, and his answer is no. The cop tells him to never forget it. Nor does he; after seventy years in the US, a veteran, a lifelong Republican and a retiree from the defense industry, he is reminded of it daily.
So when did the takeover become fait accompli? It certainly was not complete in 1959. Unlike a typical coup, this has been an accretion of control over daily life, like the gradual warming of a bathtub from comfortable to scalding. Most humans are too blinded by belief in the necessity of commanded structure to recognize the self-organization of internal logic, even when it is obvious in the web of life. Certainly less so as it weaves a web around their own puny, meaningless lives. Inculcated with the media mythology of jackbooted thugs as synonymous with police state, they fail to see through the veneer of liberty to their own puppet-hood.
This growth of corporate control to capture humanity as peonage has seen rapid progress, beginning in earnest only about a hundred years ago with legal innovations in Europe and the US. Whereas historically the masters have worn a visible face, now they are the faceless corpocrats applying bland rules to fleece and discard while their monstrosity builds an international dominion of docile dupes. Winners are chosen and remunerated lavishly, losers tossed, the faceless majority living vicarious lives of quiet desperation. A handful of the corpocrats prosper while most end expunged, all of them spiritually desiccated whatever their material condition. And no one speaks the unspeakable, branded untenable by corporate media and education.
For want of better term, since there is nothing within contemporary organizational nomenclature or those vast mythologies called economics or political science to capture its essence, call it corporacracy.
The human condition cedes independence to organization, a common theme in human history. Escape comes at great cost. But Kafka saw the bud presaging this bloom, understanding the coming oppression as beyond any scale possible in the past. And even as the internet seems to free humans to express themselves openly, by Kafkaesque metamorphosis their expressions become irrelevant blogs, infantile meanderings that show nothing more than the imprint of groupthink on their anti-imaginations, co-opted in service to the beast while these "freed men" wriggle like flies caught in its web.
Contemporary US society everywhere sets minefields disguised as Elysian Fields, a gauntlet of booby traps set by a police state in service to corporations elevated to the status of protected super-individuals behind which monsters hide in faceless carnage of the human spirit. The police state ensnares the serfs not with black helicopters or theft of private property but with the institutionalization of serfage to private debt for the shiny slave bangles that soothe them in their captivity while further entangling them. Indentureship is the price for even basic medical care, inflated cost the price of going it alone, the entire edifice a novel form of socialized medicine guaranteeing cheap labor to the giant corporations. Indentureship may be too mild a term for citizens cultivated as domestic stock.
The horror is that the process is an automaton, an example of a feedback loop with amplification, beyond the brutal methods required in a slavocracy because the slaves no longer see any masters, instead only the bland face of the corporacracy soothing them with the tit of popular culture, educating them to accept the tit without question, offering them protection from whatever dangerous boojum threatens with foreign influence, convincing them of freedom of choice through the pointless act of voting. A bureaucratic Golem that threatens to engulf the world. An emulation of a model for freedom within its own universe of discourse, with its own internal logic, which in the metalogic of verifiability is seen to be an inconsonant model of freedom outside any defensible meaning of the word. To those trapped within, the outer world is the nonstandard model, yet in moments of lucidity they are terrified by glimpses of an economy that is a giant Ponzi scheme disguised to look like something called free-market capitalism.
To object that a nation cannot be a police state if the citizens need not go underground is to call up the myth of police statism propagated in commercial films about Nazis and Communists, ignoring the reality of daily life in these unsubtle incarnations. Mythology becomes a significant contrivance, playing its greatest role in hiding the horror from the entrapped.
The mechanism itself is a mundane stroke of genius that could never be the product of human conspiracy, a demonic mechanization of servitude that can only be the product of chance. The huge living automaton of slavery arose from a mountain of bleak accounting law to assist living for the future to escape the emptiness of the present. Debt and fear are the basic instruments of control. Build a culture driven by conspicuous consumption, competitive spending, pecuniary reputability, predatory emulation and the canons of decorous living. Instill a propensity to consume and waste via socialization through "education," convince through "education" that such a propensity is natural to all men, that it is, in fact, the motivating factor for all human behavior. Such a system can feed upon itself like a perpetual motion machine. Its feedback control mechanisms are ingrown through debt and fear and indoctrination parading as education and news, though there is need for constant policing, particularly against thoughts outside the boundaries of the accepted paradigm. It is not acceptable to have members living outside the machine, and so the notion of crime is extended and reinforced by the canons of reputability, decency and social odium. Finally, the crowning touch is the carrot of non-economic employment for those with the proper attitude and aggressiveness, lifting them above low-class productive employment into the realm of pecuniary employment called management. That such a perpetual consumption machine is possible, indeed natural and all-pervasive, is part of its own mythos.
When exactly did the US become the most successful police state in history, so successful that its citizens believe they are free? There is no demarcation line between then and now, so subtle is the unseen machinery of state. It is not even clear how to describe it. Perhaps as a sort of corporate-military state, an unholy alliance of a military welfare state. Not even a subtle coup slipped in unseen; instead the nation grew into the machine, wove its own web, trapping itself. Now the machine grows the web to entrap the entire world.
Meanwhile, the fiction of opposition parties is promoted with increasingly malicious and hysterical political campaigns, all the more realistic because the participants themselves believe they are in opposition. Yet the existence of opposition is belied by noting none vote against military spending, no one attempts to curtail the fever to invade or otherwise harangue trumped-up enemies with bellicose language and threatening intent. Affirmation and opposition, pro and con, for and against, all painted in binary black and white, contention neatly captured within the self-perpetuating paradigm of the machine. What keeps the whole edifice from revealing its true face is the size and role of the uniformed military, small in manpower and hidden from direct view. The vast majority of the military contraption exists within the corporacracy, extending so deeply into civilian life it provides the major source of technical employment, the wellspring from which flows the pecuniary energy maintaining perpetual consumption. Socialistic state disguised as free enterprise.
Illusion And Censorship
The media itself mechanizes one component of censorship. Consider, for example, the cable corporations that control large market segments, swathes of consumers that cross the spectrum of political thought. It has become commonplace for many of them to delete network programming with which they do not agree. But this behavior is blunter than much of the control that infuses daily life. The enforcement of Orwellian Newspeak invented by political propagandists is far in excess of 1984 or Animal Farm, yet the network media, a cog in the machinery, accepts it at face value. Nor dare they ask the obvious, direct questions, as is seen by watching even the toughest of interviews.
The so-called educational establishment plays an ever greater role in this censorship. No longer concerned with teaching reading, writing or arithmetic, the sole goal of the educational component of the corporacracy is indoctrination, once called socialization. The core curriculum of official mythology establishes the bounds of thought outside which no credence may be given.
Up through high school, texts are no longer chosen for their prose quality or originality in presenting concepts. They are designed and written per committee to the correct groupthink precepts. As a result it becomes necessary to invent tests based on the precepts to guide the "teaching process." Success is defined against these tests which measure little ability to read, write, or reason. Because of this, it becomes necessary to teach high school graduates in semi-skilled positions to perform basic functions that used to be expected of everyone. Most high school graduates are ill prepared for rigorous college, so new avenues to collegiate ceremonial certification open via extended high school courses, the path followed by most who graduate. With university education more a ceremonial certification than in the wildest nightmares of Thorstein Veblen, businesses that require competence in some areas are often forced to scrutinize transcripts, administer their own tests and provide remedial training, or demand further training and certification in specific functional areas that ought to be the province of short-duration trade schools.
Literature removes blinders from those with sufficient intellect and openness to fathom it. The mind-numbing pap that passes for entertainment for those unwilling or unable to develop mental abilities to digest dense prose pregnant with complex ideas and information (in the technical sense of the word) is not now, has never been, and never will be literature. Writing for those unwilling or unable to engage their cognitive functions to visualize the noumena behind the language is not worth the trouble.
So what is the purpose of literature? The short answer might be, To foment intellectual revolution. The insulated, smug, self-satisfied culture that hates freedom and learning and life needs a wake-up call. This is perhaps a manifesto, a call for a new literary movement for a new century and a new millennium. A call to bore through the tough outer shell of induced groupthink protecting the hypocritical mush of clichéd writing and fuzzy thinking that passes for literature and general intellect in the bullshit nation, much as the Urosalpinx cinera drills into the soft body of the Crassostrea virginica. Of course, any such manifesto would not be worth the paper on which the words are laser printed.
As Orwellian Newspeak becomes the language of mythomaniacal corporacracy, cognitive dissonance the official modus operandi of government, literature ought to focus on breaking the spell official mythos casts over the society. As the function of news and official information agencies becomes more and more mythopoeia, infixion the goal of education and media, literature ought to stand outside the locked paradigm and raise a dissenting voice that cracks the shell to lay bare the rotten innards. The sad reality, however, is as in mathematics and science: almost none of those in society at large have the mental wherewithal to grasp even the most basic of concepts. So the writer is left with a small audience capable of the deliberation and discipline and patience necessary to appreciate and assimilate difficult work.
This calls for people looking for higher entertainment, for whom thinking is a pleasure, not a chore. It requires those willing to think independently of groupthink.
As with mathematics or science, there are numerous pathways to enlightenment. At best, the writer casts his bread on the waters and hopes to have an effect.