We do this (out of Control)by Daniel R. Hirtler on 02/03/11
I am rereading George Orwell's 1984 while listening to Laurie Anderson's Homeland, after having made another journey through Terry Gilliam's Brazil. These works impressed me as representative of the spirit of the world I knew at the time I originally read them, but they all seem like literal descriptions of our cultural methods now.
I am writing about the experience now, having gotten through the part in 1984, where Winston Smith, the protaganist, is thinking about truth and memory; how one can hold truth, where one's ability to verify facts is taken away; where systematic contradiction of the truth transforms holding to a truth from an act of reason to a dangerous, crazy act of belief.
In the book, the government routinely changes the record of the past to suit present circumstances. What one can look at of the past is then consistent with the information that one is told about the present. Although one's memory tells one that one is being told lies, one is faced with the powerful force of the constructed reality conveying to one that one's memory is faulty; that one didn't really understand in the first place. This works in an environment where people are separated from each other (by fear, competition or lack of free time) so that they can no longer compare each others' memories to maintain a consistent understanding of the events of the past, and assign a useful meaning to them. Truth is what one is told, and is momentary, instead of being a layered discovery of durable stuff.
Since 9-11-2001, when the whole country was bullied by our government to stop thinking entirely, and when the people of our country were harrassed by fear into individual shells, it has become impossible to use reason and common sense to conduct ourselves in life here, in this country. That the events which were reported can not have happened in the ordinary old world is of no cosequence to ordinary people of today. Those people are prepared to act on information that is inconsistent with the way the world was understood to work previously...reasonable motives, capabilities, consequences are all turned on their head to drum up hatred and actions of self destructive revenge.
Information which is reported is made to disappear, and the person who remembers it is made out to be crazy. It may have started with the Rudy Guliani's voice seemingly participating in the permission for the controlled demolition of Building #7 (who even knows how to describe that fact, whatever it was now), but now it has developed into the creation of fact through the inter-referencing of talking points as displayed by the Republican Party and the Conservative Media.
Since we weren't keeping score when we heard about Guliani talking to those in charge at the world Trade Center using terms which represent controlled demolition, just before the building collapsed, it is truth chilling to note that that report need not be addressed now for veracity and meaning since it is said not to have existed.
Likewise, since we cannot verify everything that is said to us, if it is all fabrication, and has been made to look plausible through the mechanism of reference, how can we make any judgement about the truth and righteousness of the actions which occur around us. Every one of our actions become likewise ungrounded (and ineffectual).
Life is pretty miserable now, so becoming fearless, developing friendships, and confiding in humanity, first to reinvest life with meaning, and second to build up the nurturing power of humanity doesn't seem to me to be a bad bet to make life better now, and develop a new world which includes us.
In a time when we are being told to accept less, it would do us all alot of good to expect and demand more, and be kinder to each other as we do it.