While reading this article, please consider the fact that the United States Government:
– Has Killed American citizens without trial via drone strikes
– Is over 17 trillion dollars in debt (over $150,000 per citizen)
– Surreptitiously spies on all electronic communications of both citizens and foreign leaders
– Has refused to stop spying even after being caught
– Persecutes journalists and whistleblowers for exposing crimes they commit
– Targets people based on their political and religious beliefs via the IRS
– Regularly kill innocent citizens and their dogs during “no knock raids” where they break into citizens’ homes at night, and they kill the owner if they try to defend themselves.
With the revelation that the government is watching the world’s online activity, many people turned to encrypted email services, such as Lavabit and SilentCircle, to keep their private matters private. In response, the US government petitioned these businesses demanding that they turn over their customer’s encrypted correspondences. Instead of complying, many of these groups shut down their services to avoid betraying their customers.
In an unfortunate pastiche of Randian heroes, companies like Lavabit shut down their businesses, leaving only a short message on their website explaining how the government had driven them out of business. Though the government is acting out scenes from Rand’s epic almost verbatim, thankfully some of the entrepreneurs bullied by the government are too. Luckily, unlike in Atlas Shrugged, owner and operator of Lavabit Ladar Levison, is fighting this abhorrent breach of privacy in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals instead of hiding in the mountains.
V for Vendetta
What’s really striking about this graphic novel is how the society in the story isn’t an impoverished, decaying metropolis like most fictional dystopian societies. Citizens in this novel seem to live in an almost identical fashion to us. People seem to be employed, with enough money to afford decent homes and things, and appear to be relatively happy. People in this novel live comfortably, but at the price of almost all of their freedom. They are constantly monitored by the state and are subject to a highly militarized police, and no one questions it.
The rulers in this novel aren’t flamboyantly oppressive. They don’t overtly assert themselves because they don’t have to. This is because for years they have subtly crept their insidious tyranny into everyday life, and this is what makes the totalitarian regime in this book so horrifying.
There are countless similarities between our society and Oceana that can be pointed out: the NSA watching everything we do online, the constant sacrificing of liberty for “safety”, Big Brother telling us how to raise our children, etc. However, there is one similarity between Orwell’s fictional society and ours that struck me as particularly relevant.
For some masochistic reason I found myself watching CNN last night. Someone was doing some hot-cold puff piece on Afghanistan, and I found one of Orwell’s eerier slogans looping through my head, “we have always been at war with Eastasia”. I realized that, being born in 1993, I honestly could not remember a time when America was not at war with the Middle East. While I was born at a time there was no war going on, I was too young to realize or appreciate it. Now there is now an entire generation of teenagers who have spent their entire lives during a time of war.
Living during a war is usual and banal for us, it’s all many of us have ever known. To live in a time of peace would be an anomaly for those born in the last decade. Many will have a difficult time conceptualizing the true nature of living during a war, because it will be blended in our memories with the halcyon days of childhood. Most will never be affected by what happens thousands of miles away, so it won’t seem all that terrible those things are going on.
With no end to the conflict in the Middle East in sight, it is possible that we could live most if not all of our lives during a time of war. Slowly, antiwar sentiment could die down completely as the memories of peace times get more and more distant.
We won’t question what the government is doing overseas simply because they’ve always been doing it.
Follow the author, Patrick Kane, at www.facebook.com/HeroinPuppies or on Twitter @PatVKane
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.aidanorthodox.co.uk/bookstore.htm