Tag Archives: dictatorship

Is Democracy The Best Way To Ensure Basic Rights?

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When it comes to ensuring the happiness, advancement, and general prosperity of humanity, it’s not unreasonable to say that basic human rights are a core ingredient. Most know the basics of these rights as life, liberty, and property. Some even throw in the pursuit of happiness, which denotes all kinds of freedom, including the sexy kinds.

Beyond just sounding great on paper, human rights are a major guiding force. History has shown, time and again, that societies that value these rights tend to prosper more that only exist to glorify a despot. The contrast between the two Koreas is proof enough of that.

However, the preservation and promotion of basic human rights is no easy task. The world is full of corrupt, cruel, and power-hungry people who would scoff at the very concept the same way they would anyone who claims trees have souls. The fact that some of them manage to get elected in countries with democratic institutions says a lot about just how hard it can be to protect human rights.

It’s that vulnerability in one the most cherished modern institutions, which some claim took a major hit in 2016, that leads me to ask a question that I’m sure is going to draw me some level of ire. However, in wake of recent news and a particular Hollywood movie that indirectly touches on this concept, I think it’s worth asking.

Is democracy the best way of preserving basic human rights in a society?

I ask that question as someone who loves and celebrates the freedoms that being an American has given me. I feel lucky and honored to live in a country where I get to participate in the democratic process. I make it a point to vote in every election, be it mid-term or a presidential election.

That said, I’m not among those hyper-patriot, Ron Swanson wannabes who willfully ignores the flaws of the democratic systems around me. Between the limited choices offered by a two-party system, the non-democratic nature of the electoral college, and misguided ballot initiatives, I see these flaws as much as anyone else with an internet connection.

To some extent, I recognize that not all of these flaws are fixable within a democracy. The essence of democracy is people electing their government. Unfortunately, people aren’t always rational and anyone who has read headlines from Florida knows that. People can also be whipped up into a hateful, mob-like frenzy. It’s one of the side-effects of being such a social species. We’ll often go with the crowd before we go with reason.

In a perfect democracy, every voter would be completely independent, completely informed, and only vote to elect the person they believe will best preserve basic human rights. Since there’s no such thing as a perfect democracy any more than there’s such a thing as a perfect autocracy, there are bound to be flaws in the system.

Some of those flaws can be mitigated with things like voter education. Others involve mixing democratic systems with that of a republic. That’s primarily what the founding fathers attempted to establish with the United States, a republic being the fixed body of laws to preserve our rights and using democratic systems to protect those rights.

Other western democracies utilize various methods to address these issues, but so long as people are involved, there will be human flaws in any system. The key is making sure that those flaws don’t end up undermining human rights. The results haven’t been perfect. Ask any number of minority communities for proof of that.

With these flaws in mind, I believe it’s worth thinking beyond democracy to imagine other ways of preserving and promoting human rights. Some of those concepts manifest in movies, comics, and TV shows. The “Black Panther” movie presented an enticing, albeit fanciful, idea of an all-around good king who believes in basic human rights and does what he can to promote it, at least for his own people.

I’ve also cited Dr. Doom in a previous article who, despite being the ultimate villain in the Marvel universe, is pretty much the perfect ruler for any system of government. Sure, people in his government fear his wrath, but that’s the only thing they fear. You could argue that such fear is inconsistent with basic human rights, but in terms of actually securing people, property, and what not, Doom has no equals.

Outside the world of superheroes, though, there are also instances where a great leader who deeply values human rights gets thrust into power. That’s the entire premise of “Designated Survivor,” a show where Kiefer Sutherland does more than just shoot and torture terrorists. The best possible leader for a government isn’t elected. They essentially find themselves in that position.

In a sense, that embodies the disconnect between the fictional world and the real world. The idea that a king with ultimate power in a secretive country or some low-level government appointee would turn out to be a perfect president assumes a lot of things that don’t play out in the real world. It essentially vindicates what Winston Churchill once said about democracy.

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Those bolded parts are my doing because those are the parts that most people recall. Considering the context in which Churchill said those words, having just fought a massive war against two leaders who had been democratically elected, it’s hard to blame him.

Even today, extremists who do not hold certain human rights in high regard do get elected to positions of power. It’s not a matter of people just throwing the concept away. People are still very tribal, last I checked. They’re going to vote or protest in accord with their own interests, even if it means undermining the interests of others.

That situation leaves basic human rights vulnerable. There are, as I write this, people living in functioning democracies whose basic rights are being undermined. While we have made a great deal of progress over the past century as democracies have spread, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Going back to the original question I asked about democracy’s ability to preserve human rights, I don’t think there’s an easy answer. For now, I’m inclined to side with the wisdom of Winston Churchill. Democracy has it’s flaws, but it’s the best we’ve got thus far. We can definitely stand to do better and should work towards doing so.

Some of that may involve getting money out of politics to mitigate corruption. Some involve doing the opposite of what China just did and setting term limits for politicians. Some are taking an even more radical approach by integrating emerging technology into the democratic process.

These are all bold ideas, which are certainly worth pursuing in the future. Until we have a real life T’Challa to be king or a super-intelligent AI capable of running a government with perfect efficiency, democracy is our best bet for preserving human rights. We shouldn’t stop trying to improve, but we should still celebrate it’s merit.

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The Secret Appeal Of Marvel’s “Black Panther”

As a fan of all things related to comic books and superheroes, I often find myself digging deeper into the messages and meanings behind these fanciful narratives. I’ve done it on this site before, using superheroes to highlight the value of uniquely balanced romances and the inherent dangers of excessive boredom. I’ll likely keep doing it, so long as my kinky mind keeps making these quirky connections.

Sure, there’s are plenty of times when I just prefer to pour myself a glass of whiskey, sit back, and just enjoy the raw entertainment value of a comic book or superhero movie. Given the sizable slate of superhero movies set for release in 2018, I’m probably going to need more whiskey.

There is one particular movie, however, that is making waves that I haven’t really talked about before. I’m referring to the upcoming “Black Panther” movie, a movie that is already setting pre-sale records on Fandango. While every movie produced by Marvel Studios these days seems to blow up the box office and enrich Disney, this particular movie is unlike anything they’ve ever tried before.

There’s a reason why I haven’t talked much about it. For the most part, I haven’t come up with any meaningful discussions that I think are worth sharing. Like most self-professed Marvel fans, though, I am excited about this movie. It takes a character who has been underrated and overshadowed for most of his history and elevates his position in the larger narrative of the MCU.

The fact that Black Panther is one of Marvel’s most prominent black heroes is certainly another important aspect. In the ongoing effort to promote more diversity in Hollywood and popular culture, “Black Panther” checks all the right boxes. He’s a prominent minority character who holds his own alongside other Avengers, as we saw in “Captain America: Civil War.” He’s ready for his own movie.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make clear that I don’t wish to get into all the racial undertones and white-washing controversies that have plagued Hollywood in recent years. As a comic book fan, I’m just excited to see Black Panther get a chance to elevate his presence. I sincerely hope that Chadwick Boseman can do for T’Challa what Robert Downy Jr. did for Tony Stark.

However, in seeing the growing excitement surrounding this movie, I feel as though the movie is revealing something about the current state of the world that’s not easy to see. It also reveals something profound about the character of Black Panther, as well, that might be even more telling in these sensitive times we live.

It might not be the message that the “Black Panther” movie is trying to convey. I don’t doubt for a second that Marvel Studios and Disney see this movie as just another part of the process of maximizing profits at the box office. However, when you look at the context of this movie and the character it’s built around, there’s one unexpected, but remarkable insight that emerges.

“Black Panther embodies the ideal king that everybody wants to live under.”

Unlike some of the other insights I’ve tried to ascribe to certain character, it’s not too hard to see this concept reflected in the character of T’Challa. Whether you only know him from his role in the movies or are familiar with his history in the comics, this trait is a core aspect to his persona. He’s not just an Avenger, a superhero, and a prominent black character. He’s the ultimate king that people want to be ruled by.

If it sounds like that conflicts with my assertion that Dr. Doom is the ultimate ruler, then please bear with me. I am going to address that in a way that will hopefully make sense. To understand why this is key to Black Panther’s character, as well as being a big part of his appeal, it’s important to know a few details about his story.

In both the comics and the MCU, Black Panther isn’t just a prominent superhero who also happens to be black. He’s the king of the fictional country, Wakanda, a secretive land in Africa that is extremely advanced and extremely wealthy. This is largely due to its rich deposits of Vibraniam, an equally fictional super-material that is more valuable than anything we have in the real world.

The particulars of Wakanda are important because, like Krypton, Asgard, or Gotham City, it embodies a particular concept. Wakanda is, in many respects, the embodiment of an exotic land that prospers without the influence of the modern world. A key trait of Wakanda is that, for much of its history, it shut itself off from the outside world and actively fought those who tried to change that.

That isolation doesn’t just give Wakanda its exotic appeal. It also insulates it from what we, in the outside world, see an increasingly corrupt system of world governments that don’t do a good job of helping people prosper. Despite all the data that clearly shows the world is improving with each passing year, there’s still a sense that there’s this one magical place that can do it better.

Wakanda is that place. Wakanda is technologically advanced, fully developed, and extremely prosperous. The fact that it’s a country in Africa, which is home to some of the poorest countries in the world, makes it all the more remarkable. The idea that it achieved all this without the aid of other nations helps add to the appeal.

This is where Black Panther’s appeal as the perfect king comes in. Beyond just being advanced and prosperous on its own accord, it’s not ruled by a flawed democracy, a corrupt dictator, or an inept republic. It’s ruled by a wise, competent, and compassionate ruler who also happens to be a superhero on the side. Black Panther, in many respects, embodies all the ways in which rulers wish they were seen.

He wasn’t elected, nor did he come to power in a coup. He rules because he’s the son of a previous, equally competent ruler. It’s basically a traditional monarchy, one that doesn’t require corrupt elections or elaborate legal traditions. While that seems antithetical to the freedom-loving crowd who scoff at living under kings, it does have great appeal.

Like Superman, Black Panther embodies everything people want in a ruler. This is what sets him apart from Dr. Doom. While Doom might be smarter and more capable, most people would not be lining up to live under his rule. Black Panther is different. He’s the kind of king people actually want to live under, even if it means living under the rule of a powerful monarch.

Black Panther and his exotic homeland are insulated from the corruption and ineptitude we associate with our existing rulers. It’s because Black Panther is from such an exotic place that prospered, despite being so isolated, that his ability to rule seems fittingly superhuman. He carries himself as the kind of king who won’t create crazy cults of personality or fail spectacularly.

That appeal is even greater these days because of the growing perception that all leaders are inherently corrupt. The 2016 Election was basically a year-long parade celebrating everything people hate about inept, corrupt leadership. It created this sentiment of hopelessness that no matter which leader end up in power, they’ll still be corrupt.

The events after the 2016 Election have only further reinforced this notion. In a sense, “Black Panther” is coming along at the best possible time because the general public is so disillusioned with the rulers they know. The idea that there’s this powerful, uncorrupted king who benevolently rules a prosperous land isn’t just appealing. It embodies a near-universal desire to live in a perfectly governed society.

At this point, it’s worth noting that this sort of appeal clashes significantly with the harsh truths of the real world. In the same way there’s nobody who can ever be as powerful or as good as Superman, there’s nobody who can ever be as good a ruler as Black Panther. His persona, as well as his country, simply could not exist in the real world.

There are actually countries in this world that are extremely rich in resources, not unlike Wakanda. There are also countries that isolate themselves from the rest of the world and attempt to thrive on their own, absent outside influence. Most of these countries are either extremely poor or extremely corrupt.

Even with semi-competent rulers, it’s impossible for any country to thrive like Wakanda. It’s equally impossible for any ruler to be as effective as Black Panther because no government, be it a dictatorship or a democracy, that can ever manage the never-ending chaos or accommodate infinite needs of the people with its finite resources.

In a sense, rulers like Black Panther and societies like Wakanda are large-scale wish fulfillment for those dissatisfied with their own society. We may not acknowledge that such a ruler and such a society are impossible in the real world, but neither are shape-shifting aliens or silver-skinned men on surf boards. The stories surrounding such concepts act as a unique kind of escapism, which is at the heart of every movie’s appeal.

Now, I’m not saying that this sort of appeal will be the sole reason “Black Panther” succeeds at the box office. I believe that if it succeeds on the level that some are already projecting, it’ll be because of a multitude of factors, much of which can be attributed to the winning formula that Marvel Studios has refined.

Whatever the racial or cultural undertones of a movie like “Black Panther,” it has already struck a chord. It’ll likely strike even more after it’s released. Most probably won’t be related to Black Panther being the perfect king or Wakanda being the perfect society, but the undertones are there. As people become more dissatisfied with their leaders and their society, they’re likely to become more overt about it.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Dr. Doom, Perfect Rulers, And Ultimate Peace

There aren’t a lot of official rules on this blog. I try not to micromanage the what, how, and why of the content I talk about, beyond my sexy novels. However, there is one rule that might as well be a law of physics . If a particular topic can apply to comic books, then I will apply it to comic books.

I’ve already done it so many times on this blog, from sex-positive superheroes to showing why Magneto is the original Walter White to using an X-men comic to explore concepts of a balanced romance. While I love writing and talking about erotica/romance, I’ll still use every opportunity to tie it into comics.

For the past few days, I’ve been talking about fascism and repressive government. It’s a somewhat relevant topic, even after the 4th of July, because everybody seems to be throwing that word around these days. Liberals think conservatives are fascist. Conservative think liberals are fascist. At this rate, even anarchists will call each other fascist and fail to see the irony.

The concept of fascism is pretty complex. It has a dictionary definition, but that definition tends to get obscured by anyone who thinks a different political opinion is a threat to their own. Major conflicts like World War II have conditioned us to associate all the evils of the world with fascism. If your ideology seems bad, greedy, or evil in any way, then it must be fascist.

While that is a very childish approach to political rhetoric, relatively speaking, it also underscores the reason fascism and authoritarian governments exists in the first place. As George Orwell explored in “1984,” these kinds of systems emerge anywhere people seek security and peace in the midst of war and conflict.

We see it happen all the time throughout history. There are many occasions where a repressive regime has arisen out of bloody conflict. Some of those regimes are still around and frustratingly contentious. At their core, thought, the dynamics are the same.

In times of chaos, conflict, and scarcity, people seek power and influence. Once they have it, they seek to maintain it at all costs. They’ll try to control anything and everything, from the amount of bread everyone gets to how they conduct their sex lives. It manifests in many different ways, but the underlying principles are the same.

At the end of the day, the biggest problem with the systems surrounding fascism and repressive governments is that they still depend on flawed, petty humans with caveman brains. Sometimes, the rulers themselves are mentally unhinged. Sometimes, the people around them are petty, corrupt, or just plain incompetent. Often, it’s a potent mixture of the two.

In some sense, we can thank our own inherent flaws as humans as the ultimate weapon against a fascist, authoritarian state. George Orwell may have highlighted the darker elements of humanity, but he grossly overestimated peoples’ ability to manage others competently.

That leads me to Victor Von Doom, the alpha and omega of Marvel’s long list of iconic villains. In any list of the top villains of all time, Dr. Doom usually ranks near the top. A series of sub-par “Fantastic Four” movies have routinely failed to do justice to the breadth of Doom’s villainy. However, once you understand his roots, you understand why he is the ultimate counter to George Orwell’s dystopian fever dream.

There are too many details about Dr. Doom’s life and history to do him justice in one post. WatchMojo does a fairly good job of summarizing where he came from, but for the sake of this post and how he relates to my discussions on fascism, all you need to know is that Dr. Doom is the perfect ruler.

I don’t just mean that in the sense that he has the power, charisma, and resources to rule a country. I mean that, by almost every objective measure, Dr. Doom is the perfect ruler. Put him at the top of any government, be it a democracy or an authoritarian state, and he’ll make it work. Moreover, he’ll do it in a way that’s terrifyingly efficient.

That’s because Dr. Doom isn’t just some evil sadist who just wants to control people for the fun of it. He’s one of the smartest human beings to have ever lived. He didn’t just master science as a kid. He mastered science and magic. Even Lex Luthor can’t make that claim. He just mastered science. Compared to Dr. Doom, Lex is an underachiever.

Beyond just being smart and mastering things few can ever hope to master, Dr. Doom is extremely driven and makes no bones about it. He doesn’t just think he’s superior to every other human being on the planet. He knows it. If anyone dares question it, he won’t just prove them wrong. He’ll do so in the scariest, most intimidating way possible.

This isn’t just someone you respect. This is someone that scares the hell out of you, but for all the right reasons. As arrogant as he is, he doesn’t see himself as a villain either. Even Stan Lee, his co-creator, doesn’t see him that way. In an 2016 interview, he said this about Marvel’s greatest villain.

“Everybody has Doctor Doom misunderstood,” Lee said. “Everybody thinks he’s a criminal, but all he wants is to rule the world. Now, if you really think about it objectively, you could walk up to a policeman, and you could say, ‘Excuse me, officer, I want to tell you something: I want to rule the world.’ He can’t arrest you; it’s not a crime to want to rule the world. So […] it’s unfair that he’s considered a villain, because he just wants to rule the world. Then maybe he could do a better job of it. So I’m very interested in Doctor Doom, and I’d like to clear his name.”

Therein lies the greatest irony of Dr. Doom’s villainy. Sure, he wants to take over the world and he routinely clashes with Marvel’s most iconic heroes in the process. However, it’s why he does it that makes him stand out.

In one iconic story from 2010 fittingly called “Doomwar,” his true motivations for conquering the world come to light. In that story, Dr. Doom encounters a god-like being named Bast, also known as the Panther God. In that encounter, Bast reveals something critical about the future of the world.

As anyone who has ever followed Marvel comics for any number of years will tell you, there are a lot of alternative universes and timelines. Some are dystopian, even by George Orwell standards. Some are just different in a few minor details.

However, the Panther God saw all these universes and timelines and came to one inescapable conclusion. The only timeline in which humanity was free from suffering and want was a timeline in which Dr. Doom ruled the world. In a sense, that almost makes Doom a hero. Then again, he’s still the same guy who once sacrificed the woman he loved for more power.

Beyond those overtly villainous details, there’s a lot of merit behind that vision and not just because it came from the Panther God. Dr. Doom already knows how to run a country and a government. For much of his history, he’s run his fictional home country of Latveria and, by all accounts, he’s run it very well.

He ran it so well that, when he took over the country, every soldier and citizen that had been fighting for the previous ruler just stepped aside and let him take over. He didn’t force his people to love or respect him into submission. He proved himself. He did such a good job that nobody in Latveria besides the previous rulers wanted to stand in his way.

He didn’t just stop at taking over his home country either. Dr. Doom helped it prosper. In another iconic line of Marvel comics, Dr. Doom turned a country of bankrupt peasants into one of the top 10 economies on the planet within a couple years. That’s the kind of growth that even hardcore libertarians have to respect.

Doom does this because, and this is worth emphasizing, he’s extremely smart. He’s not just smart in that he can outwit gods and cosmic forces. He’s smart in that he knows how to manage a country, a people, and everything in between.

He does this largely through an army of loyal robotic minions, including specialized robots called Doombots. They’re not just ordinary killer robots either. These robots actually think, behave, and act as though they’re the real Dr. Doom. It’s kind of a running gag in the Marvel universe. Every time Doom is “defeated,” it’s often revealed that they just defeated a Doombot.

Beyond being a clever plot device, it also ensures that Dr. Doom’s government never has to worry about insubordination, betrayal, or corruption. His robots, gadgets, and ability to use mind control ensures he maintains perfect control of his government from top to bottom.

Unlike the ruling party in George Orwell’s “1984,” there’s no need for a massive professional class of bureaucrats that need to be constantly monitored. There’s no need to set up a kind of thought police to ensure nobody even thinks about undermining the party. For Dr. Doom, that would be redundant. No matter what any of his citizens think, he knows he’s smarter and more resourceful than any of them.

In addition, the party in “1984” didn’t care much for the welfare of the people. They only cared enough to ensure the stability of their rule. Dr. Doom, on the other hand, does express a genuine concern for the well-being of his people. He will go out of his way to make sure that his people are free from suffering and want. Sure, they’ll still fear Dr. Doom’s wrath, but that’s the only thing they fear.

That, more than anything, is what makes Dr. Doom the perfect ruler. He’s so smart, so capable, and so resourceful that no other human in his home country or any other country could come close to matching him. On top of that, Doom actually produces results. The things that are typically impossible for a government to do, such as providing prosperity for all its people, are easy for someone like Dr. Doom.

Thanks to Dr. Doom’s expertise, cunning, and willingness to cross any line, anyone under his rule will be safe and prosperous. They won’t have to fear anyone harming them because they’d have to go through Dr. Doom first, a man who one-shot the Incredible Hulk and battled a race of space gods. With him, a border wall is both unnecessary and redundant.

Under Doom’s rule, you are as safe as it’s possible to be without locking yourself in an adamantium cage. You’re also probably as free as you’ll ever be. While Dr. Doom is a despot, he’s never shown an inclination to micromanage his citizens’ lives. He doesn’t tell them who to love, how to love, and what to do with their free time. So long as they acknowledge his authority, they can do as they please.

He doesn’t get involved in his peoples’ sex lives. He doesn’t try to run the economy. Near as anyone can tell, he doesn’t even demand that certain words be censored from TV and movies. In that sense, Dr. Doom is less tyrannical than the FCC.

Sure, his citizens are still at Doom’s mercy. If, at any point, they become a threat to Doom, he’ll kill them without a second thought. However, Dr. Doom is not obsessively paranoid like the Stalins and Kim Jong Uns of the world. He’s too smart, too cunning, and has too many Doombots on his side to worry about such trivial things. He is, for all intents and purposes, a benevolent despot.

There is no real-world, or even fictional, equivalent to Dr. Doom. However, much like Superman, Dr. Doom presents an ideal of sorts. He is everything people want in a ruler. He is smart, charismatic, imposing, strong, capable, resourceful, logical, and fair. He has the means, vision, and drive to do everything that people want their government to do.

In that sense, it wouldn’t even matter whether a system is fascist or democratic. So long as there’s someone like Dr. Doom at the top, it’ll work. There are still many parts of his character that make him undeniably villainous. However, it’s hard to deny his ability as a ruler. To live under his authority is to live in perfect freedom and security.

Remember that the next time you get into a debate about fascism or democracy. In the end, the only truth path to perfect governance is through Dr. Doom. That’s enough to make both the Avengers and the Justice League cry.

All Hail Doom!

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Jack Fisher's Insights

George Orwell, 1984, And The Perfect Totalitarian State

There were a lot of reasons I hated high school. I’ve listed more than a few of them on this blog. Somewhere on that list, but nowhere near the top, involved the books I had to read. To say they weren’t very sexy would be like saying a baseball bat to the head isn’t a very good massage.

However, every now and then, my English and social studies teachers managed to assign a book that didn’t make me want to make me stick my head in a deep fryer. One of my favorite non-sexy books of all time, which also happened to be a homework assignment, is George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s a book that always seems relevant and insightful, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

When I read Orwell’s depiction of the ultimate dystopian future, I see it as the ultimate thought experiment, of sorts. Orwell wrote this book in the 1940s, a time when there were actual, dystopian totalitarian regimes operating in the world. Sadly, one of them was a chief ally during World War II.

He had a lot to reference in his time, much more so than we have today. Other than North Korea, most people today aren’t as familiar with rigid, totalitarian governments. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there’s an entire generation of people whose idea of a totalitarian regime is relegated to detention at a high school. They can’t even begin to fathom the kind of world that “1984” described.

That’s a good thing in some respects. In a sense, those governments are almost impossible these days. The rise of the internet, modern technology, and complex geopolitics makes it next to impossible for a regime to be as totalitarian as “1984.” North Korea comes close, but even that regime is wholly inept compared to Big Brother.

However, I believe there’s a unique value, of sorts, when it comes to understanding what makes a totalitarian regime work. I also think there’s value in knowing the tenets behind it, the ways in which it operates, and why it takes hold in the first place. Even in an age of people protesting the removal of the McRib from McDonald’s menu, we’re not immune from the threat of a totalitarian regime.

With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into Orwell’s extreme thought experiment that played out in “1984.” If you haven’t read the book or had even worse English teachers than I did, you might not be familiar with Big Brother, how it operates, what what it represents. You might have heard the term, but you might not be familiar with what it is.

For the sake of providing context, here’s a quick video from the Alternate History Hub channel on YouTube. It’s a channel that focuses primarily on alternate history scenarios, which I’ve touched on before, but it also provides remarkable insight onto other subjects. Given how many totalitarian regimes are involved in alternate history, it makes sense to explore the ultimate extreme, as it played out in “1984.”

It’s hard for most people in the industrialized world to imagine a system like this. The idea that facts, history, and the very thoughts we think are all controlled by this all-encompassing, all-powerful government seems insane. It’s hard to imagine living in a world like that. It almost seems impossible. In a sense, it is.

No government in history has ever come close to wielding the kind of power that Big Brother does in “1984.” Some have tried. There’s the first emperor of China, the sun king in France, and our old frenemy, Joseph Stalin. They only ever succeeded in part and often failed in the long run.

That’s because, as we’re seeing with the ongoing health care debate in America, human beings are impossibly chaotic creatures. We all have so many different needs and wants. We’re all petty about different things and apathetic towards others. No two people are completely wired the same. We all think different thoughts for different reasons, sometimes with downright kinky undertones.

It’s because of all that chaos/diversity within the human condition that no government can hope to achieve what Big Brother achieved in “1984.” It would require so much power, so much micromanaging, and so much information that it just wouldn’t be practical for any one human or party of humans.

Again, that won’t stop some from trying and that’s where Orwell’s thought experiment becomes relevant. In looking at the structure of Big Brother, we can observe the nuts and bolts of the perfect totalitarian regime. We can see what the ultimate fascist is seeking when they want to create an all-power, completely centralized government.

Impossible or not, the features of this government reveal some common themes that have a basis in the real world. Those are themes worth understanding because they help us know when someone is trying too hard to emulate Big Brother. Without getting too deep into the book, here are the key features of a perfect totalitarian regime.

  • There’s a single, unambiguous ruling party and no opposition of any kind

  • The ruling party makes up a small percentage of the population, never more than one or two percent

  • The members of the ruling party rarely, if ever, interact with the public directly

  • The public consists of two classes, a professional middle class that never makes up more than a quarter of the population and a working lower class that usually makes up over two-thirds of the population

  • The middle class is educated to some degree, but wholly controlled by the ruling party and is completely dependent on them for their livelihood

  • The lower class is uneducated, under-informed, and easily manipulated

  • All economic activity is controlled or guided by the party, ensuring the middle class has just enough to do their job and the lower class has just enough to propagate

  • The ideals for family structure and social structure are imposed by the party with any variations being deemed deviant

  • The lower classes are allowed to be more deviant and decadent in order to keep them content with their state

  • The middle class is held to a higher standard of conduct to ensure their loyalty and submission to the party

  • The flow of information, the accepted knowledge of the world, and the entire history of the state is dictated by the party and accepted by the masses

There are probably more features I could list, but these are the core elements of Big Brother and the society we see in “1984.” Now, some people will attempt to apply these features to whatever state, country, or office environment they’re in at the moment. Some might actually apply, but never to the same degree as Orwell depicted.

The biggest takeaway from these traits, as well as the themes in “1984,” is how a society structures itself in the face of such overwhelming control. At the top, there’s always a ruling class. That class has only one primary purpose, which is to preserve its power. From the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars” to the battle for the iron throne in “Game of Thrones,” preservation is always the top concern of a totalitarian regime.

Part of preserving that power means relying on a professional middle class, of sorts, to deal with the bureaucracy and administration of the state. It’s in this area where totalitarian regimes tend to be most vulnerable. History has shown that authoritarian states like Nazi Germany were anything but efficient, which in turn undermined the ruling party’s primary goal.

It seems like a paradox, but it’s more a matter of pragmatism. A state needs people to run these massive, complex machinations to maintain so much control. To not impose such control would mean granting people freedom and that’s dangerous to any ruling party that wants to preserve control.

This is why those in these middle class professions are subject to such greater scrutiny. A poor, unemployed man taking a piss on a street corner creates no controversy. However, if a highly educated professional did that, it would be a major scandal. We often see this in how major corporate scandals play out.

In a sense, the lower classes have more freedom in this system than the professional middle class. That’s because the ruling party doesn’t really care about them. They don’t have to because they’re not a threat.

Uneducated, lower class people are too stupid and gullible to really pose a threat. So long as they work and breed, the ruling party has no reason to micromanage them. They don’t care if they have orgies in the streets, drink paint thinner for breakfast, or wear horse masks to work. Their only purpose is to work and breed. If they do that, then the ruling party couldn’t care less.

In a sense, the ruling party will always be at odds with a certain segment of the population. In order to exercise control in an authoritarian regime, there needs to be a sizable number of loyal, competent underlings to carry out the functions of the state. Finding people who can act as such underlings with perfect loyalty is difficult, if not impossible.

It’s hard to say whether Orwell knew this on some level. Keep in mind, he was heavily influenced by what he saw around him, a massive world war and the rise of communist states. Perhaps he had studied how powerful, repressive governments had operated in the ancient past and saw parallels in the present. Perhaps he saw that as an inevitable recourse for humanity.

I choose to have a more optimistic, albeit cynical view of human affairs. I don’t believe a system like Big Brother could ever take hold in a world where people can’t even agree on pizza toppings, let alone a singular vision for human civilization. I also don’t believe any government is equipped to exercise the kind of control that Big Brother did in “1984.”

However, that still won’t stop some from trying and the very process of trying can be very dangerous. Seeking order within the chaos is a very human trait, but one that can easily get derailed by pettiness and corruption. That’s why Orwell’s lessons in “1984” are more relevant than ever and may always be relevant to some extent.

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