Monday, June 24, 2013

Orwell and the Uses of Hate

[Part of the series: 2013 = 1984?]

1984 by George Orwell gives a frightening description of the way people are coerced into hating.

Or maybe "coerced" isn't the right word . . . .
"The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in." (George Orwell, 1984, p. 12)
Orwell was interested in politics, but he was even more interested in psychology. And with that "it was impossible to avoid joining in," he invites us to care about psychology, too, and to start down the road to understanding the awful source from which our political system today derives its power.

I've been mulling over George Orwell's writing, trying to understand how he could have written such an accurate picture of 2013 America while living in England back in 1949 -- including the way we consciously or subconsciously hate people we deem to be "different," and the way this has come to be relied upon by the U.S. government to maintain a state of perpetual war.

In Orwell's 1984, people were taught that the Enemy of the People was a man named Emmanuel Goldstein, and this point was reinforced over and over and over again, until "the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically" (p. 11).

In 2013 America, we have been conditioned to feel anything associated with Middle Eastern and/or Muslim men should trigger feelings of suspicion, fear, and hatred.

And when those cues are triggered, all of our objectivity and healthy skepticism goes out the window.

Having spent a significant amount of time over the last several years advocating on behalf of the men being held without trial at Guantanamo -- the vast majority of whom have not even been charged -- and now having become active in trying to stop the U.S. program of drone killing, I have become acutely aware of how these and other U.S. government programs depend on the general public's subconscious habits of hate.

Time and time again, people are entombed or their lives are wiped out by the U.S. government, and we are told in public forums like The New York Times that we should be accept they-were-Muslim-men-acting-threatening innuendo together with the usual accompanying atmospherics by way of explanation.

If we want to avoid becoming a shadow of George Orwell's 1984 we must, must, must work harder --  much, much, much harder -- to clear out the residues of suspicion, fear, and hate in our hearts that our manipulative government so relishes.

For more on the state's uses of hate: Read 1984.

(1984 page references are to the 2009 Plume paperback edition.)

Related posts

Undercover police . . . months of infiltration, taping, coaxing, inducements . . . an alleged "terrorist" device . . . lots of police assertions about what the defendant was thinking and intending and wanting . . . . The Pimentel case is just one in a long line of government set-ups of Muslims since 9/11.

(See The Curious Incident of the "Lone Wolf" Terrorist )

I wonder if, years from now, we will be thinking back to today and feeling surprise at how little we thought about some of the developments in our world, and in our country, and how we talked about them even less. Someday will I have to explain to my kids, or to my kids' kids, why it was that "people just weren't talking about it" . . . ?

(See Why Weren't People Talking About It? )

So there are these terrible things called nuclear weapons, and it just turns out that they hover around the Korean peninsula, as if "Korea" and "crazy nuclear terror" belonged together. And I thought to myself, "Where have I heard this before?"

(See The Cynical American Scapegoating of Korea as a Cover for Nuclear Terror )