Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Big Brother: Not the Watcher, But the Reason We Allow Ourselves to be Watched

[Part of the series: 2013 = 1984?]

"Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt toward an individual than toward an organization." (George Orwell, 1984 - p. 185)

A lot of people who consider themselves progressives and/or peace and justice activists are subjected almost daily to reminders of how, for an unreasonably long time, we believed in Barack Obama.

(A few are still holding out hope!)

Sometimes the reminders come from our fellow activists, who say, "I was protesting Obama from day one! Didn't you hear the way he talked about Afghanistan?"

Sometimes the reminders come from conservatives. Usually with a smirk.

Meanwhile, the few remaining true believers twist themselves in knots to explain how Obama probably really does want to "do the right thing" but he's stymied by Congress, or being held hostage by party politics, or needing to retain credibility with the national security establishment, or even being threatened by something more malevolent.

What we're missing in all this is some self-reflection: why do we let ourselves be manipulated?  What is the psychology that we are bringing to the table?

In the movie Matchstick Men, Nicholas Cage plays a con man -- a con man who happens to be a very good teacher. At one point he explains to his student the essence of the con: "We don't take the money from them. They give it to us."

The point that Orwell makes about Big Brother is that he's not really the one doing the watching; he's the reason people let themselves be watched.

We won't be done with Barack Obama -- we shouldn't allow ourselves to be done with him -- until we think deeply about the reasons we have allowed ourselves to be taken in by him.

(More thoughts on 1984 here . . . .)

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

Related posts

The Amash Conyers Amendment to curtail NSA spying was advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after the Snowden revelations. It narrowly failed -- in part due to the votes of some so-called "progressive" Illinois representatives.

(See In Chicago, Illinois: YOU ARE UNDER SURVEILLANCE! )

People hope that someone else -- somewhere -- is resisting.

"Perhaps the rumors of vast underground conspiracies were true after all -- perhaps the Brotherhood really existed! . . . There was no evidence, only fleeting glimpses that might mean anything or nothing . . . . " (p. 15)

(See Hoping Against Hope (Resistance in America))

One issue that has a key place in the 2014 midterm elections, I believe, is surveillance.  With each passing day, I am hearing more and more people say that the surveillance issue is something that a wide spectrum of people are deeply upset about. That includes people on the right as well as people on the left -- people who don't usually talk with each other, much less work together for positive change!

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)

See When the President says, "The American people don't have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business," it probably means the American people have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business . . . .