What would Aldous Huxley (“Brave New World”), George Orwell (“1984”) or H.G. Wells (“The Time Machine”) say of today’s world? Who makes the decisions which determine whether there is war or peace, what happens to the environment, what food we eat, what clothes we wear, how we think about persons of other cultures or ethical backgrounds, how we get educated and how we view the world we live in?
Take the case of the United States, self-proclaimed world leader and champion of democracy and the free market. What kind of society is it whose top 1% owns 35.4% of private wealth, whose top 20% grabs nearly 90% of the wealth (According to U.S. sociology prof. G. William Domhoff) and whose bottom 80% barely has 11% of wealth? A society which proudly proclaims an end to the financial crisis set off by top sector speculation and which celebrates an unemployment rate of “only” 6% while, according to Gallop, 17.2% of the poor struggle to get enough to eat…
What kind of democracy is it that operates with but two political options, whose political campaigns are organized essentially by powerful advertising entities, which allows intelligence agencies to spy on practically everyone, whose agents are authorized to use torture methods on suspected terrorists, which assumes for itself the mandate of propagating its political-economic-cultural system around the world, which classifies other countries as “friends” or “enemies,” which carries on wars by decision of the chief executive without consulting the Congress or the people, whose lobbies paid by giant corporations are a key factor in the making or breaking of laws, whose …?
But it is also a society which vibrates with its admittedly extraordinary scientific and educational achievements, its diverse repertoire of film production, of art, of music…whose mass media champion freedom of the press yet their existence depends on the desires of the corporate interests that own them, favoring by turn Democratic or Republican views, whose cities and towns are clustered with churches of all denominations, whose inhabitants drive enormous cars and live in houses that are several times the living spaces of most of the world’s population, whose cities are crowded with ultra-modern sky-scrapers, whose outsized and corporate owned farms use genetic engineering to produce perfectly shaped and colored fruit and vegetables, whose private hospitals charge exorbitant prices due in part to the use of extremely expensive ultra-modern medical technology, which considers medicine a business and not a service…
It is also a country with a long brilliant line of writers and thinkers calling for introspection—from Henry David Thoreau who opposed the war against Mexico, refusing to pay taxes, to Howard Zinn, who has asserted that “it is possible for organized citizens to resist and overcome what seem like hopeless odds. The power of determined people armed with a moral cause is, I believe, ‘the ultimate power,” and Noam Chomsky, who noted in a recent interview (Dec. 8, 2013) that “In the US, for example, tens of millions are unemployed, unknown millions have dropped out of the workforce in despair, and incomes as well as conditions of life have largely stagnated or declined. But the big banks, which were responsible for the latest crisis, are bigger and richer than ever, corporate profits are breaking records, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice is accumulating among those who count, labor is severely weakened by union busting and "growing worker insecurity," to borrow the term Alan Greenspan used in explaining the grand success of the economy he managed, when he was still "St. Alan," perhaps the greatest economist since Adam Smith, before the collapse of the structure he had administered, along with its intellectual foundations. So what is there to complain about?”
Well. In the disturbing H.G. Wells movie we see a future in which the underworld rulers, the Morlocks, manage to reduce the inhabitants of the surface world, the Eloi, to a state of utter non-think serfdom: they have become devoid of the ability to recognize their subjection; with great docility they permit the Morlocks to “breed” them for the exclusive purpose of feeding their master’s stomachs. A fiction, true. Yet it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that reality and fiction merge at one point, while at all periods in history voices and movements appear to place a limit to power or to alter it—at least momentarily.
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