“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Yesterday, I went watch “Bidder 70” at the White Rock Social Justice Film Society. I finished work and spent the rest of the afternoon at a coffee shop before heading to the venue.
I walked down the dark, cold streets for about 20 minutes and even when I was completely alone and the streets were empty, I wasn’t scared. White Rock has this magical spell that makes you think you are safe.
The function started with singer Holly Arntzen singing songs about ecology and was followed by “Bidder 70” , a documentary about Tim DeChristopher and his trial for disrupting the auction of Utah wilderness lands to big Oil and Gas companies.
I wasn’t impressed by the film as I knew Tim’s story from before, but the film did make me think (once again) about what is my own threshold about all what it is happening. How and where is when I will say “enough!”.
For Tim, the threshold was attending a Symposium at the University of Utah where Dr. Terry Root, a scientist for the International Panel on Climate Change, was explaining to the audience that elements of the climate crisis were already irreversible. He met with Dr Root after her presentation and asked “if it were true that many species, natural wonders and bioregions were in imminent peril”. As described in the film by both Tim and Dr Root, she put her hand on Tim’s shoulder and said the following: “I am so sorry, but my generation failed yours.” Those words haunted Tim, and dramatically changed his personal worldview. The rest, as they say, is history…
I first took Climate Change seriously in 2012. Before that year, climate change was for me as it is now for many out there: a far away threat similar to when scientists tell us that the sun will eventually die…if not that far, it was at least far enough for me not to feel involved, responsible or even concerned.
What made me change? Well, that is a long story that started with me talking to my then 16 year-old son and a book I read because of that conversation. That book opened my eyes to all the things that were happening around me (but I wasn’t able to see) and by mid 2012, I had abandoned my Social Studies and switched to Sciences, taking courses on climate change and environmental studies. My studies heated things up and I started to think about how to change my lifestyle completely. I went from growing herbs and plants for fun to Permaculture, explored Transition and made many small changes to my life, involving myself into many community and grassroots projects, activism and causes.
Time has passed and I’m now feeling as many others who became “aware” that changing light bulbs, using cloth napkins and being “green” is not enough…worse; it may be just plain “green-wash” and leads nowhere…similarly, I had started wondering if talking, blogging, watching films and studying does anything at all…
“You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”
~ George Orwell, 1984
Time has also increased my awareness of many other things that are wrong in our world, and I think I have done my best to point at them, fight them and help building a more just and resilient world at the same time…but have I? Is that enough? How had I impacted anything?
“…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”
~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
After the film last night a long-time activist lead the forum. He read passages from Huxley “Brave New World” and Orwel’s “1984”. (I recall reading both when I was 16 and still sane enough to notice that the world was plain wrong).
In “Brave New World”, he said, Huxley imagined that power was going to be attained by dumbing people down through careful brain programming and the delivery of artificial “happiness”. This was achieved by creating “perfect” human beings who would never age, giving them drugs to keep pain or sickness away and entertaining them with all kinds of pleasures…also by convincing them from birth that they loved the work they had to do (no matter how stupid or meaningless); and the fact that there were “classes” was considered not only normal, but a social necessity. In a way, their society was kept “sustainable” through curtailing population growth and programming the use of limited resources. I sometimes wonder if Huxley had a time machine…
In “1984”, on the other hand, Orwell envisioned power through the suppression of all human feelings and the institutionalizing of lies or “double-think” (“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”). A “Big Brother” had the ability to spy on every man or woman, peoples would be kept separated by artificial walls, and wars were celebrated and encouraged to both create “meaning”, encourage submission and suppressing any thought of people being equal in other parts of the world. Big screens and posters would be around people on streets and homes to convince them of the new “truth” and every “news” would change and suppress the last (even changing the past, where one culture was “allies” today and “enemies” tomorrow…again, I wonder whether Orwell had a time machine…
While I was quietly listening to this activist words and remembering Tim’s actions, I asked for the millionth time why the tough reality of the biggest threat to humankind (and the world as we know it) takes so long to sink-in on people’s minds and why it is that we see as “hero” (or an outcast, depending who you are) a person who feels it is wrong to sell wild land to big companies looking for a short-term profit while ignoring responsibility about our future.
Tim DeChristopher is neither a hero nor an outcast. He is a sane human being who, like Bernard (the outcast psychologist and main character in “Brave New World”) and Winston (the thought-criminal from “1984”) dares to face the truth and do something about it.
In “Brave New World” John (“the Savage”), a character who believes in God, reads Shakespeare and feels passions ends up betraying his own beliefs and hanging himself when he finds out what he did.
In “1984” Winston, the main character, betrays Julia, the love of his life and ends up being publicly executed after the confession of “his crimes”…
“I betrayed you,” she said baldly.
“I betrayed you,” he said.
She gave him another quick look of dislike.
“Sometimes,” she said, “they threaten you with something – something you can’t stand up to, can’t even think about. And then you say, ‘Don’t do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to so-and-so.’ And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.”
“All you care about is yourself,” he echoed.
“And after that, you don’t feel the same toward the other person any longer.”
“No,” he said, “you don’t feel the same.”
I left early because I had to head home. Once outside, I turned my head to the sky: it was clean and cold and I could see dozens of stars.
I thought on texting a friend and asking him to watch the beautiful sky, but didn’t do it. On my way back home I thought about my own existence. How all is hollow: we write blogs and emails, we text and share articles, we love and work hard; some of us also fight and try to change the system.
I also thought on the many wonderful people who are currently learning, spreading the word, caring, creating, building resilience, making new friends, falling in love, leaving behind old loyalties, practicing Permaculture, fighting the evil ones…
None of that will leave any trace…only those stars up there will survive us…but the experience is still worth living it, and the fight must go on…
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
~ George Orwell, 1984