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Our Dystopia

February 13, 2010

Janet Napolitano: she has been nicknamed “Big Sis” – after “Big Brother”, as in “Big Brother is watching you”. Secretary Napolitano says that the Department of Homeland Security will now be monitoring social networking sites to “provide situational awareness” in case of an “act of terrorism, or other manmade disaster.” The ABC News article says that the DHS statement offered 31 sites as examples but did not specify. 

And people don’t see the irony in casually nicknaming a Department of Homeland Security Secretary “Big [Brother]”? By the way, if President Barack H. Obama had actually delivered even a portion of what he promised in his ’08 campaign, he would have a-bol-ished – that’s right – abolished the Department of Homeland Security! How much money could be saved if this Department, much of which is just pork-barrel spending on more layers of law enforcement beauracracy were scrapped? It wouldn’t be so difficult also because the agency is not even a decade old and was created as a political agency in apolitical act. I think that is obvious.

It’s uncanny the resemblances we are seeing to the Orwellian “Doublethink”. 

I was reminded of this when news broke of a surveillance video from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel where three contracted security guards can be seen standing and watching while a 15 year-old girl is beaten and robbed. Our society has in this example taken the word “Security” and turned it on its head and stomped on it – literally. If Orwell were alive today would he say that the U.S. is living in a dystopia? Fairly likely. If you take one more look at this issue you’ll see then that, for whatever reason (an over-litigious society?), the Security Guards, not being there for Security, are in reality down in the Transit Tunnel as a deterrent; as sets of eyes in a uniform who can radio the police if need be. But on the whole, these security guards are there as a psychological reason. What that reason is depends on the meaning we give it. If we are criminal-minded it might be that they’re there to intimidate. If we’re more concerned about getting victimized ourselves, than they’re a protective presence. But don’t tell me that their purpose is as “security”. We saw in the news that contractually, this is not the case. By agreement with the City of Seattle, Olympic Security Guards are not allowed to intervene in incidents.

I’ve long thought that the Department of Homeland Security will one day, if it has not already, create more homeland insecurity, or un-security, than security.

Indeed, one of Orwell’s criteria for a 1984 society – perpetual war – came true on 9/11/01 when the Bush administration declared the “War on Terror”. Note the resemblance to the 1984 idiom “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia”.

A war on “terror”, or in this case “Terror” with a capital “T”, is little more than a semantic trick that either means nothing or anything. A very dangerous phrase, in my view, because it’s a relative one. Anytime you can introduce some relativity into language, particularly language that has domestic and foreign policy implications as has this “war”, than we are trekking into realms unkown. Because, as I know has been pointed out, you can not “win” a “War on Terror” because if one is serious about using that phrase whilst at the same time accepting that an act of terrorism is not a specific country or political grouping, than you must accept that, again, it could mean either war on everything, or it could mean war on anything – anything those weilding the phrase want it to be on. Or both. I happen to take the latter interpretation!

Actually, the proper interpretation here comes by way of Seattle activist Steve Ludwig’s “War Is Terrorism”. How’s that! “Is” with a capital “I”.

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