Barely two days before the new year the future that looms seems ever ominous.
FORBIDDEN IDEAS -- With more than 100 million users, the Internet is booming in China. The American Web giants Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all grabbed a piece of the lucrative Chinese market - but only after agreeing to help the government censor speech on the Web.
So goes an item in a New York Times op-ed retrospective. One woman on a list hilariously commented: "Next thing we know, the Vatican will be after us for daring to even consider the ordination of women."
Growing up Catholic, I always found it fascinating as a teenager to observe the similarities between the methods of control of the Catholic Church and those of the modern totalitarian state. Vatican tampering of the historical record, silence and purge dissenting thought, its invention of propaganda fidei, and so forth have their parallels -- and may well have been the models for -- book burning and censorship, the periodic purging of party faithful (see the night of the long knives in Germany or the Kirov purges in the USSR, in the same fateful 1934), and the incessant blaring propaganda of the National Socialist and Communist Parties, respectively.
If the Church has abandoned the more physically coercive methods of the past, it's because they don't work. You don't get assent by torture, you merely get outward submission with inward mental reservation -- a technique developed by the Jesuits under persecution in England that gave rise to the pejorative adjective "jesuitical."
Instead, the Church now prefers to cleverly train its members in double-think from childhood. For those who grow up to think for themselves, the Curia uses economic punishments and incentives -- ask any theology professor after Ex Corde Ecclesia, John Paul II's decree that bishops must periodically certify theologians to teach.
The modern totalitarian state has followed suit. China, for example, now uses mostly economic and passive forms of control -- such as curbing the Web in its corner of cyberspace.
Indeed, that's the form of the future and why Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" is a more likely prophecy than George Orwell's "1984," which was really a depiction of postwar Stalinism and McCarthyism with a little science fiction thrown in.
Why bully people into doing something half-heartedly when you can turn their minds so that they'll beg to do what you want? Madison Avenue refined that approach into an art.
Remember all those people fighting each other at stores to part with their money in exchange for gadgets and trinkets to put under their Christmas trees or Hanukkah bushes or whatever? Yep, that's it.
This is part of why it should be no surprise that Microsoft, Yahoo and Google are falling over each other to make money acting as proxies for the totalitarian-minded Chinese political leadership. Business here acts as proxies for the U.S. government, doesn't it? Isn't the Iraq War a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton?
Indeed, here in the "democracies" is where totalitarianism thrives unchecked and even unnoticed. You don't thinks so? Take a small check of where power lies and how it is structured.
The government is, in theory, elected and representative. But, then, what about the elections of 2000, in which a majority of Americans got a president they didn't vote for, and the squeaker of 2004 that suggests that very close to half the population really don't approve of the Bush regime? So, not so elected.
As to representative, Congress just passed cuts in medical services and aid to the 15 percent poorest people to give huge tax cuts to the 2 percent richest! Robin Hood in reverse rules the land. It's the best Congress money can buy, as advocates put it. See for yourself, right here.
In any case, the government is not the most powerful entity in the land, laws to the contrary. No, the real power resides in corporate boards. Who are these white, male (almost exclusively, except for token show) faceless corporate directors who really run the country with bland-sounding resolutions in finely appointed plush rooms? Who elected them? What is their agenda?
They're the folks who own Congress -- and the presidency and the legal system. That's the American totalitarian system of control.
Its methods are more subtle than the Gulag. Corporate totalitarianism sells gleaming products that cost less to make than you pay for ("profit") and last for a shorter period than you would really like ("planned obsolescence"). If you complain, you get "customer service" which is designed to drive you crazy so that you never get back what was yours. If something really goes wrong, they deny, deny, deny.
Ever notice what happens when there's an air crash, an accident, a defect in manufacturing? Regiments of lawyers trot out to gag everyone.
Freedom of the press? Oh, when it comes to government, more or less. But when it comes to corporations? You've got to be kidding.
Companies disclose the bare minimum in required papers they must file for investor information. Try filing a freedom of information act request with a corporation to find out whether they really fouled up a river or gouged consumers or advertised falsely. When did you last see a newspaper or television news program aggressively investigate any of its adverstisers' business practices?
We are already slouching toward the brave, brave new world in 2006.
Like Catholicism and the old, industrial forms of totalitarianism, the American Way of totalitarianism has its own rosy version of the truth-telling George Washington and honest Abe, its shunting off critics to the boring dull sidelines, and its blaring, glaring stream of advertising, always repeating the same lies over and over again, until the biggest of all lies are believed.
The American totalitarian system -- which flourishes in every First World nation in the world and has other nations panting to get in -- is so good at its persuasion that it even finances, free, the expression of criticism such as this one. Looks good doesn't it? Freedom of expression in action, right?
Except when you turn on the television and the radio, and read the newspaper, you won't see any of this reflected there. Instead, everything written and said will assume the infallible theology of the great American Way.
I hand you now back to your regular programming.