Last night, a new friend gave me her book - a book of photography. It's a beautifully presented book: a black canvas wrapped hard cover. Against the black background sits a map of the United States. A hologram image consisting of the blue and red map of the 2000 elections. Guess which state changes as you move the image? Ah - Florida, yes...memories...
As you flip through the book, words blitz your brain - big, bold, blurred, superimposed, digitally broken, faded, tiled and tilted. Words that have come to signify our time, our country, our legacy. Although it is short, one feels as having read an entire manuscript of information by the time the last page flips over. It is an artistic avalanche of information - a unique way of representing not only our past but how the media serves it up and how we devour it. The book is entitled Newspeak.
For all you out there who haven't read George Orwell's 1984, first of all, go get it - the parallels and eerily prophetic musings make this book a top priority in any literary canon. Secondly, newspeak, in the book, refers to a dumbed down language promoted by the state. It is based on English but consists of an entirely impoverished vocabulary, with the intention of demonizing any thinking outside the box..."crimethink." Any words supporting the ideals of freedom, rebellion or independence are systematically pulled ; an ever dwindling language, destroyed at the hands of a centrally controlled corporate-like dictatorship. The ultimate goal is to reduce all language to one word that will encompass all emotions and thoughts deemed suitable by the state, for the un-thinking masses.
Now, this book was first published in 1949. It takes place, obviously, in 1984. While the full scope of this dystopian society wasn't realized by 1984, nor even now, the wheels of a "Big Brother" styled society were set in motion long before teased hair and neon barrettes.
When corporations first came into being, they maintained a strict civic and business role. Damned if they were allowed any place in elections or political policy. They were also contractually only allowed to exist for a certain period of time, unless a charter was renewed. Basically, they would fill a charter and that charter would have to deliver some sort of social service. Once that was fulfilled, the corporation would be dissolved. At that point, the shareholders would take their portion of the assets. By law, corporations were only allowed to exist within the rigid confines of their charter, and charters were not handed out willy-nilly. It was in fact, pretty damn difficult to create and operate a corporation.
As difficult as it was, Corruption and the American corporation became fast friends. More and more frequently, corporations overstepped the bounds of their charters - using their corporate power to control labor, resources, elections and rights. Huge factory systems and company towns were born. Money and power were never meant to be steadfast bedfellows of the body politic. But the turbulent romance flourished as the industrial age surged ahead, creating an exodus from the rural "mom n' pop" to the urban big leagues. The influx of former farmers looking for city work created an ideal platform for corporate power to breed on. Blacklists of workers rights organizations and unions became commonplace. When the smell of rebellion wafted through the stale factory air, corporations hired private armies, bought newspapers, and legislators to disinfect the activist auras.
The days of the Charter were gone - although legislation still exists outlining the purpose and duties of a corporation, the people to stand up for it are missing.
Words on their own are just words. Just like the book I was gifted, just like 1984, just like our prized Constitution - all just words. Unless there is someone who attributes meaning to them, unless there is someone who sees it, thinks and reacts, they are dormant ideas.
Interestingly enough for Orwell, the 80s saw the largest increase in corporate trusts, conglomerates, privatization and transnational dealings. And here we are, 2011.
Our government, supporting corporate deregulation, personal rights - giving praise to the very entities holding a match while the domestic and international hell fires burn.
I don't want to ruin the book for you, but it doesn't have a happy ending. It takes more than one "crimethinker" to fight against Big Brother - it takes more than one mind uncovering meaning and hope in words and ideas to effect change...how many of us are there?
The greatest threat to a dictatorial regime is a thinking populous. It may sound extreme to liken our situation to a dictatorship, but think of our issues - economy, health care, education, infrastructure, terrorism, homeland security, foreign policy, wars - tell me one of those that isn't wrapped in a corporate contract.
The more you think, the more you dig, the more you research, the more you find, how much of your life is not your own, how many rights you don't have, how much of this country is not what it seems to be. And in effect, that's our fault. By doing nothing, we have allowed them to do so much.
It's about time, we all did more "crimethinking" - think critically - think of freedom, rebellion against a dictatorial regime built on power and greed.
Think, react - Do Something.