We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Literalmindedness and the redefinition of thought

Compare this:

By 2050 earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

Syme {no relation} in 1984

with this:

People’s names are already on a large number of databases.
Most of us have dozens of cards in our wallets with our identities on. We
already have a Big Brother society. ID cards mean identity fraud can be dealt with and stopped. ID cards are a means of controlling the Big Brother society rather than creating it. Big Brother society is already here.

Charles Clarke, quoted in the Eastern Daily Press today.

Controlling the Big Brother society might sound like preventing it, restraining it. But your expectations deceive you. Forget literary allusion. “Big Brother society” means whatever the establishment defines it to mean.

Now consider only the words, how they literally fit together. Big Brother society = our society. ID cards are a means of controlling society.

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8 comments to Literalmindedness and the redefinition of thought

  • El Ezer

    Irrelevant propaganda spam deleted. Don’t do it again.

  • J. Jacob

    To an extent, shouldn’t society have some sort of control mechanism? I mean, look at the goings on of New Orleans. When the super-imposed structure of society and the government are stripped away, you’re left with human nature, just as Hobbes predicted it. The Leviathan is a necessary “evil”, with its ID Cards and the lot.

  • guy herbert

    No. Orderly human societies have survived for hundreds of years without ID cards, personal dossiers, and centralised control of everyone’s life. The structure of society has generally not been superimposed (rather systemic), nor a function of government to regulate. Modern Government control, which is to say bureaucratic management, is (often deliberately) destructive of competing mechanisms of social regulation.

    Hobbes was not predicting anything. He was looking back, in particular on the 30 Years’ War and the English Civil Wars, and reflecting on lawless power in multiple and indeterminate hands. Hobbesian absolutism was essentially to do with maintaining political order and structure within which life could continue, not determining every whit how people should live their everyday lives.

    Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.

    – A.J.P. Taylor in the Oxford History of England

    Until recently the degree of control sought by the modern bureaucratic social managers in formerly liberal democracies was a practical impossibility even for the most repressive of regimes. Even the most rigorous of early 20th century police-states were content to limit their surveillance to the intelligentsia and stamping out independent economic power.

    New Orleans is a bad example for you, since the evidence appears to be not that order broke down generally, but that the disaster concentrated and exposed the endemic lawlessless of life in the underclass which has been unsuccessfully suppressed and controlled (and quite possibly made worse) by government intervention in the lives of the poor.

  • Karl Lebeouf

    Regarding the comments about unused school busses in New Orleans. I’m amazed by the comments from you all notionally and internationally pursusuing “the blame game” when it comes to New Orleans and Louisiana officials. I’m the first to say that not evacuating those that didn’t have trasportation, some 20-25 thousand or so, was and will never be acceptable but:

    The buses wouldn’t of held all the evacuees.
    If the city ships them out on buses the city has to find a place for them to ALL go and then has to pay to house and feed them. SIMPLY PUT, THERE AREN’T MANY CITES OR FOR THAT MATTER STATES IN THE NATION THAT CAN LOGISTICALLY AND FINICALLY AFFORD TO DO THIS. As a native of New Orleans and Louisiana, they simply don’t have the budget or manpower.

    Why don’t you all place the blame on the only portion of government that can really handle these situations, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!

  • guy herbert


    That comment (though not idiot propaganda like El Ezer’s deleted comment) is utterly irelevant to this discussion. Are you sure you are commenting on the right blog?

  • My biggest complaint with the federal response to Katrina is that they actually PREVENTED rescue efforts. One group brought dozens of boats to the effort, and FEMA put them through a 10-hour inspection that culminated in the boats being rejected because they did not have enough chairs. Generators, truckloads of water, and donations of fuel were turned back. Also, they split up families once they actually started evacuating people from the “terrordome” and convention center. Straight up. Government will not protect you. They will never be anything more than faceless beaurocrats who will round you up at the point of a gun and take you to a “shelter” where they will impose petty rules to keep you under control. Remember Bush’s first reaction? Did he offer assistance to the drowning people? No, he offered to shoot some looters and impose martial law. Best to plan for your own protection.
    As for the lawlessness following the storm, the police are now saying that it was exaggerated. Who knows? Now is the time when everyone is trying to cover their butts. Check out Democracy Now! , however. There are 517 prisoners missing and allegations that many were left locked in their cells, and that they ultimately drowned.

  • guy herbert

    That has nothing to do with the post either. This is a blog about British civil liberties, not American disaster relief.

  • Sorry. I got caught up in the irrelevant conversation. However, my point that government will not make you safe applies to Brits as well. Better look after your own safety, the best the government can do is gun down innocent people in the subway. I find the loss of civil liberties to have frightening implications for all of us. The political elites everywhere seem to be following the same fascist agenda.