Monday, September 8, 2014

Change the date by 30 years ... and it's 1984

Twenty-five years ago, Milton Friedman wrote this open letter to conservative columnist William J. Bennett, which was published in the Wall Street Journal:

This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.
– Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006)
   An Open Letter to Bill Bennett, published in the Wall Street Journal, September 7, 1989

In 1949, when he wrote "1984", Orwell predicted all we've seen in the past dozen years, essentially governments that rule over the people, and don't exist to "serve and protect" the citizenry.  Governments that reinforce their power with fear at home, and continuous war abroad, against one enemy after another, sometimes conveniently reversing the role of friend and foe (as in Syria).

Orwell predicted the torture in secret prison facilities, the heavily-militarized police forces, the perpetual warfare, the ubiquitous spying, and the continuous fear-mongering of the government.

Orwell predicted a government that acted as though it was the master of the citizens of Oceania, and he predicted a citizenry that acted as though that was "normal".  

He predicted today's America.

Orwell's predictions were right on the mark — he was just 30 years early.  Substitute "cell phone" for "telescreen", the NSA and the DHS and the TSA and the CIA, they perform the functions of the Ministries of Truth, Love and Peace; bin Laden, Gaddafi, Hussein, Putin, they've all assumed the role of "Goldstein," and we'll have a new target soon for our fear and hatred.

It's not 2014; it's 1984.