Monday, June 4, 2012

Popular Culture Predicts the Future

Poplitiko has long suggested that popular culture is a valid window upon our society.  Perhaps we haven't explored it as much as we should, but the truth remains.   Talk all you like about Star Wars like devices, or the goals of Star Trek or the realities of the Alien or Predator franchises.   They all have their good qualities.   I am not suggesting they do not.  But the most forward thinking works in our popular Western culture are not those, not nearly so.   We aren't in the stars, we aren't mining asteroids, we don't have the speed of light or any where near so fast.  So until we do, think of them as wishful thinking.

The next portion of this article applies a variety of ideas from the books that will be discussed, and might be perceived as political, I reject that, since I am not a person who is politically motivated. However, if it moves you to be angered by such, consider this a warning about the content.

George Orwell's 1984 presents a story that speaks to the present, despite having been written in 1949 describes much of today's world.   A new language of newspeak, refers directly to the present.   The Patriot act allows surveillance for your safety, or is it for your or anyone's safety?  Fetus is not a baby?  The control of the debate by those who wish to control the society absolutely exists.  Whichever side controls the debate controls the definitions we use.

"In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word."

For example:  Chuck Dixon is a writer of comics, and when presented with an opportunity to write a newly christened lesbian hero, he suggested that he wouldn't be writing about her bedroom activities.  This was called bias, and bigotry.   Despite the fact that Chuck Dixon didn't write the bedroom activities of any straight hero either, the people in charge of making comics and those who want more representation in comics and media of formerly outsider communities protested.   Bigot.  A word that is nearly the equivalent of calling someone a racist.  A permanent stain.   But was it true?   My experience would suggest not at all.   But once that term is used, you can hardly pull it back.   Newspeak:  A bigot is one who doesn't endorse your opinion.   Newspeak:  You cannot disapprove or disagree with the mainstream, or you are a bigot.  Regardless of whatever is being promoted.

To be clear, I support and agree with Gay/Lesbian marriage.   I agree that inclusion and diversity are good things.   But I don't agree with people who wish to label a person, without there being any evidence, and then by words making the label apply.

ThoughtCrime is another 1984 concept.   You don't have to go very far to see how society makes this 1984 concept part of the present.   You have the internet, you have freedom of speech, but the moment you watch something that isn't approved of by society you become a marked person.   The internet code, the ISP code, allows government to watch what you watch, to thereby think how you might be thinking.   Freedom of speech doesn't have a caveat of "so long as it is appropriate" and yet, more and more, ThoughtCrime and the internet show us how the FBI and CIA watch our behavior, and label it, and make sure we don't misbehave, even if we never would, they fear "we might".

There is a Ministry of Truth, that pursues and prosecutes those who do not obey the dictates of the hyper mediated society.

Some would suggest that Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is even more relevant than 1984.  The worker is kept productive and "happy" with drugs.   The leaders and role models of society wish for perfection.   Cloning is considered a means to achieving all of this.

Happy drugs?  If Anti-Depressants (of which I partake) aren't happy pills I don't know what is.   If we aren't coerced into being medicated by society then I think we are dealing with another brand of Newspeak.

Perfect people?  Plastic  surgery is used more and more with greater results to achieve a look of perfection, to achieve a physical body that mirrors what we consider to be perfect.   Do not for a moment wonder if this isn't some means to becoming perfect for some, whether it is or not is entirely a different thing to ask... but people are trying.

Cloning?  DNA experiments and science as we speak are learning how to use DNA to replicate body parts of humans.   This isn't the future, this is right now.   How soon therefore will it be to go from body parts to entire bodies?  And how soon before the organ and part harvest begins?

"At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
"… all wear green," said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, "and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."

There was a pause; then the voice began again.

"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"

The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows.

"They'll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson.""

So there you are, we not only are living in the future, we are living in future dystopias.   Welcome to the future. 


Anonymous said...

All the ROFLOL type of acronyms were predicted by Orwell in 1984 as thinkspeak, doublespeak, and Ingsoc---the decay and decline of language due to laziness, and the 'net is rife with it.

Comics are dead anyway, so Dixon outta get a real job and clear out. It's a moral cesspool at the Big Two anyway.

alex-ness said...

The acronyms are indeed other forms of the new languages predicted.