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15th-Jan-2010 12:13 pm
THIRTY DAYS OF MEME: 5: Your favourite quote.

I said this was going to be what I've traditionally claimed to be may favourite book. So.

Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2 makes 4. Once that is granted, all else will follow.
- George Orwell, 1984
I first read 1984 in 1999: I was eighteen, in my first year at university. At the time, I wasn't particularly political and didn't worry much about Government interference in our lives, so the book didn't sway me much politically (that would come later).

I was maturing as an adult humanist at the time, having spent a lot of my teenage years as a Smug Atheist, and in the sixth form, actually encountering Creationists - one was even my physics teacher - so at the time I was a believer in the science vs. religion dichotomy and harboured some very strong anti-religious feelings.

I say this to give context to the fact that I didn't read 1984 as a particularly anti-government book so much as I did an anti-religion book. I think the parallels are still there, if you accept that The Party represents any group with power and a vested interest in maintaining that power by controlling the thoughts and actions of the people who give it power - it doesn't even have to be an organised type of power like a Government or a Religious Organisation - groups with power over people maintain that power by convincing the oppressed groups that they have a right to that power - and that means controlling the thoughts of those oppressed.

As long as someone can tell you that 2+2 makes five and you believe them, you are not free. As soon as you can see something that is self-evident, true and right, and you can say it out loud without consequences, you become free.

Nowadays my enemy of choice is not anything as easily defined as The Government or Organised Religion. It's much more the insipid power the (sorry, guys) Western white middle-class able-bodied cis male patriarchy has on society as a whole - because it's there and it controls the prominent narrative of society and it makes us believe things like "women can't do maths" and "poor people are lazy" and "bisexuality doesn't exist" or whatever - because those things are advantageous to the status quo.

Not that this is deliberate brainwashing on behalf of every able-bodied white Western middle class cis man, but as long as these ideas remain prominent in the public consciousness, the more the people they benefit can remain in power, and as long as some groups have power other other groups, the ideas that benefit the powerful have more - well, lets skip the words and go straight to memetic fitness. I'm going to explain neither memes nor the concept of fitness and selection here, but that's the basis of what I'm trying to say. There's feedback between 'common wisdom' and the balance of power in society, and they reinforce.

It's not just about identity politics; that's just my current major political issue. It's also about a Government (or just a powerful political lobby) controlling what the public think in order to stay in power or gain more power. It's also about an organised religion telling its devotees what to believe and how to interpret their faith and what do do, in order to retain power there. It's about civil liberties and Creationism and medicine and everything important.

If you can see what is self-evident, factual and true, and say "this is", and know that it is, you are free.
If you hear and accept and believe a lie just because you were told it, then you are not.

I don't think anyone is free just yet.
16th-Jan-2010 01:07 am (UTC)
Of course, ask most of my fellow Western white middle-class able-bodied cis males about this, and they'll casually dismiss it as a myth--and some might even then claim victimhood on the basis of... well, it's never been clear to me exactly how they make a case for being victims, and because I would probably have to watch Fox News regularly to find out, I'd rather just leave that mystery unsolved.

But the persistence of a patriarchal advantage is not only undeniable, it's insidious. I need only throw on a suit and tie, and there it is, ready for me to make use of it in even the most casual day-to-day circumstances. (The effect can sometimes be startling.)

That isn't something that gets talked about very often, for obvious reasons, but I suspect it's one reason why a man might make a steady rightward slide as he moves into adulthood--it's just so convenient. And the patriarchy always has any number of self-delusionary rationalizations kept ready and waiting should he need any help sleeping at night.
26th-Jan-2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
Wow. The part about memetic fitness in particular was a moment of instant recognition for me, and I wish I had thought to express it even half as cogently.

This post is just awesome. Thank you.
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