This week has been interesting due to all the news about how the Obama administration is spying on all of us. The revelation that the government has a computer program that can “read your thoughts as you write them” has disturbed many.
To me it is another example of our high context/romantic/Dionysian culture. It is characteristic of a high context culture for its officials to collect information about everyone and everything.
Mass surveillance has been going on for centuries. It was done previously through networks of people, and now it is done by computers. Nothing about the goal has changed only the method has changed.
Orwell coined the current meaning of “Big Brother” but the concept was out there long before. “Big brother” is steeped in Christian mythology, the idea that a younger sibling could look up to an older brother for help, protection, and guidance is quite old. It is a core idea in Western paternalism. Orwell just gave it a tyrant’s flavor.
The term “big brother” was common and growing in the mid 19th century as the below ngram shows. It peaks in the early 20th century as the last version of Romanticism climaxed. Then it drifts sideways and a little down during the strong years of Modernism. From the mid 1960s going forward, the term’s popularity rises significantly in the Orwellian version. (click on image to view bigger)
Mark Twain used the idea in his Tom Sawyer. Here is Tom talking with a new boy:
“You’re a coward and a pup. I’ll tell my big brother on you, and he can thrash you with his little finger, and I’ll make him do it, too.”
“What do I care for your big brother? I’ve got a brother that’s bigger than he is—and what’s more, he can throw him over that fence, too.” And they proceeded to fight.
The news this week tells us much about our changed political environment. We all know that the Republicans are the party with no ideas, their favorite word is “no”, they promote Big Oil and national security, and they have wet dreams of the 1950s. While they are ever present, they are an anachronism.
Worse hypocrites are the Democrats. They have many agents out there touting their “progressive” agenda, but it is a farce. No one in politics is truly pushing the New Deal/Great Society values. There is nothing progressive about them. Clinton and Obama are New Democrats. Their values have little connection to LBJ or Carter. There is an illusion that they are—but they really are not.
The New Democrats are not liberals. They love Big Technology, Big Finance, and Big Brotherism infused with the oder of aristocracy. They are not fostering a “Nanny state” but a high tech matrixed web of control of information from which they delude themselves into believing that they can control the sheeple.
The New Democrats resemble the Democratic party of the 1850s because they are conservatives: they are pseudo-aristocrats jockeying for power and control; they believe in freedom for themselves but not for others (think debt sevitude); they want corporations to dictate politics; and, they believe in Mind Control, one of the greatest myths of the 20th century.
Their Achilles’ Heel is a simple truism: information does not directly translate into power. Information has to be interpreted and those doing the research will always be biased. Thus, Truth is never fully seen.
I’ve done enough quantitative research to know that statistics hide as much as they reveal. That is the very reason that this web site is qualitative.