Happy belated Canada Day, and to our American friends Happy Independence Day today!
V for Vendetta, a futuristic movie released in 2006, is about the struggle between freedom and the state in Britain in the year 2020. The movie follows similar themes to George Orwell’s book, 1984. As with many futuristic portrayals of society, a dire warning of authoritarian control is the underlying theme. Its plot is topical today as it involves a terrorist organization unleashing a mysterious disease, killing 80,000 citizens of Britain and in the process, establishing a totalitarian regime. The similarities to today do not stop at a deadly virus but rather expand upon the age-old issues of freedom of speech, surveillance, privacy, race, religion, and gender inequality. Many of these factors not only lead to wealth inequality and injustices but keep groups of citizens at a permanent disadvantage. These issues all need reflection and consideration particularly as we celebrate our countries foundations. One only needs to turn on the television or go onto social media to appreciate the power of storytelling seemingly predicting our future. Perhaps, it is these story tellers who can best project the future upon reflecting on their reality. It is sobering to think about how we might portray our world in 20 years’ time, knowing only what we know today.
1984 (Orwell), The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway), To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee) and Charlotte’s Web (White) were all expressions of creative thought, sometimes reflecting things society was perhaps not ready to acknowledge and which at times was banned in Canada and the U.S.A over the past 60 years. Censorship in countries that scream about the First Amendment or Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms is an ugly truth. The United States has a history of trouncing others’ rights that in their own country, are gospel. While not part of the U.S. Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance states: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Not exactly what we see on screen these days. The argument is made that Canada suffers similar short comings; however, many believe it is more nuanced as opposed to the overt actions we see in United States.
Today, we seemingly live in a world where we are told everything is fake and all is well when it is not. It is an Orwellian mixed world of political doublespeak, while we are watched by Big Brother, with thoughtcrime creeping into our every day lives. In short, we seem to live in a world turned upside down; where truth, facts and The American Miracle are drowned by the flood of mis- and dis- information that is fired from digital cannons competing for our attention and fidelity.
‘Thought leaders’ from all political stripes suggest that the best solution is to restrict and hide the ugly truths that are laid bare by these digital flame throwers. Or are they perhaps fire hoses? By exposing (lighting fires) the many ills of our time, are they not part of the solution perhaps? Politicians suggest that they are the better arbitrators of what we should see, learn, hear, and express. They propose that “ignorance is bliss.” Their method would be incremental, starting with ‘moderate regulation’ to temper the deviant behaviors of some. Will we soon be in “Room 101” being taught their perceived version of good behaviours? With the occasional boot suppressing bad actors threatening their concept of order?
Why the political commentary? Hopefully, you are reading this during the first week of July, when both an American and Canadian celebration of nationhood take place. Politics shape a nation and set the sails, but it is the ‘passengers’ of the vessel that that make it work. A healthy nation makes for a healthy economy and that is good for business. Today, we suffer not just a pandemic, but a world torn by multiple inequalities, inequities, and injustices. Economics 101, common-sense and most religious beliefs lead to the admonition that by doing good to others we do well unto ourselves. Henry Ford built a miracle because he wanted his employees to earn enough to buy his product and it worked. Google and Facebook want to bring information to the world. Some would call the output of Google and Facebook a car accident. Some would say they have liberated and exposed facts for all to see and learn. We did not stop Ford from building cars because driving resulted in accidents. We should not ban/regulate free speech because speech exposes opinions different than ours. We should be careful who decides what we know, see, hear, and learn. Ugly truths exposed are far superior to the horrors behind closed doors. All that being said, we as consumers also need to do our due diligence in where we are getting our information and news from. Deep fakes that look astoundingly real and convincing, as well as “memes” that claim to be factual and are commonly circulated on channels like Facebook by special interest groups or other countries that have interests in directing a certain narrative. It is important to the well-being of society that we truly understand what we share and say, and make sure that we are not simply targets for misinformation.
“Strength through unity and unity through faith.” This slogan is often used as a rallying cry by politicians – particularly fascists. The argument goes that a nation can only be strong if it is united and united requires trust in the central planning authority. Today, the government tells us they are in control of everything—cures have been mandated; money is unlimited. They have assumed control and the capitalists love it. To think otherwise is terrifying. Strength through unity and faith. Hallelujah.
Image Credit: Amazon.com