Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Vision of Violence

This seems a good time to run this, from 1969. Some of it is dated, and the full book is even more dated, but look at what the author got right.
Take the fine expensive home you live in, with its automatic defenses and its mines sown under the lawn like daffodil-bulbs. You shut yourself up behind armor-plate, you shut your mind, too. You advertise Guardian traps on your show, don't you—those steel bands spiked like an iron maiden? What's the mentality of someone who's prepared to come home from visiting neighbors and find a corpse hung up in the doorway? I say he's already insane when he commits himself to that course of action, and you don't have to wait for him to lose his marbles under an overdose of [psychoactive drugs] before he stops thinking as a responsible mature person ought to! And what's the reason that's advanced for acting this way?

[Individualism!] And what's this been twisted into? The biggest Big Lie in history! It's no use making your life so private you refuse to learn from other people's experience—you just get stuck in a groove of mistakes you need never have made. We have more knowledge available at the turn of a switch than ever before, we bring any part of the world into our own homes, and what do we do with it? Half the time we advertise goods people can't afford, and anyhow they've got the color and hold controls [analog tech] adrift because the pretty patterns are fun to look at when you've bolted and barred your mind with drugs. Split! Divide! Separate! Shut your eyes and maybe it'll go away!

We mine our gardens, we close our frontiers, we barricade our cities with […] lines to shut off black from white, we divide, divide, divide! It gets into our families, […], it gets into our very love-making! Christ, do you know I had a girl student last year who thought we was having an affair with a boy back home and all they'd ever done was sit in front the comweb and masturbate at each other? Twenty miles apart! They'd never even kissed! We're going insane, our whole blasted species—we're heading for screaming ocholophobia! Another couple of generations and husbands will be afraid to be alone in the same room with their wives, mothers will be afraid of their babies, if there are any babies!

And for what purpose? Why are we encouraging the spread of this lunacy? I mean we here, in North America. I don't mean […] the richest people in the world battening on the poorest. That's just greed, which is a comparatively clean kind of vice. I'm talking about perversion, horrible, disgusting, systematic, deliberate perversion of the power of reason to destroy people without killing them, to strip them of their initiative, their joy in life, their hope, […], their last ultimate irreducible human resource, hope. Out of sheer desperation millions of people are abandoning the use of reason, bankrupting themselves to buy [new age junk], in a last puerile attempt to outdo the bastards who've made "reason" a dirty word.

They've done it, you know—it's the dirtiest word in any human vocabulary right now. And it's been brought about in my own lifetime, almost entirely. Cold rational decisions, every step leading to them perfectly logical, underlay the wars in Asia […] and at every step we lost. Not just the wars, but bits ourselves. Compassion. Empathy. Love. Pity. We systematically chopped ourselves down to the measure of a machine.

How could you expect a man to be a good neighbor when he's spent years shooting at shadows, moving tree-branches, silhouettes on window-shades? How could you expect him to be a good citizen when he's seen his government authorize the killing of thousands, millions of other human beings? How could you expect him to be a good father when he's spent his early twenties torturing children to get information about enemy troop positions? That started as far back as the seventies, wasn't it? – John Brunner, The Jagged Orbit, 1969.

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