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Schrodinger’s Cat, 1984, Serendipity, And Why The Right People Will Read This

About two years ago, I wrote the post below, so if you read it at the time, you don’t have to re-read it. Actually, even if you didn’t, you don’t have to. We haven’t entered into a fascist state.

No, really. In spite of the fact that a journalist can be prevented from telling you what the security services have been doing – even if it’s illegal – without facing a ten-year jail sentence, we haven’t become a fascist state. In spite of the fact that you could be taken into custody by ASIO tonight and held for a period of time and neither you nor I wouldn’t be allowed to tell the media, we haven’t become a fascist state.

I could tell you that – under the new laws – a journalist has been arrested and…

Actually, under the new laws, I couldn’t tell you that at all. Well, I suppose I could, but I’d be risking imprisonment and I don’t believe that any or you would visit me.

So, I won’t to assure you that NOBODY has been imprisoned and held under our anti-terrorism laws. EVER. And if we ever found out that they had, we wouldn’t be allowed to tell anyone…

Which is ironic. Because it sort of means that the anti-terror laws are a potential Schrondinger’s Cat. (Actually, I knew about that before I heard about it on “The Big Bang Theory” so I don’t feel it’s just a popular culture thing…)

Aw shit, I was going to write a whole thing on the basic flaw in Morrison’s comments and Peter Costello’s article that told us that the highest income earners were paying the most tax. Something about the fact that some of the “lowest” income earners are making paper losses while driving a new model foreign car….

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with driving a foreign car, because we’ll all be doing that soon.

Anyway, as to what I posted a couple of years ago, here it is and given the wonderful, serendipitous nature of all things lately, I suspect that you’ll enjoy this. If not, reassess your whole life!

Ok then, the post from two years ago:

1984 is dated – Huxley was right!

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

Neil Postman “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

Some books are ahead of their time. The quote above is from a book written in 1985, well before the Internet added to the white noise of what passes for information, before Reality TV reduced things to static and encouraged us to see good guys and bad guys. A couple of days ago, I was reminded of it by a comment about the ten second grab for the evening news, so I searched my bookshelves and found it. It’s been years since I read it, but flicking through, I found it quite amazing.

In one chapter of the book, Postman talks about a debate between Lincoln and his political opponent in 1854 where, after a three-hour address by his opponent, Lincoln suggests that the audience go home and have dinner before he begins his three-hour reply. Of course, there was nothing much else to do in 1854. No Internet, no TV, no Radio. So listening to political opponents speak would have been a novelty. But it would be hard to imagine one of our leaders today letting his audience walk out before some sort of reply had been given – even if it were only a promise to stop the boats.

For years I’ve felt that what we call “News” is a voyeuristic prying into things that don’t really concern us. Spectacular film of something will get greater coverage than Government decisions that affect us all. A ten-car pile-up with exciting footage will get more airtime than an earthquake in a third world country that kills thousands. I suspect this book has influenced the way I see such things, but re-reading it, I find its message more accurate than I did when I first read it twenty-five years ago.

Is politics a version of “Big Brother” or “MasterChef”? – Julia has been voted out of the house. Kevin Rudd has taken over and reduced the lead according to the latest opinion poll. Who’s in front? Who will win? Exciting, isn’t it? This soap opera will only mention policy briefly, if at all. Kevin offers to debate Tony at the National Press Club. Tony says he’ll wait until the election date. But I very much doubt that there’ll be a three-hour debate. We don’t have that much interest in politics. We don’t care about how we’re governed enough to listen to these people for more than a few minutes at a time. There is no widespread condemnation of Abbott’s refusal to debate. It’s only to be expected. This is not about getting your point of view out there. This is about winning. Political commentary is often about whether the strategy is effective.

I once suggested that before people were allowed to vote that they needed to pass a test which showed that they had some understanding of the issues they were voting on. Someone wanted to know if the politicians had to pass the same test. I thought he was joking. Now, I’m not so sure.

P.S. I chose an Emu for the image because that’s on our coat of arms and I resent the fact that Tony Abbott is trying to change it to an Ostrich…

Do I need to explain that one?


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  1. Glenn

    I studied “Brave New World” and “1984” when I was a university student, working towards a degree in journalism. Bet that doesn’t happen anymore! My degree ended up as a major in Political Science…..but I became neither a politician or journalist, ending up instead as an IT sales professional. Go figure that one, and try to figure out in 2015 which of the three is the most honest profession. 🙂
    But I digress…… Back in 1981 when I read and dissected these two novels, I thought how far fetched and bizarre they seemed, though I understood analogies to periodic episodes of fascism in the recent past of the 20th century. I never expected to live in a fascist state in my lifetime, particularly as I lived and moved in a modern western society (Canada at the time, and now Australia). But I do live in a fascist state in 2015.
    Why we can’t see it and why most don’t care is because we live in a wealthy state. Italy and Germany in the 1930’s were far from wealthy (to cite two obvious examples of fascism). But we do, and the populace are distracted with the pursuit of material well-being, with most of us realizing it (material wealth) to an acceptable degree and therefore oblivious to the rising danger of the fascist state. Should the wealth of our nation implode from within or from external circumstances beyond our control…..well then, we’re in deep shit because extraordinary and obscene power now rests with the ruling elite, and they will exercise it to maintain their position.
    The difference between Orwell’s 1984 and Australia 2015 is that the minions do have shoes and do have material comfort. The great pacifier is the desire for a better car, not the desire for food on the table and shoes on your feet. But the fear is certainly there….one only needs to see the lack of compassion towards refugee’s to understand that.
    I loved the egalitarian Australia I moved to in 1986. I bemoan the loss of it.

  2. ianmac

    Bravissimo RossLeigh!!
    Fahrenheit 451 also springs to the fore whilst observing georgieporgy, puddin’joe and Abbott’s lies..

  3. Annie B

    Very interesting article Rossleigh.

    And hell yes – we certainly do live under ( or with ) a fascist regime as it reigns at present in our country.

    Seriously never thought I would see the day – that elitism and fascism would ever step foot on our soil and attempt to undermine our dearest held tenets.

    @ Glenn – your comments were succinct and well expressed …

    Thank you to both of you.

  4. stephentardrew

    Great read Rossleigh:

    Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) though not so political predicted many of the problems that confront us today. Futurology is a complete misnomer to politicians with their short attention spans focused upon the political cycle. There is a broad body of futurist literature that is primarily ignored by the mainstream for either short term self-satisfactions or long term sci-fi phantasmagoria where all of the vile traits of current human dysfunction are projected into the far future in the guise of absurd galactic wars. Truly dumb crap. Dumbing down of the dumbing down spread thick with great servings of magic, mythology, ideological dogmatism and religious primitivism. Meanwhile solutions waft pass in the noble land of academia rarely touching the base needs of greed and power. Sci-fi and mythological gobbledygook good. Real science not so good.

    That so much predicted by Orwell and Huxley is relevant today is quite chilling. They did realized just how easily led people are accepting their own demise, not with resignation, but with willingness to do the bidding of their masters.

    We live in worrying times.

  5. paul walter

    Yeah, I read that also, mid seventies. Prophetic in some ways.

    Most of the better dystopic novels have predicted where we are heading..Handmaids Tale is another in some respects, although mainly as to US Tea Party society just now.

    I think it all has gone past the point of no return and find myself angry with people like Blair, Clegg and Obama offshore and Shorten locally, almost as much as the various conservatives- I am glad I am older rather than younger, for what I foresee is oligarchy and neo feudalism overlaid by a thick lashing of Huxleyian dumb-down.

  6. Christel Nathan

    Scary Times ,

  7. Annie B

    @ stephen-t

    Being a reader, I tend to super interesting novels ( according to the blurb on the back cover – most books given to me for birthdays and Christmas and the friends / family who choose, do so very well ) …. This is a part of the way I relax. …. Most of the books are great reading. I also read autobiographies, and non-fiction.

    I have ” Future Shock ” in my many bookshelves, but have never had the guts to open it. …. A wimpy attitude on my part.

    There have been many writers who have dared to look into the future with uncanny accuracy. There have been many prophets … some perhaps on the ball, some absolutely not. … The tricky part is to decide which prophecy, or who, has been correct – in foreseeing the future, if one wants to delve so. …. ( Guess it wouldn’t take Einstein to figure out what our future might be under this current alleged government.)

    Leaving that aside for a moment … I found this little bit of wisdom :

    I tend to agree with this article. …. Perhaps because I don’t want to face full on, the implications of the book, and other books on a similar bent. ….

    Is that wimping out, or is it being self-protective and in survival mode ? …

    Newscasts here, in the past day or so, on the ‘pending’ ( they have been ‘pending’ since January or before, and are crude, crass, drawn out and cruel – from the Indonesian government ) …. have been nothing short of ghoulish – A media bad – big time ( ref. the now 99% probability of the shooting of 9 people who have broken laws in that country. … which of course include two Australian born men. ) …. Oh what scintillating news coverage this makes to the average bod ( and their children ) sitting down to dinner !!! …

    This kind of news coverage should be relegated to 10 pm or after.

    But I have digressed ( again ) ….

    My main question to you stephentardrew, is …. ” IS the pen mightier than the sword ” ( a debate I was involved in ages ago – as part of a debating society ) …. but a question that has been put forth many hundreds of times.

    According to Wikipedia ( ? ) …. it is : ” a metonymic adage indicating that communication, or in some interpretations, administrative power or advocacy of an independent press, is a more effective tool than direct violence.”

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this one – if you have an inclination to respond. … or for that matter, if anyone wants to respond.

  8. stephentardrew

    Annie B

    Shel Israel sort of makes me wonder who is better off and by what measure does he decide. Technology, class, fortune of birth, gender and so on? Toffler didn’t predict everything but enough to be of interest. I don’t know of a futurist who was not to some degree right and wrong yet the questions asked are essential to take us beyond mainstream thinking.

    As for the pen and sword one is the primitive reaction of an overactive limbic system driven by fear and autonomic drives while the other demands thoughtful reasoning however, unfortunately, much reasoning is not logical or reasonable so the relativist monster raises its ugly head. In a way the pen is as dangerous as the sword because many a word has led to war and violence so the pen is not mightier in this respect simply less damaging if held in check by reason and rationality. So reason, logic proof and application to empirical facts can be the basis of a written text that helps define why we should abhor violence by the sword yet be discriminating about our reasoning.

    Maybe I am an idealist but I really think most people want some sort of security, adequate housing, work, healthcare and sustenance. If you love your fellow beings, in the real sense that you do not wish to do them harm, then I think we are on the right track. Subjectivity seems to provide a broad variety of options for any system of belief so there can be many valid ways to love and care for our fellow humans, the animals that feed us, and the environment that provides health and beauty. So for a dreamer like me love, peace, justice, equity and reasonable distribution of goods go without saying but who am I to say. Once again we come up against primitive subconscious drives that lead to selfishness, greed and war alongside the pen that connects heart to head, reason to logic, and rationality to non-judgment. Judgment blame and retribution don’t need swords they just need compliance by those who cannot think beyond ideological self-interest.

    I have been thinking about a contemporary consensus approach to justice equity and utility founded upon the two major dynamics of natural selection survival-fitness, cooperation and mutuality. What logical constructs are required? Causation and a predominantly determinist reality place people in their circumstances regardless of the choice and free will mantra. If we understand the causal contingencies to behaviour it is possible to set out a framework of simple rules such as reasoning should supplanting raw emotion, do unto to others, least harm, tracing the causal contributors to behaviour and ridding ourselves of judgment blame and retribution for a logical approach to action and consequences.

    There have been reams and reams of philosophical material written about the pen and the sword however all I am left with is my sense of kindness and compassion and if one must stand alone so be it. Most philosophers get me no closer to myself than what I can see based upon my need for love and therefore acceptance that others need love and sustenance. Too many polemic complications not enough simple kindness and goodness.

    Maybe the heart is mightier than both the pen and sword.

  9. Annie B

    @stephen t ….

    Your comments here hold much – and more. ….

    “Maybe the heart is mightier than both the pen and sword. “ …. how right you most likely are.

    I took the affirmative in that debate – 2nd speaker. And it has troubled me since – not on a regular basis by any means, but here and there, occasionally. …. Because I could not answer the question, to my own satisfaction – even though I took a stand on one side of the debate. … that was my duty in the debate.

    Did / does the pen hold more might, more strength, more power – than the sword ? Most times I have thought it does – but perhaps that is only because I am a writer ( of short stories and poetry, and a novel – very much still in its infancy – I am short on discipline ) – and just hope it does ?.

    I have researched Shel Israel and he seems a very very interesting character – as a writer, and a consultant. …. Must have a bit more of a rummage around on the i-net about him. … What pursuit he writes from ( as you question ) would probably rely on the listener / reader to interpret … and I only say that, as anything read or listened to, is subjective – for the observer, not the writer / producer.

    I read your comments thoroughly, and 3 words jumped out and hit me in the face ….. ” primitive subconscious drives ” ….. it occurred to me that both the pen and the sword can be driven by the same – one is overtly aggressive ( the sword ) and the other is ? … perhaps covertly aggressive, couched in soft terms to beguile and wheedle, in order to achieve a reaction ?. … A reaction that might not in fact, be at all heart-felt, sympathetic, loving or quietly and carefully manifested. … You observed similar – in various ways.

    Which brings me right back to square one !! …. Sometimes | maybe | no conclusion.

    So – I think I will hang my hat on your final sentence ” Maybe the heart is mightier than both the pen and sword. “. and perhaps the occasional niggle will not present again. !! …. It is a good thought.

    thank you Stephen.

  10. Pingback: Schrodinger’s Cat, 1984, Serendipity, And Why The Right People Will Read This. — Written by ROSSLEIGH | winstonclose

  11. Kerri

    Thought provoking Rossleigh! And what of todays news? More on executions and earthquakes. Too good an opportunity for the neo-libs to miss. What skulldugggery will emerge in 3 months time when it is all too late?

  12. Zathras

    I’ve noticed that “the news” as well as politics is becoming more like “infotainment” – presented in easily digestible chunks with no depth or serious analysis and that the public view history through a moving window only a few days wide.

    Their shortened attention span makes context unimportant.

    It’s also strongly based on emotion – usually outrage – because we are influenced by our emotions and whoever controls our emotions can control us.

  13. Bronte ALLAN

    Sadly, I think that the bloody rabbit has already adopted the Ostrich for his “team” (sic) mascot! With his own head in the sand & flat Earth thinking & actions, we are all doomed to be treated like Ostriches!

  14. eli nes

    Who would have thought orwell and huxley could both be right depending on the lie chosen for that day and its method of delivery?
    And the winner is?????? tarantara animal farm.

  15. Andreas Bimba

    The greedy bastards have control of the government and business and are still getting stronger and wealthier, voting for the opposition no longer makes much difference, the people are either pissed off, apathetic or haters, most other countries are even worse, yep things don’t look to good.

    Queensland showed that totally contemptible political leaders like Campbell Newman and his LNP national socialists could be swept from power in the most conservative and least democratic state in Australia after only one term and after they received heaps of dirty tax deductible donations. Labor in Queensland is better than Newman but unfortunately is not really that different. The fact that Alan Jones came out swinging against Newman proved to be very effective. GetUp was also highly effective. The Greens were effective where they made an effort. Labor read the mood of the electorate well and picked up the votes. Now why did Alan Jones ditch Newman? My guess he thought Newman was just such a far right nutter that he was counter productive to the neo-liberal cause, a case of over reach or a ‘bridge too far’ kind of guy. Jones’ey knows Labor (state and federal) will deliver on the things that matter: mining and fracking as much as you want, tax holidays for corporations and for the wealthy, lots of super for the big end of town, lots of wealth for the banks, tight government spending, increased state security, ever increasing mass media infotainment and political manipulation all packaged much more nicely than the conservatives can manage and with a few extra social sweeteners thrown in to medicate the electorate.

    At the federal level if Labor kicked the stuffing out of the right faction and the Greens connected better with the battlers and with conservative middle Australia and the minor parties picked up some momentum, there is a real chance of a promising government being formed after the next federal election in 2016. The marketing needs to be improved and one can learn a lot from the advertising men and Rupert himself on how to package the message better. We should all work to make this happen.

    Indeed scary times, but the tide may have turned.

  16. Andreas Bimba

    Rossleigh. Your comment – “I chose an emu for the image…… ” But it is an ostrich? Another trick from the evil mind of Mr Leigh or did Reichsfuhrer Abbott succeed?

  17. Annie B

    Andreas …

    Not necessarily. …. It appears that baby emus’ and baby ostriches ( and the one depicted above, is obviously very young with light down and not fully feathered ) are very very similar …… ( I just HAD to google it !! ).

    So I think the jury has to be out on this one !! LOL …… 😉

  18. Rossleigh

    Why don’t we use science to decide?
    In the spirit of how we decide whether climate change is real or not, we’ll put it to a vote…
    That surely is all the science one needs!

  19. mark delmege

    OK Jex how about May3rd 2015. Killing you with kindness – those pesky terrorists…it’s hard to tell these days who is worse. (not really – but you wont be reading about it in the Sunday papers)

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