Archive for November 2nd, 2008

Howdy folks! Before I get started, I just wanted to thank Paulie for offering me the opportunity to write here. Every once in a while, I’ve got something worth saying.

The idea behind this post began as I was watching some anime this morning. I spend most of my days writing code, writing documentation such as Internet Drafts for the IETF, writing legal documents, coordinating with other developers on global projects, etc, and the fact is that without stopping to watching an occasional anime episode or take a cigarette break to bust up the monotony every once in a while, I’d probably go stir crazy. One of the themes presented in the episode I was watching was the arrogance of the state. The authoritarian government in this particular show had been proven wrong, publicly, by our protagonist. Of course, they made excuses. They denied it. They did everything but admit wrongdoing. I began comparing and contrasing this to our own authoritarian state, and came to a stark realization: our own authoritarian state doesn’t behave that way all of the time. Sometimes they do, for certain, but at times they instead hang their collective head in shame and promise to do better next time.

Doing better comes at a high cost. In order to do better, it seems, the government feels it must grow, and grow it does. For every blunder the government makes, it grows larger, sometimes by just a bit and sometimes by leaps and bounds. This creates more government to make mistakes. I should take a moment here to point out that I don’t expect them to be perfect. Humans just aren’t, they lack the capacity as much as everyone else does. Anyone who expects perfection from a human simply isn’t being any more fair than someone who expects a dog to speak English after a week of classes. The cycle that I’m pointing to here however is an interesting contrast. It draws attention to other, greater issues. Certainly we’ve come to expect the government to want to grow itself. Centuries of history have taught us all we need to know about greed.

The more interesting fact here to which this drew my attention, however, is how our authoritarian state deals with screw-ups. While authoritarian states of fiction almost never admit wrong-doings, preferring to instead remain bold, bull-headed, and self-righteous, our own has never been afraid to hang its head in shame and then seize the opportunity to grow in size and scope. Consider now, if you will, how the people react to these two different states – the state of fiction, and the state of fact. The state of fiction is not likable. The protagonist is almost certainly opposing its rein of terror upon the hapless citizens, and usually wins in the end, to great cheers of satisfaction. If media can brainwash people, how come these sorts of things aren’t turning people against the oppressive state they live under every day? A part of the answer – perhaps a large one, perhaps only a small one – may be in the way the state of fact reacts to its own blunders. By humanizing itself, behaving in what can only be described as a submissive manner publicly, and making promises to better serve the people, while at the same time praising great heroes and whatnot, I believe people are brainwashed in a whole other direction. Never mind that those in power are working tirelessly behind the scenes to increase their own power and wealth under the auspices of “making sure we have the resources so that this mistake never gets made again!

Is it possible, then, that we should consider the impact on the hearts and minds of the people, of the authoritarian states of fictions against which rebellions are launched and almost invariably succeed? Most of us can point to at least a dozen instances of these in the media. Do they make people more apt to accept our current authoritarian state, and less likely to have rebellious thoughts against it? Do they paint a romanticized view of revolution which people have trouble imposing against the somehow unromantic situations we’re stuck living in today? Could you imagine if the state of fact, the authoritarian state in which we live, behaved just a wee bit differently in how it related to the public at large? History says revolution would happen. The British did, leading to the American Revolution. Certainly, most authoritarian states which have been successfully revolted against, behaved in a different way in terms of public relations than does the one we’re currently living under, despite the fact that there are so many striking similarities in terms of policy and policy application, both foreign and domestic.

Is our government’s incompetence really so?  Or is it potentially a very high degree of competence at growing itself, despite the large number of people who, at least on an abstract level, oppose more government and fewer freedoms?

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