Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Road to Dystopia

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, now known to us as "The 1980s," an entity called Tears for Fears sang the following lyric:

Everybody wants to rule the world.

At the time, I believed that to be not quite true. Then I found out that it is true, or mostly true, for in every person there is a drive, probably an infantile drive and in some people a relentless drive, to rule the lives of other people. For as long as totalitarian control of other people's lives is a possibility rather than just a dream, as it was for so many millennia, we will have to guard our rights, our freedoms, our humanity, and our individuality against all takers. I believe that Great Britain took a step in that direction this past week by throwing off the shackles of a distant, arbitrary, unelected, and unaccountable government designed to enrich and empower itself at the expense of the governed in Europe. It was called "Brexit." I hope to see more "-exit"s as time goes by.

In a countermove, Neil deGrasse Tyson, also an elitist and an adherent to the religion of Scientism, called for the creation of, in his words, "a virtual country: Rationalia." There have already been people calling him out on his stupidity. My advice to him is for him to read, first, history, specifically of the French Revolution and its ever-popular Russian sequel, and, second, literature, specifically We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and 1984 by George Orwell. I doubt that he would understand those things, as he appears to be a prize numbskull, but he should try at least.

For the sake of full disclosure, I had a run-in this week with one of Dr. Tyson's co-religionists. I don't know why, but I was shocked by her viciousness, her arrogance, and her bitterly contemptuous attitude towards anyone who believes in anything other than what she believes. I like her and admire her. I also feel sorry for her and wish that she were not so injured as to take the steps she has taken. I am also afraid to think that she, like countless millions of others, would gladly serve in the army of Neil deGrasse Tyson's new nation, Rationalia, and that she might very well wish to place her boot on the face of humanity, forever, so as to assuage the hurt feelings in her shrunken heart.

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

8 comments:

  1. You touch upon a most distressing trend in our current society; the inability of many people to respect any viewpoint other than their own.There is a cancerous culture of hostility permeating America today in which anyone who dares to disagree with an adherent to any particular belief is treated, not as a fellow citizen with a different opinion, but as an enemy.This is especially noticeable in politics, with senators and congressmen addressing those on the other side of the aisle not as colleagues, but as threats to our very way of life, using the same language once reserved for the likes of Stalin and Hitler.
    This is a sad state of affairs.
    I'm sorry to hear that you had such a poor encounter.I'm curious as to whether this woman specifically mentioned the name of Neil DeGrase Tyson in her assault on your beliefs.
    Being an Atheist myself, I can understand being perplexed by the fact that so many rational people believe in God. But I also respect and understand the logic of those who look at the beauty and complexity of the world and conclude that it all must have resulted from the hand of a Creator.It's not my viewpoint, but I can see how they got there.
    It's really too bad that so many people think that the world owes it to them to accept their views, blindly and without question.Frequently, it's when we get outside of our comfort zone, when we are faced with views that challenge our beliefs and make us a bit uncomfortable that we think and learn and grow as human beings.Disagreement doesn't have to be abusive and destructive; it can be healthy and nurturing. All it takes is a little courtesy and respect.

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    1. Dear Mike,

      I agree with you that there is so little civility in disagreement anymore. Too often, like you say, the other person is cast as the enemy. One of our great talents--in fact, the thing that made it possible for us to form a nation--is our ability to compromise. There isn't much compromise these days, but then when or both both sides have become so extreme, compromise is almost impossible.

      I also agree that we can grow as people when we talk to others and see what they have to say rather than to attack them when they disagree with us.

      My friend did not mention Neil deGrasse Tyson by name, but she said that she believes in science--or maybe I should say Science. The funny thing is that she has children, and one of them went to a Christian college. I wonder what her children think of her materialist ideas, for if there is no God, that implies that there is nothing immaterial, including love, that including love for your own children. What do materialists tell their children? "What people call love is really just a biochemical reaction in our brains. My feelings for you derive simply from the fact that you are carrying my genes into the next generation. There is no such thing as 'love' and I certainly don't feel that for you." Nice, Mom. Thanks.

      I am not an atheist, but I have an idea how people arrive at atheism. (Maybe it's not really a destination but simply a waypoint.) I'm certain that there are atheists who are satisfied to live and let live. But there are some--seemingly very angry, hurt, bitter, unhappy, disillusioned, despairing people--who only want to hurt, anger, and embitter others whose beliefs differ from theirs. It's such a shame. I wish for my friend--and for you, too, who I count as a friend-- something better.

      Thanks for writing.

      Terence Hanley

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    2. You're not the first person I've heard suggest that without God, there could be no such thing as love, but in my estimation that's just not true. Whether it is something divine in origin or just a series of biochemical reactions is irrelevant. Love, like all emotions, is real. Its presence or absence governs much of our lives, regardless of how you define it.
      As far as the hostility and other negative traits that you (fairly) ascribe to some Atheists, I've seen them practiced by certain deeply religious people as well. Just look to radical Islam for examples, or to various Christian protest group who practice hate instead of love. What you describe circles back to my initial observation on the lack of respect and civility in our world; an all too common "human" failing rather than a flaw born of belief.

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    3. Dear Mike,

      I agree with you that some people who consider themselves to be religious are also hateful, violent, destructive, intolerant, etc. I would say that they have wandered off the path in their actions towards others. As Holden Caulfield said, any of the disciples might have sent Judas to hell, but Jesus wouldn't have. In other words, God doesn't hate people. Only other people hate people.

      I would like to clarify: I didn't say that love would not exist without God. I essentially asked this question: If there is nothing in this universe that is not material and that cannot be explained in material terms, i.e., by science, then is love just a biochemical reaction? If it is, how do you tell your children or your parents or your lover that what you feel for them or her or him is simply that? And how do you expect them or her or him to respond? Do you expect the response to be a happy one? I can tell you that if I my parents told me that they love me because of a biochemical reaction in their brains, I would very likely be deeply hurt and scarred for life.

      As for the idea that a chemical reaction is just as real as love as an eternal and absolute ideal: That may be true in its way, but if love is simply a biochemical reaction, and that reaction can be altered, replaced, or eliminated, does that mean love can be done away with? Put another way, can what is human in us be engineered out of us? Can we be rendered simple biochemical or bio-mechanical automatons, made to do whatever the engineer makes us do? That's not a rhetorical question. It's a serious question facing us right now and one that we will soon be required to answer. It's also a jumping-off point for a science-fictional treatment.

      Thanks for writing.

      TH

      P.S. In my first response, in the first paragraph, I should have written "one or both" instead of the nonsensical "both or both."

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  2. For years, groups from cults to governments have used brainwashing techniques to control people by altering their brain's chemistry, utilizing such tactics as sleep deprivation and positive reinforcement...with often frightening degrees of success.Now, as you point out, we're getting closer and closer to a point wherein pinpoint targeting of the control centers of the brain could become a reality. A scary concept indeed, in which desirable traits could be implanted and unwanted ones be removed.Let's hope it never comes to that!

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    1. Dear Mike,

      It could easily come to that, I think, because there are no limits to human depravity. Everything that we can imagine will be tried.

      After writing my last message, I thought of another possibility: If love is simply a biochemical reaction, then the chemistry of the brain could be altered so that a person could be made to "love" anything--murder, oppression, the all-powerful state, anything, like Winston Smith "loved" Big Brother.

      Your reply makes me think of The Manchurian Candidate, in which Laurence Harvey's character is programmed to kill on command. In the end, he proves himself human, a man with a soul, by resisting his programming and defying his masters. In that story, mind control is imperfect. Will it be perfected in some future age? Can human beings be rendered soulless? Will science make us all monsters?

      TH

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    2. I doubt that people will ever be all turned into "monsters"...because mindless automatons would be more useful to the powers that be.A monstrous fate to be sure
      The Manchurian Candidate is still the creepiest example of that premise ever filmed, in my opinion. The scene in which Harvey kills his own wife (played by Leslie Parrish)is chilling beyond words.

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    3. Dear Mike,

      One of the themes of my blog is that human beings are already monsters or easily become monsters, not in their appearance but in their actions. (In the real world, the human monster passes as human in the form of the psychopath or the totalitarian, and in fantasy as the vampire, the person possessed by or animated by an evil being, etc.) A mindless automaton--whether it be a person who has had his brain altered, an android or cyborg, or a zombie--is simply another type of human monster upon which we can project our fears.

      Another theme here is that we--everyday, ordinary human beings, living in an essentially democratic society--are the powers-that-be, for we have learned to tyrannize each other. The all-powerful tyrant, the single person sitting on his high perch, is no longer necessary. There is no separation between the ruler and the ruled. We all have our boots on the faces of everyone else.

      Anyway, I'm with you--The Manchurian Candidate is a great film. It's high on my list of favorites. And it goes to what we have been talking about these past couple of days, namely, the power of love and the trauma of love denied by heartless parents to their children.

      TH

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