We are under totalitarian rule, we just don’t realise it. And politics offers little hope.
In a previous article, I drew some parallels of the still-unfolding horror of the Covid mania with the situation described in Vaclav Havel’s essay ‘The Power of the Powerless’. Havel was what pundits in the West often simplistically refer to as a ‘dissident’ living under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia (he also in this essay explored at length what a ‘dissident’ is from the perspective of being one). Havel wrote the essay in 1978; this fact for me makes it all the more horrifying to read, in that 44 years ago, he said:
In the democratic societies, where the violence done to human beings is not nearly so obvious and cruel [as in totalitarian societies], this fundamental revolution in politics has yet to happen, and some things will probably have to get worse there before the urgent need for that revolution is reflected in politics.
I think it’s fair to say that things have got worse. Man, have they got worse.
Violence done to human beings has come right out into the open now; it could not be more obvious, or more cruel. Frighteningly, depressingly, despairingly, people either don’t see it, or can’t bring themselves to acknowledge it. Those who do see it look at the world quite differently than they did in 2019.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we HAVE seen violence and we HAVE seen cruelty, right on the streets of our once-beautiful city, Melbourne. It’s beautiful no longer.
We’ve seen police shoot peaceful protesters in the back with rubber bullets. We’ve seen bystanders flung to the ground and stomped on by cops. We’ve watched ‘elective’ surgeries cancelled causing cruel prolongation of pain and infirmity. We seen arrogant Premiers refuse next of kin requests to be with dying children or parents.
Those who think it’s over are sorely mistaken. If the need for consistent health messaging during the pandemic ever justified the suppression of free speech among doctors and patients (which it did not), then why, when the pandemic is over, are ever more draconian laws being passed? It’s not over, it’s just that the ground is shifting.
Searching for ‘why’ or ‘how’ this happened is not what we should be doing now. There’s a natural desire to make sense of mysteries among some of us. and at one level, I suppose, finding a ‘root cause’ might help find the fix. But that is putting the cart before the horse (or the protestor before the trampling RCMP). There are simply not enough people who realised it did bloody-well happen and who can call it what it is – evil.
The ‘revolution in politics’ Havel referred to in the quote above was a return to ‘defending the aims of life’, defending humanity’. The post-totalitarian system, on the other hand, Havel writes:
…is utterly obsessed with the need to bind everything in a single order: life in such a state is thoroughly permeated by a dense network of regulations, proclamations, directives, norms, orders, and rules. (It is not called a bureaucratic system without good reason.) A large pro- portion of those norms function as direct instruments of the complex manipulation of life that is intrinsic to the post-totalitarian system. Individuals are reduced to little more than tiny cogs in an enormous mechanism and their significance is limited to their function in this mechanism. Their job, housing accommodation, movements, social and cultural expressions, everything, in short, must be cosseted together as firmly as possible, predetermined, regulated, and controlled.
Well well well. What did we just witness? There was NO PART OF YOUR LIFE that was not ‘cosseted together as firmly as possible, pre-determined, regulated and controlled’ in the last 2 years. We WERE reduced to tiny cogs in an enormous mechanism. The cover story for this enslavement was the supposed need to ‘stay safe’, but Havel posits that the enslavement was almost inevitable, given the West’s focus on consumerism and materialism, and the degree to which technology was perpetuating this focus.
Technology enabled zoom – so we could be commanded to ‘work from home’. Technology enabled Amazon to deliver our shopping, so we could unwittingly destroy small businesses and tear the heart out of communities. Technology enabled our movements to be tracked, our purchases categorised, our food choices judged. Not far away are rules to govern what we can drive, how much meat we can eat, what kinds of substances we must inject.
Havel saw all this coming despite the fact that the technology in 1978 is laughable by today’s standards.
‘Defending the aims of life’ is not something that modern politics is capable of doing. Voters are increasingly disenfranchised as global, and globalist, forces and entities push their way into what used to be sovereign decisions. WHO wants a global treaty compelling signatories to act in lockstep with their declarations. UK voters elected Boris, then party members elected Liz, and 44 days later they have Rishi. The distinction between Left and Right, Democrat and Republican, Labour and Liberal, has been blurred for years and the fact is that governments of all stripes have visited horror on their constituents. Constitutions and Charters of Rights were of no practical help as cowardly office bearers went along with the brutality. Elections, at this point, are a sham. As Jeffrey Tucker notes:
Every institution ultimately bends to [shifts in public opinion], which is why research, education, great journalism, and competent media outlets, plus friendship networks and community organizing, might actually be more foundational than elections.
In 1978 Communist Czechoslovakia, Havel cautioned those in the West:
But to cling to the notion of traditional parliamentary democracy as ones political ideal and to succumb to the illusion that only this tried and true form is capable of guaranteeing human beings enduring dignity and an independent role in society would, in my opinion, be at the very least shortsighted.
By contrast, according to Havel the proper place for political, or rather pre-political, struggle is
…in the continuing and cruel tension between the complex demands of that [post-totalitarian] system and the aims of life, that is, the elementary need of human beings to live, to a certain extent at least, in harmony with themselves, that is, to live in a bearable way, not to be humiliated by their superiors and officials, not to be continually watched by the police, to be able to express themselves freely, to find an outlet for their creativity, to enjoy legal security, and so on.
Have we not been forced to live in unbearable ways? Have we not been humiliated? Were we not spied on by police, for crimes such as picnicking? Were we not banned from singing and dancing and worshipping? Are we not facing unaffordable food and energy bills? This is where the battle is, and where it must be.
Rising up politically with a new party or a new coalition, or a new manifesto, is almost certain to fail. Even in 1978 Havel conceded that in the post-totalitarian system any revolt would be still-born, because of the system’s surveillance capability (my emphasis):
Add to this the fact that the post-totalitarian system has at its disposal a complex mechanism of direct and indirect surveillance that has no equal in history and it is clear that not only would any attempt to revolt come to a dead end politically, but it would also be almost technically impossible to carry off. Most probably it would be liquidated before it had a chance to translate its intentions into action.
No equal in history, but an unbelievable superior 44 years later. Havel could not have imagined in his worst nightmare the surveillance and ‘liquidation’ capabilities of our technocratic overlords in 2022. Any dissenting voice on twitter, Facebook, and Youtube has a very short life expectancy. Any number of cancelled doctors, lawyers, scientists, economists, authors and teachers can attest to that.
I’ll let Havel have the last word:
In this situation there are only two possibilities: either the post- totalitarian system will go on developing (that is, will be able to go on developing), thus inevitably coming closer to some dreadful Orwellian vision of a world of absolute manipulation, while all the more articulate expressions of living within the truth are definitely snuffed out; or the independent life of society (the parallel polis), including the “dissident” movements, will slowly but surely become a social phenomenon of growing importance, taking a real part in the life of society with increasing clarity and influencing the general situation.
This article is a republication of an article originally published here on Richard’s Substack.