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Free Range Humans
29 November, 2002 :: 8:43 a.m.

My mind's been pondering over this here and there, but admittedly I haven't put any deep thought into it so there may be glaring holes in my theories. At any rate, this is a little bit of 1984 inspired paranoia.

See, the thing about 1984 is that it takes place in a time when the human spirit has been pretty successfully crushed. Most people don't even think about living any other way than in the oppressed state that they are in and those who do are dealt with mercilessly. The thing is it takes too much effort--The Party spends hours and hours to break down Winston over the course of probably months...this is way inefficient to break down one human being. First of all there is the fact that we are accustomed to individual freedom and it's hard to accept that the masses would allow themselves to be controlled so thoroughly without putting up a fight. I will give credit to Orwell, however, since he does establish that there was a nuclear war which conceivably leave the masses desperate for order and willing to give up personal liberties for safety...then by the time they realize Big Brother is in total control, it's too late to do anything.

My mind went spinning off though on what seems like a much easier way to gain and keep control of the masses--by extending them freedoms with an unseen boundary. Give them the illusion of total freedom and they will be complacent and open to control. It's kind of like a zoo...the zoos of old were basically concrete pads with iron bars around them. Animals would become either lethargic and die prematurely or they would become violent and uncontrollable. Modern zoos give the animals room to move about and realistic settings and even interaction with other animal species. The initial cost is much higher for the zoo, but the zoo gets more return for the money spent because the animals are happier and healthier and thus more entertaining for people paying admission.

Now take this and apply it to humans. If you can give them freedoms such as who to date/marry, where to live, what job they have, how many kids to have, etc. you will make them more productive members of society. Give them simple freedoms and they will become wrapped up in the drama of their own lives and become complacent about the goings on of their elected leaders...ah, another freedom--let them think they are choosing those who make the laws and hell maybe even let commoners win smaller elections for mayor or state representative or some such thing. Pretend their are two parties and an endless list of 3rd party options and they will choose to turn a blind eye that not much changes despite who is in charge of the country. And those who notice can try like hell to get 3rd party candidates elected even though the majority will cast votes for the two main parties "not wanting to waste their vote."

Give people freedom to choose religion, where to invest their money (even though you could control the stock market and such from behind the scenes--and even throw out an Enron every now and then to make it look as though the government won't tolerate companies that cheat the public), where to send kids to school (you can make sure they all learn about the same thing in their history and government classes). I mean we already rewrite history--we know that we got involved in WWII strictly for our own motives, but look back now and it looks like we were doing it to save the Jews. Yes, that should have been the reason, but it wasn't. We let millions of Jews be marched off to life in concentration camps and to death before we stepped in. Within a couple of generations nobody will know that we didn't do it out of noble motives.

Internet? Phone? Mail? Can all be monitored but give people the sense of freedom they desire. There are plenty of ways for people to have accidents. You can also let some stay alive because the masses will just look at them as though they are paranoid and crazy for rambling on about the government controlling everything we do. You don't want to make it a utopia because that would be as disorienting for humans as absolute enslavement and control...both would be unbearable. Give people modest struggles to overcome in their own lives and they won't give a shit what's going on around them no matter how blatantly obvious it is. I've got bills to worry about, material items I want to buy, a spouse/mate to keep happy, maybe a couple of kids to take care of...I don't have time to go out and actively try to change the government. Besides it seems too big and too many people don't want to be range chickens end up butchered and in the grocery store just like normal chickens--and they fetch a higher price! Free range citizens will keep the machinery that keeps them down rolling smoothly whereas if they were downtrodden, they wouldn't be as healthy and you wouldn't get the productivity out of them.

As long as people have the illusion that they could "make it big"--win lotto, become famous actor/athlete/novelist, strike it rich in stocks, land cushy job--they will strive for it. As long as every now and then someone makes it big it gives people the incentive to keep working hoping to be the next one--forget that many people who come suddenly into money end up bankrupt or ruined in some other way. Keep the carrot dangling and we'll keep walking after it...and not notice that the scenery is like a Flintstones episode where we've run by the same things over and over and don't get it right.

Oh, and you can give the masses books like 1984 so that they see how bad things could be and are even happier knowing that they aren't being controlled like that. Better yet, spend money on movies in Hollywood--give people romantic comedies and dramas that idealize love and they will spend time consumed with wondering why their lives aren't like that...yet another way to keep them from knowing how controlled they are.

Of course this brings up the same question Joe Pantaliano's character raises in The Matrix: what is better a crappy reality or a world of imaginary freedom? Is it better to be downtrodden and know it and not be able to improve your situation or to be given just enough freedom to have the illusion that you have control of your life and relative happiness? I'm gonna keep my blinders on and doublethink all this into the back of my mind where it doesn't disturb me.

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