The end of history always seemed as if it would be a drab and desperate affair, but alas it comes with more free media coverage and bigger profits than anticipated. People had been expecting it for so long — quite nearly living through it for decades, in reality — that when it finally arrived in full-on view it’s been met with more of a shrug than a shudder in some circles. In fact, the policy analyst Francis Fukuyama already announced the “end of history” back in the halcyon days of the 1980s, noting that it “will be a very sad time [since] there will be neither art nor philosophy [and the] prospect of centuries of boredom.”

Still, irony abounds as contemporary politics spark a resurgence of interest in dystopian literature, sending George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 to the top of the best-seller lists once again. In a time rife with #AlternativeFacts and the rejection of science, it seems that the Orwellian boot indeed seems to fit quite well right now. Couple the doubletalk and denial with rising authoritarianism, ethnic intolerance, a penchant for inducing fear through maniacal behavior, and using technology to troll the populace — and the whole operation starts to feel as if Orwell’s tome is being taken more as a playbook than a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, the ultimate dark vision in its full dimensions isn’t just built on clever slogans and incendiary rhetoric; eventually it boils down to sheer brutality as a means of control:

There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.  (G. Orwell)

The intoxication of power, the thrill of victory, the titillation of domination. The end of history doesn’t represent the absence of pleasure, but rather its consolidation in the hands of an elite “inner circle” that wields power like a toy — treating truth as a plaything and people as rag dolls. They are beyond contestation since they simply tear up the rules and make new ones to justify their actions. They impose obedience through a combination of promissory “rewards” for compliance (which are generally not delivered) and ostensible threats of punishment that are reinforced by scapegoating unpopular and/or noncompliant sectors as examples for others to see. The late great David Bowie saw it coming, sung about it, and had even longed to turn 1984 into a musical to make its lessons impossible to ignore:

Someday they won’t let you, so now you must agree
The times they are a-telling,
and the changing isn’t free
You’ve read it in the tea leaves, and the tracks are on TV
Beware the savage jaw
Of 1984. (D. Bowie)

Bowie’s lyrical missive warns that the grim combination of complicity, brutality, and insensibility is cemented through the realization that “tomorrow’s never there.” In other words, it’s the end of history as we know it, yet the world goes on — and on. The persistence of dystopia is the antithesis of the apocalypse: it doesn’t happen all at once, it endures across eons, and lives have to be lived within it. People will become conditioned to hate, inured to deprivation, accepting of falsity, and ultimately admiring of evil. In time, a majority will embrace it, popularize it, elect it, perpetuate it, demand it, and come to discover that, in the end, they really do love it after all. That is, unless enough people resist it at the outset and work to reclaim history again…

by RoverGoods

Gift Center

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