2. The Violence of Order
“Order conceals a greater violence than disorder.”
—Roland Topor, The Prisoner, Alain Carrazé & Hélène Oswald, Virgin Publishing, 1990
“Order conceals a greater violence than disorder. It embraces the additional violence of untruth,” explains Topor in The Prisoner collection edited by Carrazé and Oswald. In The Village created by McGoohan in The Prisoner TV series, a busy schedule of public celebrations keeps its residents pacified. That, and the omnipresent brainwashing mantras: “A still tongue makes a happy life.” “Questions are a burden to others, a prison for oneself.” These are not-so-distant echoes of Orwell’s 1984, with its dystopian world slogans “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” etc. It’s a simple, time-honoured strategy to keep a lid on dissent. The corporate media employs it through advertising slogans rather than the more obvious approach of Orwell’s allegory. Meanwhile, the social justice movement of the 1960s gave us its best slogan yet to counter the brainwashing: “Question everything.”
Today we seem to be sliding into the very dystopias Huxley and Orwell warned us about. The ubiquitous presence of security cameras in cities, the ease with which intelligence agencies can monitor social media, and now the so-called ‘smart grid’ being rolled out almost universally to monitor the electrical grid. Here in BC, the Crown corporation BC Hydro—which seems to have been hijacked by corporate raiders—has been indulging in its own version of Orwellian propaganda, albeit clumsily. It would take more space than I have here to cite the long list of hooters, factual blunders and outright lies spouted by BC Hydro’s public relations and ‘smart’ meter departments. As with the Nazis, they may be relying on the principle that, ‘the more often you repeat a lie, the sooner it will come to be regarded as truth,’ and, ‘the bigger the lie the better.’ Well so far most British Columbians aren’t fooled.
To cite just the latest propaganda blooper from BC Hydro, public relations flack Cindy Verschoor stated this week that only 3% of British Columbians are against the installation of ‘smart’ meters. Ms. Verschoor rather ham-handedly glosses over the 250,000 citizens who have sent in refusal or removal letters, plus the 54 municipalities calling for an immediate moratorium on the installation. Taken together this represents well over 1 million British Columbians saying ‘NO!’ That means something closer to 30%, not 3%. For details, check the Citizens for Safe Technology website page on ‘smart’ meter refusals: http://citizensforsafetechnology.org/Vast-majority-of-BC-Hydro-customers-now-have-smart-meters-says-Hydro,25,2436.
What’s the motive here? Why the sudden rush to install these meters all over the world? It would be easy to believe those who see it as a vast conspiracy along the lines of the so-called Agenda 21, which has among its goals the depopulation of the planet to more ‘sustainable’ levels. I really haven’t seen enough evidence to support this, though it wouldn’t surprise me. The problem is that the families of the One Percent are just as likely to be exposed to health risks from the blanket of microwave radiation as the rest of us poor ‘proles.’
At very least, it’s a clear indictment of Corporatocracy, the actual state of governance that now exists in most Western countries. (Okay, so I made up that term, but it works.) We are seeing the illogical consequences of allowing society to be run by a small band of corporate CEOs whose only interest is in massive profits. In North America, they have succeeded in de-clawing government regulatory agencies like the FCC, FDA and Health Canada. With a revolving door of corporate staff serving on their review boards, these agencies have become mere clearinghouses for the latest money-making corporate product, no matter how toxic. Safety testing? That takes too long—every week the product is delayed from the marketplace costs the company millions. Cell phones, for example, were never tested for safety prior to being put on the market.
As I’ve written before, ‘GREED MAKES PEOPLE STUPID.’ (There’s a slogan for you—shout it from the digital rooftops!) Even if they aren’t engaged in a global conspiracy to wipe out the poorest 99 Percent, they ARE playing Russian roulette with the very fabric of life on this planet. If indeed microwaves are the hidden ‘X factor’ responsible for collapsing bee populations around the world—and there are good scientific studies to suggest this—then we are in serious shit. Even since a single cell phone antenna was installed in our small village here in the Valhalla Mountains two years ago, locals have noticed a significant decline in the bee population. Our Slocan Valley community is overwhelmingly dedicated to organic farming so the usual pesticides cited as the cause can be ruled out. (http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2011/05/13/cell-phones-caused-mysterious-worldwide-bee-deaths-study-finds/)
In the Digital Age, information is a saleable product, so the data ‘smart’ grids collect on your personal power consumption habits will become just another revenue stream. Not only that, but ‘smart’ meters require ‘smart’ appliances to talk to, meaning you will have to replace everything in your home at a cost of thousands of dollars. Almost every home or business that has had a ‘smart’ meter installed has seen its power bills go up by 100-300%, and peak hour rates will add yet again to your cost burden. At very least, the ‘smart’ grid is a massive cash grab, probably the biggest in history after the Great Bank Bailouts of 2008 (still ongoing in Europe).
Just like war, where ‘truth is the first casualty,’ the ‘violence of order’ imposed by governments in lockstep with corporate interests will place us in a Village-like prison of consumption. Oligarchy almost inevitably devolves to war and fascism. So the Wal-Mart Culture of voluntary consumption is slowly but surely being morphed into one of compulsory consumption. Just like the captured spies in The Village, where every species of technology is used to extract their intelligence secrets, we will be prisoners in our own homes, having our cash sucked out of us to make some CEO a multi-billionaire. On top of that, today’s actual intelligence agencies will find their jobs a whole lot easier. The mantra of The Prisoner, “Be seeing you,” has become quite literal.
Wired Magazine recently reported that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) is building a massive spy center in Bluffdale, Utah that will be five times the size of the US Capitol. “Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails… The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”” (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/)
The problem is that centralized totalitarianism is a top-heavy structure that invariably screws up. I’m reminded of the scene in Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil where a fly lands in a teletype printer that is printing out an order for the security police. The name ‘Tuttle’ prints as ‘Buttle’ and as a result, an innocent family has its home invaded and the father carted off to be interrogated and tortured. But wait! We had a real life example of that with Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, who thanks to an intelligence screw-up was sent to Syria to be tortured. That cost Canadian taxpayers $10.5 million in well-deserved compensation. But no amount of cash can compensate for the nightmares he will suffer the rest of his life. As Arar’s lawyer stated when the settlement was reached: “I ask you to consider that he spent the 10 months and 10 days never knowing which day he would be tortured, never knowing whether he would live or die. To those who would suggest that money could somehow fix this or have rendered him whole, I say to you that is absurd.” (http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/25897–maher-arar-accepts-ottawa-s-apology-and-10-5-million-compensation)
If there’s any hope in this dismal situation, it lies in the ability of each individual citizen to do just as the ’60s slogan says: Question everything. As Topor observes of the Prisoner, “Being by nature a free man, refusing both his number and integration into the Village, he is able to escape the widespread schizophrenia. If he torpedoes the comforting rituals of daily life, if he persists in tearing away the shrouds of banality, it is because he is constantly on the defensive.” (italics mine)
This is partly what keeps McGoohan’s Prisoner sane, helps him see through every attempt to break him down. Were it not for his dogged internal strength, he like the rest would collapse in the face of intimidation. But he is bound irrevocably to his First Principle: the right to be a Free Man. It’s a principle he is prepared to die for, and he risks his life often in its pursuit. He cannot bend to convenience or comfort. To do so is to become hollow, like the human vegetables he sees wandering around The Village.
For example, in the episode Checkmate, he finds himself on a life-sized chessboard with people as chess pieces—an apt if somewhat obvious metaphor. But his comments are revealing:
PRISONER: (to the Queen): Why were you brought here?
QUEEN (being evasive): That was a good move wasn’t it?
PRISONER: I know a better one.
PRISONER: Away from this place.
QUEEN: That’s impossible.
PRISONER: For chessmen… not for me.
QUEEN: They told me there wasn’t a hope.
PRISONER: I don’t believe what they tell me…
• If You Liked the A-Bomb – You’ll Love the Smart Grid http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/15910-smart-grid.html
• Smart Gadgets are Like Sleeper Cells in Your Kitchen http://www.technologyreview.com/view/425627/smart-gadgets-are-like-sleeper-cells-in-your/
• BC Hydro’s smart meters rile the skeptics http://www.straight.com/article-491961/vancouver/smart-meters-rile-skeptics
• Spin and Lies for a Global Energy Grid http://www.watershedsentinel.ca/content/plans-renewable-energy-spin-and-lies-global-energy-grid
• Dr. David Carpenter, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Albany, warns of ‘smart’ meter risks http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=n7L21XOC2wA
• Cell Phone Radiation Disturbs Bees, two reports http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=4028
• Extremism Normalized: How Americans Now Acquiesce to Once Unthinkable Ideas https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/31-0#.UB4tXFm1-QQ.facebook