Thursday, October 19, 2006

The most dangerous opiate

What surprised me most about the world that Wendt created in Black Rainbow is the freedom that he gave to the citizens of his utopia, especially considering the access that they were given to films and literature like 1984, which in 1984 would be kept from the masses because of their revolutionary power.

This troubled me as much as anything else in the novel because it hammered home two points -- first, that the citizens were such emotional geldings that the Tribunal really did not have anything to fear from its population; and second, that the citizenry's trust in the Tribunal was so extreme that it bordered on an emotionless love. What is so scary about this prospect is how effectively it eliminates subversion, the seeds which ripen into true freedom.

The stark contrast between Orwell's Winston and the Free Citizen demonstrate the polarity of the two utopias. Oceania fears its citizens, and Winston proves that it does so rightfully becasue he has the courage and power to question. The Free Citizen, however, does not find himself in this "Game of Life" because he is seeking greater freedom; indeed, he does not ask for anything. He is merely a pawn, a cog in the machine that keeps it running.

Such is why Wendt provides such a chilling picture. His is such a dangerous society because it needs no opiate for its masses; rather, it needs an opiate (The Game of Life) for the system because it has so well mastered controlling its population (through the absolute domination of the flow of thought and knowledge) that it seems like it needs to entertain itself.