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On our oncoming future dystopia

Column Back through the looking glass?
Sun Aug 10 2003, 10:59
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

The Second Coming - W. B. Yeats, 1922

ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, we seemed to fall through Lewis Carroll's rabbit hole into an alternate universe. As in a bad dream, this parallel world looked the same, but something had perverted the natural order of things ever so profoundly but subtly. It's been downhill ever since.

The author normally confines his writing to observations and opinions on information technology news and issues. However, even the most adamantly politically disengaged Libertarian technogeek has to acknowledge -- even if grudgingly -- that information technology industry only exists within the prevailing context of politics and economics. Since these conditions combined to trigger a years-long downturn in IT spending and employment, perhaps -- whether you agree with the author or not -- you might admit a certain relevance to addressing these IT-extrinsic factors here. Without a reduction in the levels of current world conflicts and tensions along with resulting economic uncertainties, the IT industry will most likely continue to stagnate or at least underperform its potential recovery. In other words, this piece relates to information technology, after all.

This sea change manifested itself nowhere faster than in the vanguard of progress we call the information technology industry. But its poisonous effects were not confined to just this one sector of the larger economy, or even to only markets and economics. Everything went seriously haywire almost simultaneously. The several unsustainable exuberances of the New Economy collapsed, the Dot.Com bubble burst, flimsy pyramids of epidemic corporate fraud imploded at Enron, Worldcom, and elsewhere. Inexplicably the US intelligence agencies contracted myopia. Even more incredibly and implausibly, our US defenses suddenly malfunctioned in spectacular ways and the New York World Trade Center Towers exploded -- strangely like a series of precisely timed demolitions. We all know what has transpired, since Fall 2001. Perhaps we can all agree, none of it has been great.

Two million US jobs, many in information technology, have evaporated in the last 32 months. Employers aren't hiring highly skilled, experienced professionals lately. Instead, they want low-paid, machine-part cogs.

The 'official' US unemployment rate is only slightly over 6%, but actual unemployment (and underemployment) is two to three times that figure.

The number of personal bankruptcies within the US is at a peak for over two generations. Mortgage foreclosures are climbing to record levels.

In the UK, one third of independent IT contract workers are jobless.

Simultaneously multinational corporations are relocating headquarters to tax havens and outsourcing all the jobs they can send offshore, overseas to lower-wage poorer countries, just as fast as they can shutter offices and factories, lay off workers. And, with jobs goes purchasing power.

Millions of hard working people have lost their savings, pensions, and healthcare coverage. Meanwhile, some obscenely regressive tax cuts have been handed to the very rich, at the very same time that unprecedented levels of military spending have wiped out former US budget surpluses, replacing them with staggering deficits, as far as the eye can see.

The US balance of trade deficit is unsustainably high, so the dollar is falling in value, while the rest of the world is busily reallocating its investments out from under the US economy. Here in the US at least, the future has not looked so barren since the Great Depression of the 1930s -- for all except the wealthy and politically connected: oil plunderers, bankers, the military industrial complex, and high level executives who can pull down bonuses by laying off workers, shipping jobs offshore.

It is happening as the US flexes its might pursuing war without end -- a policy, unprecedented in US history, of brutal preemptive aggression. In wars designed to grab Middle East oil fields, install Israel as a local US surrogate enforcer in the region, destabilize the Arab countries, and extend an over-reaching American imperium across the whole of the globe in a series of interminable wars, thousands of US soldiers will probably lose their lives, tens of thousands will be wounded or sickened, and all who survive will see and do things that will likely sear their souls.

Hand in hand goes an equally unprecedented assault on public dissent and civil rights, the US Constitution and most of the Bill of Rights -- free speech and right to assemble, right to bear arms, habeus corpus, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, separation of church and state. In reality, the US is heading hell-bent down the road to a police state. It is obvious that we cannot hope to retain freedom by relinquishing all of our civil liberties, yet this seems to be precisely what this current US Administration intends. Its wish-list is a veritable blueprint of police state abuses: suspension of habeus corpus, abrogation of accused's right to counsel, secret detentions and trials, and even secret executions.

It's as though we've collectively tripped through some invisible barrier into a mirror-image alternate reality, a sinister parallel universe. In this version of space-time all the physical laws work the same, but the moral order of the cosmos has been reversed, as through a looking glass. This is a disjoint and dystopian time in world history, a nasty time. If you doubt it, just count the coffins and wounded sent home from Iraq.

Here's our future, unless we can step back through the looking glass:

Loss of two thousand years of civilization's progress towards universal fair dealing within agreed upon legal frameworks, ethical relationships between different countries and cultures, and responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources in the interests of innumerable generations of our descendants yet unborn.

Loss of all civil liberties with the rise of a fascist world in service to corrupting corporate masters, also leading to the loss of privacy. It seems particularly ironic that this nascent police state infrastructure relies on information technology. But it's not too surprising after all, if one reflects that IBM facilitated meticulous Nazi record-keeping, in World War II. That's not something IBM advertises, but it did happen.

An all too avoidable clash of religions and cultures portending decades of wars and miseries and deaths -- coming at us like a runaway train. It also seems strikingly unwise for 5% of the world's population to go out of its way to alienate and even attack 33% of the world's population -- especially in support of less than 1% of the total world population.

A world where 95% of the population lives barely above the poverty level while a cynical, manipulative and venal few live in debauched luxury. In the US, the middle class will disappear at the end of our Golden Age.

A ruined, toxic environment of cruelly malthusian population control, an ever-decreasing quality of living, ever-shortening life expectancies.

This is our future outlook -- all of this will be delivered to us by the smirking arrogance of unrestrained political and military power mongers, purchased on the cheap by accumulated wealth and its insatiable grasping greed for ever more concentrated wealth and power. Abandoning our ideals like cooperation, honest dealing, personal and corporate ethics, and the rule of law will bring us these futures just as surely and inevitably as such deadly sins did to many other civilizations, in earlier periods.

Is it too late? It might be, I do not know. But we'll never even stand a chance or ever know if such a dystopian future is unavoidable unless we try. What future world do you want to be remembered as having bequeathed to your great-grandchildren? This sinister parallel universe of probable outcomes? Or one that looks a lot more like the one we used to know?

Finally, the former Soviet Union proceeded in the last twenty years from totalitarianism, through a period of kleptocracy and into a semblance of democracy. The US seems to be going in an exact reverse progression. If the Administration's program to concentrate corporate power and rape our natural resources isn't soon reversed, the US will be a kleptocracy. The next step after that will be relatively easy, after we're all proles.

If you don't like what's going on, speak up! Write letters, walk in some protest, sign a few petitions, and by all means let your family, friends and neighbors know what you think so they'll know it's okay to be angry, whether you're a Buchanan or Perot Republican, centrist Democrat, Nader voter -- blue, red, green, pink or purple. And next time the politicians hold an election, we really ought to vote to toss the bastards out! µ

Egan Orion holds a Philosphy degree in Ethics. His views are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of either the INQUIRER or Breakthrough Publishing Ltd. In addition, he retains copyright.

 

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