Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sweden: A Totalitarian Brave New World

But, (Huxley) says, There is of course no reason why the new totalitarianism should resemble the old. Government by firing squads ... is not merely inhumane... it is demonstrably inefficient, and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is a sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be the one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.

Of all people, it is the Swedes who have come closest to this state of affairs. They have the necessary background and predilections. Outside Russia, they alone have grasped the necessity of adapting politics to technology, untroubled by doubts or reservations. They offer the first example of a system that fulfills Huxley's prophecy. Historical accident and national idiosyncrasies have pushed Sweden ahead on the road to Brave New World. (…)

Security [(Huxley) says in the aforementioned comment to Brave New World] tends very quickly to be taken for granted. Its achievement is merely a superficial, external revolution. The love of servitude cannot be established except as the result of a deep, personal revolution in human minds and bodies. (…)

(The Swedes) have shown that the 'revolution in human minds and bodies' can be carried through, to a remarkable degree, by available methods. They have demonstrated, for example, that the relatively crude indoctrination offered by television and conventional education holds tremendous possibilities, provided only that there is effective centralized control of both. They have proved how powerful are the existing agents of inducing love of servitude. They are the first of the new totalitarians.

In the search for prophecies fulfilled, it is useful to make one excursion into Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Swedes have demonstrated the power of that form of semantic manipulation Orwell called Newspeak: the changing of words to mean something else. In this way, thought can be directed, and undesirable concepts eliminated, because the means of expressing them have been removed. 'Freedom' does not yet in Swedish, as in the brainchild of Orwell's Ministry of Truth, mean exactly 'slavery', but it already implies 'submission', and a powerful word in the vocabulary of opposition has therefore been effectively neutralized. Similarly, it is exceedingly difficult to speak in any but favourable terms of the State, because the words in that field have been positively loaded.(…)

But what distinguishes Sweden is that morality has become the concern of the government, where elsewhere it is something independent, growing out of changes within society.

The ultimate crime in Brave New World is to deviate from a norm. That norm is innocent of ethics and morality, and decided on grounds of expediency alone. The situation is already a doctrine of Swedish law. Gone is the idea of right or wrong, or the moral content of an action. Crime is now defined as social deviation. The test of whether an offence is punishable, however, is solely whether it has awkward effects on the collective. Analogously, in non-criminal spheres the worst solecism is to be different. Sweden, like Soviet Russia, belongs to that group of countries in which 'individuality' has a derogatory ring.

All this is not because Sweden is so far advanced but because, in all senses except the purely technological, she is so extraordinarily backward. Sweden is a relic of the Middle Ages, a State of corporations and communes, and the Swedes are medieval people living only as members of a group. It is an ideal situation for the incarnation of Brave New World. Like the rulers of Brave New World, the managers of Sweden have abolished history, in order to cut off the past and, by disorienting their time sense, to make people easier to manipulate.

(Roland Huntford, The New Totalitarians)

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