In EM Forster’s novella The Machine Stops shopping is a thing of the past. The citizenry live in luxurious little cells and have everything they want – food, entertainment, medicine – delivered to them via tubes. They are physically weak and strong-looking babies are put to death. The people communicate via iPad type devices and rarely leave their rooms. When they do leave, they summon airships that arrive at their door in the manner of an Uber. They have thousands of online friends and spend their time attending or delivering lectures. The story was written in 1909 and is an astonishingly prescient vision of the present day.
Western governments are now looking at China with something that appears a little like envy: how obedient, docile and eager to please their population is! How civic-minded! And how successful! Both left and right, at a certain level, are internally rejoicing over the expanding power of states and the extent of their own empires.
It’s been sad to me to see figures on the left who I formerly admired – two examples that spring to mind are George Monbiot and Paul Mason – join the Leninists and call for dissident voices to be banned. Monbiot and Mason, who may be outstanding polemicists but aren’t renowned for expertise on infectious diseases, have called for the Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta and various other scientists and hacks to be removed from polite society. Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot proposed censoring these heretics….
One of the earliest verses of “2112” is the Priests of Syrinx incanting their collectivist philosophy and emphasizing that its legitimacy is not up for debate: “Work together/Common sons/Never need to wonder/How or why.” It would seem that many Americans have taken the Priests’ words to heart and are acquiescing wholesale to the edicts of governors and public health officials.
In contrast, those public health experts and concerned citizens who do call into question the morality of forced business closures and hard lockdown and social-distancing policies are straw-manned as science-deniers, selfish evil-doers, or both.
Instead, they are encouraged to accept the models devised by the computational simulations of epidemiological experts like Neil Ferguson – never mind that Ferguson’s doomsday predictions were called into question by AIER early on in the pandemic and have since been proven false by reality. Eerily, the Priests of Syrinx also appeal to the supposed infallibility of their “great computers/[that] fill the hallowed halls.”
CNN recently published a disturbing piece unironically entitled, “Even with hope on the horizon in this pandemic, what’s the point of ever leaving home again?” Again, the sentiment that an individual can be content while stripped of his freedom bears a striking similarity to the paternalistic rhetoric of the authoritarian Priests of Syrinx who claim that: “All the gifts of life/Are held within our walls.”
The face: passive but slightly amused. Think of your expression if it had just occurred to you that you are dealing with an absolute nitwit but you do not want to be unkind. You don’t laugh at them or humiliate them, but you just can’t help thinking ‘Who ties your shoelaces for you’? and that thought creeps out on to your face.