Can I Interest You in Some Totalitarianism?
I get a sense that the public opinion of a totalitarian government is generally poor. But between the harrowing, shadowy dystopian cinema and hellfire, red-faced radio hosts, I can’t seem to find an opinion that is not larger than life itself. Call me selfish, but if someone were to ask me to imagine my life in a global civilization subdued by one powerful, all-knowing global government, my first thought wouldn’t be What would happen to the Mona Lisa? or Here is what I think will become of the euro…
I find it much more compelling to talk about the small annoyances in light of the trivial advantages of a totalitarian government. I’m not interested in the things about this new life of no privacy and complete provision that would make you dump ash on your head, nor make you bark Power to the People, Man . We have all seen the Steven Spielberg version of the dystopian totalitarian government, but have any of us sat through the John Candy version?
Following that brief context, here are Things that would suck, and things that would be preeeeeeety good about a global totalitarian government.
Good: No more emails from viagra
Imagine this, reader. You wake from bed and begin your first morning as a compulsory patriotic citizen of earth. You open the government sanctioned email application on your computer and notice that there is no spam folder in your email. “Ah - I see the catch. I’m not allowed to filter for spam in this stupid global government. I just have to keep it in my email,” you mumble through your morning breath.
But you are wrong . There is no spam in this new world order. There are no more emails from Viagra because the government has already selected their favorite male enhancement pill and liquidated the other companies (and they probably just started adding it to everyone’s drinking water anyway). No more email spam, comrade.
But think bigger! Think about every commercial on TV that makes you mad - those Sonic commercials where the camera makes people’s head look too big for their neck… the GoDaddy ads that brag about how many of their commercials got banned from the Super Bowl… those fake parties where a bunch of beautiful people celebrate when someone shows up with a bag of Wendy’s… they are all gone. Not only that, but all of the people that were paid to write those stupid commercials were probably shot into space as punishment for their stupid, stupid ideas for commercials.
See? You have only been awake in your new miserable existence for maybe fifteen minutes, and you can’t help but crack a smile.
Good: Reality TV is actually real
I can’t watch shows like American Idol, Survivor, or The Apprentice. I am too irked by the suspicion that none of these people are actually embarrassed, weary, nor actually getting fired from something.
Some things on TV I know are staged. If you are like me, you would need both hands to count the times you have thrown an empty bottle of Jim Beam at the TV because some scummy parents staged a hilarious mishap with their eight-year-old and were honored on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Am I really the only one that takes this title seriously? I’m flabbergasted that someone cheating in a sporting event as obscure as a cycling can darken American optimism, while a sacred ritual that is supposed to honor the Funniest Home Videos in America is desecrated every day.
But imagine a world where there are cameras everywhere. They roll 24/7 without commercial breaks. And since there is no short of human shame, I believe reality TV would inherit a sweet return to its authentic, human shame roots.
In a world of indiscriminate government surveillance, every house can become the Real World . And no more stringing us honest Real World viewers along with phony character developments and big-network-prodded-plot-twists. If the characters get dumb, we can trust our good government to hurl them into space.
Or maybe we could move them onto a deserted island? We could get a chance to enjoy Survivor in its purest form. You get all the excitement of twenty something year old children braving the harsh elements by “forming alliances” without being haunted by the suspicion that these people are just eating KFC off camera. Then when they are done with their stint on the island, just for shiggles we make them perform their favorite Maroon 5 song acapella for America.
Now I dare you to tell me reality TV wouldn’t be awesome in a dystopian totalitarian future.
Figure 1: I’m eroding your country’s values, and I might not even be a real squirrel
Bad: Church would be weird
I’m a church going man. While it is important to me that I get plugged into a consistent church community, I have a secret hobby that I entertain - I really like to church hop. There’s always plenty for your mind to do while sitting in a congregation you don’t belong in. The college student in me likes to critique and dissect the philosophy I’m being exposed to, but I think I enjoy it most on behalf of the child in me. I like to feel like a secret agent hiding behind enemy lines.
The most general thing I have gathered from church hopping is that churches are very different. Imagining church life in context of a global government leads me to think it would be too hard to get rid of church all together. A global government responsible for keeping the peace of an entire planet of human beings would be more likely opt for stability over purity, which makes me thing that church would have to be a service that made everyone happy. But you couldn’t just rotate preachers or concatenate all the different services together. Too many religions would be offended by the mere acknowledgement of certain others. This isn’t just Lutherans and Catholics in the same room, mind you. We have to open pews for the Satanists, Mormons, and maybe even the people that stay for the “weird” part of your Yoga class.
The closest thing to a weekly religious experience that would fulfill all walks of spiritual life is everyone eating crackers and watching an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood .
Figure 2: Go ahead, comrade. Confess your sins to merciful Lady Elaine.
Bad: Single-ply toilet paper
Maybe I’m getting paranoid with this one, but I have a hunch that no one in this new world would ever feel the soft caress of triple ply toilet paper ever again. Toilet paper seems like the first budget cut any huge system makes when it is in a pinch.
Whenever I picture myself as a corrupt dictator or shady politician, I imagine that my vice would be good toilet paper. I would get elected on the grounds of financial reform, anger my citizens with outrageous regulations on toilet paper production, then get caught accepting foreign TP as a bribe.
They would call my scandal Charmingate .
But my fantasy of infamy aside, I have a well-grounded suspicion that a universal totalitarian government would have little-to-no incentive to even double ply things for us.
Bad: V for Vendetta would be even more popular
V for Vendetta wasn’t a bad movie. I saw it, and I even liked it. But for me it had the same fatal flaw as Napoleon Dynamite . I didn’t get sick of it until I met the people who loved it.
Its fans covered dorm room walls in posters. The derailed decent class discussions with references. Many of these fans even took things to an entirely new level, donning that silly white mask in public as part of public protest.
What has always kind of baffled me about these “V” inspired marches is how out of context they can be. I imagine someone marching in defiance of a totalitarian American government that stifles human value and creativity has to walk past a decent number of indy coffee shops, art museums, and liberal colleges. Things are still pretty good, compared to the government in the film. Does our situation really seem that similar to the movie?
Which is why I think one of the suckiest parts of a totalitarian government would be the film’s villain being actualized. Every V for Vendetta fan would be quivering with Christmas morning excitement. Do we have enough room on this earth for all the new movie posters that would come up? Can we make enough masks for all the new 13 year old “hacktivists” that would take to the streets?
Figure 3: Foot soldiers by day. My Little Pony fans by night.
So those are the first things that come to mind when I imagine waking up in a world like that.