Friendly Repression

I can easily imagine a very liberal control system. In some interview during the ’80s, someone asked William Burroughs about Brave New World and he said (in that great Burroughs voice), “I think it would be an improooovement.” I can imagine a very liberal society — pampered by machines — in which people are free to carry on wild festivities in the hippie/pagan/Burning Man traditions, or do just about whatever pleases them, and where the margins on behavior are set really wide, but if you slip over those margins, everybody immediately knows about it and your brain is instantly corrected so that you can’t do that taboo thing again. Instant rehab!

In this context, what we may be seeing today is a trend in which we’re widening the margins on certain behaviors — like pot or gay rights — and then we’re getting an utterly surveilled society to monitor those margins. With a few liberalizations, you can say, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about,” and people might actually believe you.

Excerpted from an interview by Tristan Gulliford for Reality Sandwich in 2004 and from an interview by Todd Brendan Fahey for Toke Signals 2014

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