Welcome to Dystopia

A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening.

The pursuit of David Cameron last week over the legal ownership of shares in an offshore trust was, simply put, significantly disproportional to the oversight of not registering his interest. The demand that anyone in public life should be perfect is, irrational, immature, and I would argue detrimental to our democracy and society. The simple fact is that we all make questionable decisions from time to time. The question to be answered is one of intent and motivation.

The problem I have with all of this is as a society; we are turned on and off like lights in a room by the press. Who pursue cash, not a story, fed to them by the real culprits; those who want to exert disproportionate influence and use misdirection to gain an unfair advantage. We see it again and again. Take the case of Julie Bailey, the woman from Stafford whose mother died in the now infamous Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. She was demonised and hounded for attempting to get the government to launch an enquiry on the worst human disaster in the history of UK healthcare. Why? Employee vested interest in the Mid Staffs hospital didn’t want the truth to come out about the inhumane care they had provided that led to hundreds of deaths. Instead, they were able to turn the spotlight on the victims and their families.

Moral smoke screens take a myriad of forms, but they are all designed to do one thing; distract us from the truth. Look at Operation Yewtree and the Metropolitan police department’s investigation into alleged sexual crimes against minors. It is increasingly becoming clear that Yewtree was a smoke and mirrors campaign to distract the public from the shameful way the establishment allowed the world’s worst paedophile, Jimmy Savile, to ply his trade at the top of some of our most revered institutions, the BBC, and NHS. The police had turned a blind eye to Saville’s exploits, bathed with him in his celebrity spotlight. The police were complicit in his crimes. So did they chose to investigate the cops failures? No, they decided to target celebrities, many who were innocent, because that made a massive splash across newspaper front pages. The police leaked stories to the press and fuelled the maelstrom from New Scotland Yard. Only now, five years after the revelations came to light, are we starting to turn our attention to the police themselves. For those who would like to bury this forever, and I don’t mean innocent men like Paul Gambaccini, it has moved the events down the road a fair way. Unless you have an endless pot of money, like the government, you can’t afford the cost of exposing the wrongdoing. The likelihood that real change in any of the three public services, the BBC, NHS and Police, diminishes as quickly as Savile does in the rearview mirror.

Therein lies the problem. We are all complicit. Like cattle with nose rings, we open the paper and join in the game. We gleefully destroy people and careers based on slanted reporting. It is simply Schadenfreude or taking pleasure from another person’s misfortune. In his book Nineteen Eight-Four George Orwell painted a dystopian society where Airstrip One, formerly Britain, was the province of a superstate Oceania. In it, the Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power.” This description defines many of those who manipulate the press for their purposes, which was another characteristic of the Party in Orwell’s book.

From Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, we gained a new adjective in the English language, Orwellian. It describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. Do we think that our politicians wield unchecked power, or are they at the mercy of those who are the real establishment, the press, and civil servants? The problem politicians have, is they face the voter every six years, not to mention daily scrutiny in their various posts. Not so for the press, or the BBC. Anyone reading this ever voted for the board of the BBC, a newspaper editor, or a civil servant? All three have a disproportionate influence on how we are governed and none is accountable.

Which brings me to last week’s revelations from that pillar of Panamanian society, the law firm of Mossack Fonseca. What we found out with the dump of information was that those in our society with the ability to do so legally reduced their tax burden. If we didn’t want them to, we should have insisted that our lawmakers change the tax law. Instead, like the monkey, we waited for the faceless organ grinder to crank the organ, and send us into an anger induced frenzy. If I may use the adjective, how Orwellian. What should we examine is whether this is anger generated because we feel there has been a wrong committed or is this anger manifested at a time which might suit someone else’s purpose? Any big decisions looming? Would I be fair in saying that the EU referendum is one of the biggest in many a generation? The conspiracy theorist out there might suggest there is an uncanny correlation between the dump of Mossack Fonseca data and the EU referendum. It would be very timely to shoot the messenger on the other side if you wanted to gain an advantage in the debate wouldn’t it?

We can’t hold humans to superhuman standards. If we discarded friends, acquaintances, and relatives based on the same criteria the press would have us apply to those in public life, we would live a very lonely existence. Nineteen Eight-Four has come and gone, but we appear to be getting closer to dystopia the further we get from the date.

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Originally published at kenanderson.org on April 10, 2016.

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