Here’s a word for the day definition. Dystopian — an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. That according to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary. They add — an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly.
George Orwell’s novel “1984” depicts one such future place, imaginary place that is. Another example might be the film “Blade Runner” and the Philip K. Dick book that inspired it, “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”. Orwell’s novel was published in 1949, right about the time I was making my entrance on this green and blue planet, so it was always part of the backdrop of my growing up. Always there during my evolution from small town Protestant boy, son of card-carrying Republican parents to hippie/wannabe yippie draft resisting protest marching and sitting and non-complying leftie. And in full disclosure we can’t forget to mention prolonged alcoholic/drug dependent non-reality testing burnout.
But always there was 1984, whatever the party affiliation or beer du j0ur, and its always ominous warning — Big Brother Is Watching!! And over time, growing up, of course it was true. Big Brother is watching. And it’s never stopped being true. Just check with Edward Snowden. Or maybe Julie Nixon, who, by the way, was born just six months before me, born a few months before George Orwell started scaring us. So, she’s kind of a soul mate of mine.
Which is all neither here nor there, the ongoing ramblings of my often dysfunctional mind and not what I want to talk about in the next seven hundred words or so. Because here’s the really outrageous, almost beyond belief, I can hardly believe I’m about to write this down and put it out in public question: and it’s this — Is Big Brother watching enough?
I know, I know. I’ll have to turn in my official yippee card, unlearn the secret handshake, and remove the pictures of Joan Baez and Chrissie Hynde off my wall. Two women I wrote in for President in different elections during the 80s. Heck, I wrote in Joan twice. But those days have come to a screeching halt, it seems, because I’ve morphed into one of those dystopian characters, with my unhappy and usually afraid and fearful life. And I can’t turn on the TV or the computer without falling further in.
Because I’ve found myself wondering lately whether or not Big Brother is watching enough. I mean, really. That’s what I’m wondering. Here’s an example. Last Tuesday, January 7th, I had an idea and I made a decision to post a wonderful oldie song, something from my childhood and 20-something years, on my Facebook page everyday. For a long time. Just to put something fun there, something that would cheer people up. I decided to start doing it the next day. But the next day when I turned on the computer there was murder and terror in Paris, and the next day, and the next day, and my heart went out of the song thing. (I am happy to say that the desire to try and spread cheer and happiness eventually pushed through the Blade Runner rain and misery and I started those musical posts yesterday) But I watched a lot of TV and looked at a lot of news on line and thought about it all a lot.
And it came to this. Last night at dinner I looked at my wife Susan with a straight face — older and more wrinkled but the same face that thrilled to The Beatles and the Summer of Love and Joan and The Pretenders — and I said I knew what needed to be done to make this a world that was safe – at least relatively safe – to live in again. Here are the first two actions I told her need to be taken: (1) gather up some 20 or 30 or 40 countries from around the world, it shouldn’t be hard to find that many volunteers at all, and have everyone agree to send two or three war ships – cruisers and destroyers and aircraft carriers — and park them about a mile off the coast of Yemen and send a message to the Yemen government: get rid of Al Qaeda today. You do it or we’ll do it. You have 24 hours. We’re not asking again. And when it isn’t done in 24 hours, take care of business. Part (2) of my plan is this: The United States and most of the countries/allies in Europe make this declaration to their citizens — If you go to Syria or Yemen you can’t come back. Ever. Come back and we’ve got a jail cell with your name. And it’s a throw-away-the-key jail cell.
Does this make me a Republican? No, I’d rather eat tar. Does this rule me out of the Democrat club? No, I haven’t been a member of that depressing club since around the time Julie Nixon was jumping on the helicopter with her Dad to skidaddle out of town. Does this drum me out of the official legacy of the Yippie nation? It might and it probably does, and that makes me sad. I guess I can try to keep Yippie in my own way, like Christmas, but it’ll be hard to look in the mirror and see a real yippie looking back. And that sucks.
But I don’t want to worry about my wife or my sons or their families or any of my friends or people who root for The Yankees or people who live in France or Greece or Nigeria or Australia or anyone else getting shot or blown up on a day I forgot to say goodbye or see you soon or I love you. I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to think of the world in which my favorite Christmas/holiday song — “Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me” — is ignored by a bunch of people whose intent is to to re-write the state of New Hampshire license plate — “Live Like Me Or Die”.
Does this make me an android? Have I come to think of people as electric sheep, come to believe that some people, lots of people, do need Big Brother watching. I guess it does. And it pisses me off.
Because on any given day that I’m lucky enough to wake up all I really want to do is be a good flower child. And let the sun shine.