Jeremy Bentham's "Auto-Icon" at Univ...

Jeremy Bentham’s “Auto-Icon” at University College London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listening to the news this morning, struck by the fact that when they described Verax (which I shall call him from now on – so much cooler than Snowden, though Snowden could have come straight from LeCarre), they chose to mention in the first part of the description that he is a high school dropout. May be true, I don’t know, but if that’s how they are trying to discredit him they need to try harder. Doesn’t matter – dude got educated somewhere, somehow, as is evident from the way he speaks and writes.

I love the fact that he references Jeremy Bentham. and the Panopticon, in this piece. I first became aware of Bentham through Foucault‘s work on the objectification and control of the body and human beings. This trend began in earnest during the late eighteenth century, with advances in medicine and science that encouraged the view of, and analysis of the human being as a collection of component parts rather than as a discrete entity. This way of looking at things has only increased and intensified over the subsequent centuries.

This is how the creation of a prison design in the late eighteenth century relates to an intelligence leak in the twenty first. Bentham’s realization was that if you could observe prisoners at all hours of the day and night, having a view of all their activities, never allowing them one moment in which they weren’t being scrutinized, your control of them would be complete. Sound familiar? Totaliarian societies depend on their ability to regulate and control the activities of their inhabitants through fear and intimidation. When that control is compromised, and their people begin to question and challenge the authority of the state, these regimes begin to develop cracks, and eventually crumble.

OUR government has very effectively used the bogeyman of Islamist terror (which I am not discounting in total, just questioning the assertion that it is really as severe a threat as they would have us believe) to encourage, and sometimes force, us to cede control of our rights and liberties. Bullies intimidate until you give up what they want, and when they decide that sacrifice is not sufficient, or that the object of their intimidation is becoming reluctant, they will use manipulation and intimidation to get more. If you still refuse to accede, they’ll just take the shit anyway and beat your ass in the process, so that your cowering ass will just give it up without question in the future.

The more I see, the more I believe that we live not in a nanny state, but a bully state. A sometimes benevolent bully, to be sure, but one which always keeps the stick poised in case you get out of line. We have allowed this, but it isn’t too late for us to start changing it. It is never too late. Some of us may suffer metaphoric (a process which has already begun with Verax, with the attempts to marginalize him by emphasizing his lack of high school and college degrees) or even physical death along the way. No matter. I am hopeful enough for the human spirit to believe that when one falls, ten will rise up to take his place.

Philip K. Dick talked about the Black Iron Prison and ways we can use to escape it. He chose to use drugs as one of his methods, along with his writings. Drugs are a perilous path (they are tools, but all tools can cause damage rather than repair if they are over- or mis- used), and in Dick’s case they led him down the road to a kind of madness and paranoia. His writings, however, may be even more dangerous than drugs. What is more dangerous, in an allegedly free society, than a convincing pamphleteer or propagandist whose works can encourage people to think for themselves and question everything, in some cases our constructed, consensual reality itself? Verax’s sacrifice and efforts should inspire ALL of us to begin to question, challenge and find an escape from the Black Iron Prison whose construction we have encouraged and facilitated. There is a way out, people, and we can find it separately or together. Maybe Verax’s example can help all of us to begin to see what has happened and is happening from a different perspective, and bond together to start chipping the cracks that will eventually cause it to crumble.