VIDEO: What “Orwellian” Really Means
by Noah Tavlin, Oct 5, 2014
In all of our minds, the word “Orwellian” conjures up a certain kind of setting: a vast, fixed bureaucracy; a dead-eyed public forced into gray, uniform living conditions; the very words we use mangled in order to better serve the interests of power. We think, on the whole, of the kind of bleakness with which George Orwell saturated the future England that provides the setting for his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Almost seventy years after that book’s publication, we now use “Orwellian” to describe the views of the political party opposite us, the Department of Motor Vehicles — anything, in short, that strikes us as brutish, monolithic, implacable, deliberately stripped of meaning, or in any way authoritarian.
We use the word so much, in fact, that it can’t help but have come detached from its original meaning. “I can tell you that we live in Orwellian times,” writes the Guardian‘s Sam Jordison. Or that “America is waging Orwellian wars, that TV is Orwellian, that the police are Orwellian, that Amazon is Orwellian, that publishers are Orwellian too, that Amazon withdrew copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was Orwellian (although Orwell wouldn’t like it), that Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush, David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Kim Jong-un and all his relatives are Orwellian, that the TV programme Big Brother is both Orwellian and not as Orwellian as it claims to be, that Obama engages in Obamathink, that climate-change deniers and climate change scientists are Orwellian, that neoclassical economics employs Orwellian language. That, in fact, everything is Orwellian,” Jordison continues.
Here to restore sense to our usage of the most common word derived from the name of a writer, we have the Ted-Ed video at the top of the post. In it, and in the associated lesson on Ted-Ed’s site, Noah Tavlin breaks down the term’s meaning, its origin, the failings of our modern interpretation of it, and how truly Orwellian phenomena continue to invade our daily life without our even realizing it. “The next time you hear someone say ‘Orwellian,’” says Tavlin, “pay close attention. If they’re talking about the deceptive and manipulative use of language, they’re on the right track. If they’re talking about mass surveillance and intrusive government, they’re describing something authoritarian, but not necessarily Orwellian. And if they use it as an all-purpose word for any ideas they dislike, it’s possible that their statements are more Orwellian than whatever it is they’re criticizing” — an outcome Orwell himself might well have foreseen.
to read the articles by Stephan Puehringer, Matthias Schnetzer and Patrick Schreiner, click on
The 2008 financial crisis is often wrongly described as a “state debt crisis” where cause and effect are inverted and economists and the market are released from responsibility. The Austrian economist Stephan Puehringer shows how sickness and catastrophe metaphors dominate discussion. The “patient Germany” has a “serious infection” or the German economy has been “infected.” The “American crisis” is described as an “economic Tsunami.”
How perverse that the social state is dismantled and workers and the unemployed are blamed for systemic/ structural breakdown! When the neoliberal medicine – wage cuts, CEO bonuses, tax subsidies and deregulation – fail, the only cry is often for more neoliberal medicine!
to read the articles by Ferdinand Scholz and Matthias Kiefer, October 2015, click on
Today’s prosperity in large part is based on the ecological and social exploitation of poor countries in Africa and Asia. Today 20 percent of humanity consumes 80 percent of the global resources. Over 75% of the global gross domestic product falls to this 20 percent. Exploitation of the environment is joined to wars out of economic interests for power distribution benefiting elites instead of genuine democracy. Is that just? For several billion people, hunger, sickness, exploitation and low wages are the daily routine while a tiny upper class of a few thousand persons swims in extreme abundance. The poor are played off against each other while the richest hide billions in tax havens. That cannot be nothing to any compassionate person regardless of political color. Unfortunately this plight often doesn’t matter, whether out of resignation or ignorance.
The factual situation is clear. Our capitalist economic system to which some neoliberals have a sexual-erotic relation destroys the environment until the earth is uninhabitable and fossil raw materials run low without sustainable counter-measures. Population growth occurs. The capacity of the earth is greatly exceeded. Financial crises as a result of global inequality shake whole states. Values like democracy and solidarity fall by the wayside. In its 500 years, capitalism has created “prosperity” for a good number of people. Capitalism was tamed so more people could profit from it. But today it has run aground as a whole.
THE EARTH IS FINITE
The finite world hits its growth limits and yet hardly one influential politician notices we will hit the wall – until the crash. On the horizon, a crisis of unimaginable extent is marked out outstripping the recent Great Recession. The food production that could actually feed the whole population of the earth is distributed so unequally that over 800 million persons must starve. In addition we produce “bio-products” in South America that are transported to Europe with terrible consequences for the climate. This is similarly true for animal feed production.
Today there is absurd wealth for a small elite and increasingly precarious conditions for everyone else even in Europe. A community where one rich person can inhabit a whole floor while a dozen must share one room upstairs cannot function. The capitalist system doesn’t have any solutions for all these problems. From the former universal problem solver, capitalism has become the core of the problem. From a basic level of economic power, a further increase of the gross domestic product doesn’t lead to improved human life. On the contrary, exploitation and expansion are a structural necessity in global capitalism. There is no good capitalism since everything is oriented in money, commodification, competition and in the decline and oppression of other people. This is condemned to fail!
Memorandum 2015 by the Alternative Economic Policy study group in Bremen, Germany
For 40 years, the Alternative Economic Policy study group has published memorandums. The council of experts promoted the profits of businesses, not aggregate economic demand. Public net investments in Germany have been negative since 2003.
While full employment was reached in the 1960s, mass unemployment in Germany surpassed the five million mark because of neoliberal structural reforms and fiscal policy favoring capital.
Europe must regain the trust of citizens instead of preparing for stagnation, unemployment and futurelessness. The ice on which the neoliberal agenda moves has become thinner.
MEMORANDUM 2014: SHORT VERSION
MEMORANDUM 2008: SHORT VERSION
Redistributing Income, Work and Power: Alternatives to Serving the Upper Class
MEMORANDUM 2008 – CRISIS UNDERRATED
Without increasing internal demand, the upswing based on replacement-investments and exports cannot continue. Without reduced working hours, adequate jobs will not be created in a world of reduced work volumes, rationalization and information technology.
Canada had its best election ever two weeks ago. Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party are now the Majority Party with 184 seats (previously 30 seats) and Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are termed out. “When government trusts citizens, citizens trust government,” Justin Trudeau said. “Sunny ways” triumph as Canadians agree on changing direction and becoming more Canadian and inclusive.
The future must be decentralized and regional. Another world is possible and another economy is necessary, a post-growth, post-fossil and post-autistic economy where financial crises and climate change aren’t repressed, where all people are included and valued through community centers, affordable education and universal health care.
Pride is different than shame, love is different than indifference and active positive citizenship is different than manipulated consensus. The future should be open and dynamic, not closed and static. The future should be anticipated in the present, not extrapolated from the present. Hope sets us apart from the rest of creation. With the power of hope and anticipation, we can go beyond everything past and present in the power of the coming, the power of the promise (Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope).
The financial sector should be shriveled and the public sector expanded. The myths of self-healing markets, efficient financial markets, nature as a free good, external and sink, infinite growth in a finite world, quantitative growth and the exact sciences eclipsing qualitative growth and the human sciences (history, literature, play, language, sociology, political science, philosophy) and private opulence next to public squalor (cf. John Kenneth Galbraith) must call us to rethinking – individually and collectively.
The US economy amid outsourcing and financialization is kept alive through foreign investments, social security, Medicare and suffers with false identities, the world sheriff, the empire exploiting colonies and continents through “free investment” trade agreements, military bases and indirect threats.
The implementation of social security insurance drastically reduced the poverty rate in the US. The country is strengthened when fellow citizens escape poverty. Most of the money paid in SSI benefits is immediately cycled back into circulation, further stimulating the economy and thereby benefiting all of us. August 14 was Social Security’s 80th birthday and July 30 was Medicare’s 50th birthday.
All personal and corporate success depended on state investments in schools, roads, hospitals, food safety, water quality and airwaves. The Schwabian housewife is a misleading model. Debts to an individual household are different than debts to corporations and states. Debts to corporations and states are necessary to create the infrastructure for future economic activity.
O Canada shows us the wonder of public spirit. Imagine a country without Wall Street and the Pentagon. Imagine a country where college education is kept affordable, where a 21st century computer-operated light rail system lifts spirits and health care is seen as a human right and not a privilege. Did the US become incapable of learning because of its material wealth? Did the power elite immunize itself by repressing criticism and alternatives and other cultures and civilizations? Do people confuse the image and the reality and drive critics from the town and academia as in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?
We live in a Humpty Dumpty, Orwellian world where words mean what Humpty Dumpty says they mean, where telling the truth is a revolutionary act, where truth is inwardness (cf. Kierkegaard) and where words can break the frozen soul (cf. Kafka). A lie can travel halfway around the globe before truth gets her boots on (Mark Twain).
Political will and political motivation are necessary to break with inertia, corruption and lip service. Creating affordable housing and meaningful living wage jobs can’t be left to the market or neoliberal theory. Profit making is different than profit-maximizing. The neoliberal model promotes profits, not investments (Nikolaus Krowall). Private opulence exists alongside public squalor as John Kenneth Galbraith decried in the 1960s.
Don’t hate the media; become the media. Hope is in alternative media, intercultural learning, breaking out of the box of conformity, herd instinct and selfishness. Fear of the unknown and fear of the future can be overcome as prejudice and illiteracy can be overcome in the event of understanding, the fusion of horizons (cf. Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method). Fear mongering and fault finding are false securities like cheap grace and cheap citizenship. The church (as in Nazi Germany) can become a husk of hypocrisy and barbarism, a bastion of self-righteousness where social justice and the in-breaking reign of God are trivialized. Our own logs of militarism and exploding inequality must be recognized without magnifying the specks in the eyes of others.
We are called to be subjects in a future that is open and dynamic, not closed and static. We are invited to abundant self-critical and interdependent life, not a 2-inch world of Ponderosa and Mr. Cartwright, an insular world where nothing is learning of difference and other cultures. where wars of aggression and adventure are normalized and where the outside of the cup is cleaned and the inside remains filthy. “We sit here stranded and do our best to deny it,” “the executioner’s face is always well hidden where hunger is ugly and souls are forgotten,” “a hard rain’s goin to fall” (Bob Dylan www.dylanradio.com).
The unexamined life isn’t worth living (Socrates). Truth wells up and cannot be imposed. Soren Kierkegaard saw truth as inwardness wounding indirectly from behind. Self-righteousness is the grand delusion, said theologian Eberhard Juengel. Self-interest means that our will and our perception are curved in ourselves, Martin Luther warned. Narcissism is the unhealed epidemic where Narcissus falls in love with his reflection in the pond and drowns (cf. Janet Twenge on www.booktv.org and Chalmers Johnson “Nemesis”). The ego must die for the self to be born!
Progress Means Reduced Working Hours
by Berhard Schutz and Wolfgang Katzian, October 2015
More and more people use the free time option and decide for more freedom instead of higher negotiated salaries. Shorter hours can lead to economic growth, higher productivity, greater output, more time sovereignty and better long-term health of workers.
Closing one’s eyes to these arguments and only thinking of short-term profit is hostile to the future and not only hostile to the economy. That would truly be “retro” thinking.
Citizens for Tax Justice, “Offshore Shell Games 2014,”
The Use of Offshore Tax Havens by Fortune 500 Companies, June 2014, 56 pp
Offshore accounting gimmicks by multinational corporations have created a disconnect
between where companies locate their actual workforce and investments, on one hand, and
where they claim to have earned profits, on the other.
Many large U.S.-based multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes by using accounting tricks to make profits made in America appear to be generated in offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes. By booking profits to subsidiaries registered in tax havens, multinational corporations are able to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year. These subsidiaries are often shell companies with few, if any employees, and which engage in little to no real business activity.
Congress has left loopholes in our tax code that allow this tax avoidance, which forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.
Companies can avoid paying taxes by booking profits to a tax haven because U.S. tax laws allow them to defer paying U.S. taxes on profits they report are earned abroad until they “repatriate” the money to the United States. Corporations receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for the taxes they pay to foreign governments in order to avoid double taxation. Many U.S. companies game this system by using loopholes that let them disguise profits legitimately made in the U.S. as “foreign” profits earned by
a subsidiary in a tax haven.
more at www.foreffectivegov.org
re: Offshore Shell Games 2014, 56 pp
Oct. 18, 2015 on ThomHartmann.com
That is bad. These corporations, run by a clique of elites, demand that they benefit from an expensive public legal system, schools -> educated workforce, vast infrastructure which allows them to function, military and police protection, public energy infrastructure and management – but they don’t want to pay for any of it.
Much worse than these tax evasion scams is the biggest scam in all of human history, allowing criminal private banksters to create our money supply out of thin air, 10’s of $trillions created in the past decade, and that free money isn’t even classified as income, or capital gains – it is non-taxable. Outrageous.
End Climate Crimes by Fabian Scheidler
THE PLANETARY LIMITS OF THE MEGA-MACHINE ARE REACHED/
THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS WITH AN UNCERTAIN END
In the 21st century, the global mega-machine strikes ecological, social and economic limits where it ultimately breaks down, Fabian Scheidler explains. The political and economic institutions which the system created in the last centuries fail to react adequately to these limits. Therefore we are moving ever deeper in a chaotic transitional process that can last decades. What will come out at the end cannot be predicted. Fundamentalist and fascist forces could gain followings. Beginning now with the exit from the mega-machine is crucial for a social-ecological transformation so people are ready for inevitable systemic breaches.
More at Naomi Klein’s website:
Barcelona is declared a free TTIP and CETA zone.
Here is a link to their important website:
What is the problem?
The EU soon intends to sign two far-reaching trade agreements: one with Canada (CETA = Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and one with the USA (TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. However, the beneficiaries of these agreements are not in fact citizens, but big corporations:
Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS): Foreign investors (i.e. Canadian and US companies) receive the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of laws or measures of the EU or of individual EU member states. This can also affect laws which were enacted in the interest of the common good, such as environmental and consumer protection.
Groups of companies are intended to be included even during the elaboration of new regulations and laws if their trade interests could be affected. The name for this is: “regulatory cooperation”. It means that representatives of big business are invited to participate in expert groups to influence new draft laws, even before these are discussed in the elected parliaments. This undermines democracy!
Big business had, and still has, excessive influence on the secret negotiations relating to CETA and TTIP. Alone in the preparatory phase for TTIP, 590 meetings took place between the EU Commission and lobby representatives, according to official statements. 92% of these meetings were with representatives of companies, while only in a few cases there were discussions with consumer and trade union representatives. And also during the negotiations, representatives of industry are exercising influence. Some formulations in draft texts which have filtered through to the public originate directly from the pens of company lobbyists.
The negotiations are conducted in secret. Even our public representatives know little if anything about their progress. They receive the results in the form of long agreements (the CETA agreement, for example, has about 1,500 pages) only after conclusion of the negotiations, and are therefore able only to either accept or reject the whole agreement without being able to ask for amendments.
Employee rights are coming under pressure, and jobs in numerous industries are endangered. In the USA, only a few basic rights for employees are recognised (only two out of the eight ILO core labour standards). In agriculture and in the electrical industry, massive job losses could occur because of the tougher competition from abroad.
Liberalisation and privatisation are intended to become one-way streets. The return of public utilities, hospitals, or waste collection to the public sector once they have been privatised would be made more difficult or even impossible through CETA and TTIP.
The EU and its member states are falling under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or GM technology.
Foodstuff standards and consumer protection for cosmetics and medical products threaten to be set at the same levels as US standards. However, we need higher rather than lower standards of protection, whether they apply to the use of pesticides, factory farming, or clean sources of energy. Regulatory cooperation and ISDS would make this more difficult or impossible.
CETA and TTIP want to increase the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and the general good. We must not allow this to happen! Please sign our European Citizens’ Initiative!
Together we can stop TTIP and CETA!
TTIP: Attack on Democracy and the Constitutional State
Call to a Mass Demonstration on Saturday Oct 10 in Berlin!
to read the articles by Elisabeth Beer and Thilo Bode, click on
The free trade agreements TTIP, TPP, CETA and TISA threaten to undermine and suspend democracy and the constitutional state. A parallel private ad hoc arbitration system is created that will meet sometimes in hotels and are ruled by corporate lawyers. Corporations can sue states but states cannot sue corporations. Through ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement), labor and environmental protections can be called trade barriers. Corporations can sue for lost profits before private 3-judge tribunals whose decisions cannot be appealed and the public is excluded.
On Saturday Oct 10, a mass demonstration is called in Berlin against this Orwellian inversion of language and law. Do we live under Humpty Dumpty, words mean what I say they mean? Are citizens sovereign? Do corporations have responsibilities as well as rights?