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Many have already noticed: The U.S. really, really doesn't feel like the world leader, or even as a 'first world country'. Of course, I write that sarcastically, as I detest expressions like 'first world', and the 'third world'. But readers know what I mean.
Bridges, subways, inner cities, everything is crumbling, falling apart. When I used to live in New York City, more than two decades ago, returning from Japan was shocking: the US felt like a poor, deprived country, full of problems, misery, of confused and depressed people, homeless individuals; in short - desperados. Now, I feel the same when I land in the US after spending some time in China.
And it gets much worse. What the West used to accuse the Soviet Union of, is now actually clearly detectable in the United States and the United Kingdom themselves: surveillance is at every step, these days; in New York, London, Sydney, and even in the countryside. Every move a person makes, every purchase, every computer click, is registered; somewhere, somehow. And this monitoring is, mostly, not even illegal.
Speech is controlled by political correctness. Someone behind the scenes decides what is acceptable and what is not, what is desirable or not, and even what is permissible. You make one 'mistake' and you are out; from the teaching positions at the universities, or from the media outlets.
In such conditions, humor cannot thrive, and satire dies. It is not unlike religious fundamentalism: you get destroyed if you 'offend'. In such circumstances, writers cannot write ground-breaking novels, because true novels offend by definition, and always push the boundaries. As a result, almost nobody reads novels, anymore.
Only toothless, 'controlled humor' is permitted. No punches can be administered intuitively. Everything has to be calculated in advance. No 'outrageous' political fiction can pass the 'invisible censorship' in the West (and so, novels as a form have almost died). Those who read in Russian or Chinese languages know perfectly well, that the fiction in Russia and China, is much more provocative and avant-garde.
In the West, poetry has died, too. And so has philosophy, which has been reduced to a boring, stale and indigestible academic discipline.
While Hollywood and the mass media keep producing, relentlessly, all sorts of highly insulting and stereotypical racist junk (mainly against the Chinese, Russians, Arabs, Latinos and others), great writers and filmmakers who want to ridicule the Western regime and its structure, have already been silenced. You can only humiliate non-Westerners in a way that is approved (again: somewhere, somehow), but God forbid, you dare to criticize the pro-Western elites who are ruining their countries on behalf of London and Washington, in the Gulf, Southeast Asia or Africa that would be 'patronizing' and 'racist'. A great arrangement for the Empire and its servants, isn't it?
We all know what has happened to Julian Assange, and to Edward Snowden. In the West, people are disappearing, getting arrested, censored. Millions are losing jobs: in the media, publishing houses, and in the film studios. The Cold War era appears to be relatively 'tolerant', compared to what is taking place now.
Social media constantly represses 'uncomfortable' individuals, 'unacceptable' media outlets, and too 'unorthodox' thoughts.
Travel has become a boot camp. This is where they break you. Move through the Western airports and you will encounter the vulgar, insulting 'securistan'. Now, you are not just expected to pull down your pants if ordered, or take off your shoes, or throw away all your bottles containing liquids: you are expected to smile, to grin brightly, like an idiot. You are supposed to show how eager, how cooperative you are: to answer loudly, looking straight into the eyes of your tormentors. If you get humiliated, still, be polite. If you want to fly, show that you are enjoying this stupid and useless humiliation, administered for one and only reason: to break you, to make you pathetic and submissive. To teach you where you really belong. Or else. Or else! We all know what will happen if you refuse to 'cooperate'.
Now, 'they' will use double-speak to let you know that all this is for your own good. It will not be pronounced, but you would be made to sense it: 'you are being protected from those horrible Third World monsters, madmen, perverts.' And of course, from Putin, from the Chinese Communists, from the butcher Maduro, from Assad, or from the Iranian Shi'a fanatics.
The regime is fighting for you, it cares for you, it is protecting you.
Sure, if you live in the UK or the US, the chances are that you are deep in debt, depressed and with no prospects for the future. Maybe your children are hungry, maybe, in the US, you cannot afford the medical care. Most likely, you cannot afford housing in your own city. Perhaps you are forced to have two or three jobs.
But at least, you know that your 'wise leaders' in the White House, Congress, Pentagon and security agencies, are working day and night, protecting you from countless conspiracies, from vicious attacks from abroad, and from those evil Chinese and Russians, who are busy building progressive and egalitarian societies.