George Orwell, 1984
ve never understood the idea of speaking truth to power. The truth, surely, is that in almost all countries of the world, political and economic systems are designed to benefit only the rich and powerful, at the expense of those with less money and power. This is how the world works, and I see no reason to think that the powerful dont already understand that. After all, they designed it, they maintain it.
They steal our money, sacrifice our children in their wars, send the poorest and most victimized among us off to jail for petty mistakes, and crush those of us who might present a real threat to the arrangement. They know we dont like it. They dont care. They dont need to care. They also control most of our avenues of dissent. Its a very simple, very elegant design.
We go to tell them to stop using our money and our children and our energy and intelligence to further rob and rape and murder us. We tell them to be more respectful and compassionate. Were like angry but terrorized children, anxiously scolding our stern, all-powerful parents. And, in the end, we look to the Democrats or to some congressional panel or to the Supreme Court and demand that they come to our aid. As my friend Harry puts it: Were left in the terrible position of trying to decide which elite group will be less likely to prey on us.
Well, the government and their pals are not going to stop using and abusing us. Theyre not going to stop preying on us. They can not stop! Republican or democrat, they are rich and powerful precisely because they prey on us. They are rich because they rob us. Theyre robbing us right this minute. They are powerful because they dominate every aspect of our lives, because theyve taken control of all the major social, political, economic, and communication systems in the world. These systems were designed to increase their wealth and power by taking both from all the rest of us.
They are very few and we, here in the US alone, are roughly three hundred million. We dont need to rush out to tell the few that they are abusing the many. They already know that. We need to stand upright and walk out to tell the many that they are being slowly devoured by the few, for - incredibly, they do not know. We need to look to our next-door neighbors, and to their next door neighbors and to the folks all along the block. We need to tell the truth to each other - for we are the answer.
While hundreds of thousands of anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington, DC, back in September, hundreds of millions of American citizens went about their business without even a vague awareness of the protests. The media to which most of them attend barely mention such things - obviously. And, most Americans dont live in the DC area, so they didnt see a thing.
Most Americans live in my neighborhood, or in your neighborhood. Most Americans eat breakfast right next to you in the local cafe'. Most Americans get their car fixed at the same garage as you and I do. Most Americans visit my library, my bookstore, my grocery store, my local park - or yours.
But the rich and powerful have convinced us that we can not, we must not communicate with the people we can see and hear and touch, right here, right now. They have convinced us that we need to travel to some government office to persuade elected officials and bureaucrats to change our world for us. The government and media drone on, endlessly, hypnotically, and convince us that if we just elect the right leaders, theyll talk to our next door neighbor for us.
Government programs, they promise us, will fix that gaping hole in the pavement, right out beyond your driveway. Government will help poor Mrs. Wilson, languishing in the old, dilapidated house right across the street. Government will settle your dispute with that family right down the block. Government will take care of your neighbors who cant escape the hurricane: Its OK, just hop in the SUV and go, well take care of everything! Government will help, government will heal, government will bring us together.
Were all looking in the wrong place for reason and compassion and justice. Its not anywhere to be found in Washington, DC. Its not in governments or state houses. Its not there in that prestigious gathering of experts and big brains.
Its right here. Its wherever you are, and its right next door and its everywhere along your street and all around your neighborhood. Its in the cars that pass you on the roadways and in the shops where you buy your dog or cat food. Theres no need to travel a thousand or even a hundred miles. Its not necessary to make the climb up to the penthouse. Our hope, our possibility - our only hope, our only possibility, lies in the ordinary people who compose our world, who are the very stuff of our lives.