Same As It Ever Was Again

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the animals revolt and drive out its owner, farmer Jones. But after that the pigs who take over running the farm gradually become increasingly like the human owners of surrounding farms. They start walking on their hind legs, and wearing clothes, and carrying whips. In the end the other animals on the farm are unable to tell the pigs from the men. And they end up back where they started before the revolution.

The book, published in August 1945, was about the Soviet Union. But it could equally have been about the post-war Britain that had just elected the Labour government of Clement Attlee and its Welfare State, which was Britain’s bloodless version of the Soviet Union. Many industries were nationalised, the National Health Service was inaugurated, education was reformed.

Seventy years later, much has changed. Margaret Thatcher de-nationalised many of the nationalised industries. But the state-run NHS continues, and so do the state schools. But Clement Attlee would have no place in the modern Labour party, because he was an avid pipe-smoker, and in 2006 the Labour government voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in indoor public places. Many of them would like to ban smoking outdoors as well. Most likely nobody at all in the modern Labour party smokes any tobacco any more, except in secret.

Yesterday Dick Puddlecote was reporting how blogger Anna Raccoon, now dying of cancer, was being forbidden even from vaping in the hospice in which she is now confined. Such a thing would have been unthinkable in Clement Attlee’s NHS, in which most of the patients smoked, and most of the doctors as well. But the Labour party has changed, and so have the schools, and so has the NHS. These days the pigs stand on their hind legs, and wear clothes, and carry whips. And they are indistinguishable from any of their authoritarian human predecessors.

Yesterday I was writing about all the petty tyrants that abound these days. I cited the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who’d set out to ban fast food from schools. And the doctors who, not content with banning smoking everywhere, now seem to want to ban alcohol and sugar and salt and fat as well. And the global warming alarmists who want to ban carbon dioxide, and probably carbon as well. And the EU which has gradually mutated from being a family of nations into centralised controlling superstate.

“It’s not a free country any more,” a complete stranger said to me on 1 July 2017, in the watery sunlight of the car park outside the River, where its smokers had just been exiled minutes beforehand. Never a truer word was spoken. And it has become even less free in the past 10 years since the smoking ban. But the Britain of 1945 was a free country, and it became even more free over the next three or four decades. But then it started becoming less free again. More or less everywhere in the world, people seem to becoming less and less free. Usually in small ways, through new pieces of legislation, almost insensibly, slice by slice.

Political Correctness is another creeping form of tyranny. It sets out to control what people can say, and even what they can think. It changes the meanings of words, so that a word like “liberal” now means almost the exact opposite of what it used to mean, in the USA at least.

Back in the 1960s there were lots of liberation movements. Women’s Liberation, for example. Animal Liberation. Gay Liberation. But now we have control movements. Tobacco Control. Climate Control.  If freedom ever gets a mention, it’s in the form of its negation, as in “smoke-free” or “fat-free”. Nobody mentions freedom – real freedom – any more. There’s not a single hint of freedom in either of two well known contemporary slogans: Black Lives Matter and Make America Great Again. What does it mean to make something “matter”? What does it mean to make something “great”?

If George Orwell, another avid smoker, were still around, he would have recognised all of it immediately. For nothing has really changed.

All these various revolutions – and the election of the Attlee government in 1945 was a revolution of a sort (it would be called a velvet revolution today) – seem to start out hopefully, even deliriously optimistically, and then gradually turn into dystopian nightmares, and then finally return to more or less exactly where they started, nothing having really changed at all. One tyranny is replaced with… another tyranny.

And perhaps that was always inevitable. Idle Theory is about freedom. Idle time is free time in which people can do what they want. In Idle Theory freedom comes in concrete quantities, measured by clocks. But we are never completely free. Not all our time is free time. The rest of the time we spending working. And we’re usually working for some tyrannical boss, or for some tyrannical general, or some tyrannical dictator, or some tyrannical king. The rest of the time we’re under top down control by somebody or other. But perhaps that’s less a reflection on the character of these various petty tyrants, and more one that is a reflection of the condition of all living things: that they must work to survive. The underlying tyranny relaxes a little sometimes, and we become more free, and intensifies in other times, and we become less free. The mistake that we continually make is to suppose that if we can just overthrow the current king or tyrant or dictator or pope or tsar, we will become absolutely free. But we never do. We always just end up back where we started.

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18 Responses to Same As It Ever Was Again

  1. Rose says:

    Most likely nobody at all in the modern Labour party smokes any tobacco any more, except in secret

    But thanks to the Conservative Party the rest of us now have Victory Cigarettes, the original medico-porn pictures was Labour’s gift.

    1 October 2008: Implementation of picture warnings on tobacco products.

    “The legal requirements with regard to the current written health warnings are set out in the EU Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC). This stipulates that health warnings should cover at least 30% of the front and 40% of the back of cigarette packs, with a border to surround warnings. [1] The Directive states which warnings can be used: one of two general warnings on the front of the pack; and one of 14 more specific warnings on the reverse, with all of the warnings to be used regularly.

    The Directive also obliged the European Commission to adopt rules for the use of colour photographs or other illustrations to depict and explain the health consequences of smoking. The UK’s new pictorial warnings will be placed on the back of cigarette packs and will occupy the space currently given to the text-only warnings.

    The UK is the first EU country to require pictorial warnings on all tobacco products.”

  2. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    And the pigs became tyrants…like the old chestnut…
    Q: what is the difference between pigs and men?
    A: pigs don’t turn into men when they drink. 🍻🥂

  3. George Speller says:

    Orwell specificall referred to the corriuption of the word “free” in a passage in Newspeak, where the word had been restricted in meaning to eg, “this dog is free of fleas”.

  4. natepickering says:

    “It changes the meanings of words, so that a word like ‘liberal’ now means almost the exact opposite of what it used to mean, in the USA at least.”

    Yes, 21st century American “liberalism” is just about the most illiberal worldview that ever tried to foist itself on the world. Its devotees also enjoy trafficking in the self-application of other wildly inapplicable adjectives like “tolerant” and “inclusive,” all the while fighting to ban various forms of protected speech and spending their weekends beating people with sticks who disagree with them politically (to which they refer, in another screamingly hilarious act of unintentional irony, as “anti-fascism”).

    • Rose says:

      It seems to me that they are trying to re-write history too, or obliterate it.

      A link within the article.

      Sheriff wants to charge protesters who pulled down Confederate statue
      August 15, 2017

      “Charges will be sought against demonstrators who took down a Confederate monument during a Monday protest, Mike Andrews, the sheriff of Durham County, North Carolina, said Tuesday in a statement.
      “As the sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct,” Andrews said. “With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue.”

      No charges had been announced as of Tuesday afternoon.
      The statue was toppled during a protest in Durham to show solidarity with anti-racist activists in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

      The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm
      AUG. 13, 2017

      “At the center of the chaos is a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. It depicts the Confederacy’s top general, larger than life, astride a horse, both green with oxidation.

      The white nationalists were in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove that statue, and counterdemonstrators were there to oppose them. The statue — begun by Henry Merwin Shrady, a New York sculptor, and finished after his death by an Italian, Leo Lentelli — had stood in the city since 1924. But over the past couple of years some residents and city officials, along with organizations like the N.A.A.C.P., had called for it to come down.

      One local official made a similar suggestion as early as 2012 and quickly discovered that emotions surrounding the issue run deep.
      It was during the Virginia Festival of the Book, a series of readings and events held every year in Albemarle County, which includes Charlottesville.
      At a talk given by the author and historian Edward Ayers, a Charlottesville city councilor, Kristin Szakos, asked about the city’s Confederate monuments. She wondered whether the city should discuss removing them.

      People around her gasped. “You would have thought I had asked if it was O.K. to torture puppies,” she recalled during a 2013 conversation on BackStory, a podcast supported by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.”

      The violence this weekend was one of the bloodiest fights over the campaigns across the South to remove Confederate monuments, and the statue remains a lightning rod in Charlottesville.”
      https: //

      • Joe L. says:

        Yes, Rose. I too believe there is an attempt to rewrite history underway, as well as an attempt to continue the escalation of division in our current society.

        In Durham, the police knowingly stood down and allowed those SJW vandals to tear down a century-old statue. If something like that were attempted under any other circumstances, the crowd would have been broken up and arrests would have been made. There is definitely a greater agenda in play, and it is very bad.

        • Rose says:

          I was pleased that President Trump was even handed in his press conference on the news this morning, he is obviously better briefed than our press.

          We had something similar last year but when the fuss had died down a bit and quieter voices were finally heard the statue stayed, but with a written explanation of the controversy beside it.

          Cecil Rhodes statue to remain at Oxford after ‘overwhelming support’

          Mind you the apparent leader of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in England, whose studies at Oxford were being funded by a legacy from the man whose statue he wished to tear down, did rather blot his copybook with the public by exulting online about making a waitress in a cafe “cry white tears”

          “Mr Qwabe’s actions became known after he posted about the incident on Facebook, claiming that he was “unable to stop smiling” over what had happened. He described how the waitress had started shaking when she had seen the note, adding: “She leaves us and bursts into typical white tears (like why are you crying when all we’ve done is make a kind request? Lol!)”.

          “The campaign to tip Ms Schultz was kicked off by Shile Ngobese, who visited the café and sought out the waitress in order to leave her a large tip.
          Speaking to News24, Mr Ngobese said: “Qwabe is someone that claims to speak to the downtrodden and the disenfranchised yet he has the audacity to bully a working class young woman. Waitresses are not rich people. They are trying to make a meagre income to pursue further opportunities.”

        • natepickering says:

          Yes, it appears in some ways as if vapid, self-important 20-year-old virtue signalers are the ones who run the world now.

          But then, we have raised an entire generation of young adults to believe they’re entitled to never, ever have their feelings hurt, so it’s not altogether surprising.

      • beobrigitte says:

        Rose, this is another depressing piece of “progress” I read tonight. As an egalitarian I believe in equal rights. (Libertarians just appear to believe in what they want)

        However, perhaps I should pay more attention to conspiracy theories. This sure does prove their point. Divide and rule.

        • Rose says:

          The obvious choice in Charlottesville, now this subject has been overwhelmed by outside forces, is to have a local referendum and ask the local people who actually live there what they think about keeping or removing the statue.

    • waltc says:

      Right on

      • waltc says:

        That (just above) was meant in Reply to Nate. Don’t know how it got down here. Haven’t even read what’s immediately before this

  5. beobrigitte says:

    Yesterday Dick Puddlecote was reporting how blogger Anna Raccoon, now dying of cancer, was being forbidden even from vaping in the hospice in which she is now confined.

    I just read it and must say that I am utterly, utterly disappointed and disgusted.

    Looks like yet another CRUK :


    Douglas Macmillan establishes the ‘Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer’, providing information on recognising, preventing and treating cancer to patients, doctors and members of the public.

    Prevention of cancer? Does anybody still buy this utter, utter money spinning nonsense?
    And, they all have the money for advertisement agencies/TV when it comes to wringing cash out of people. Monthly, of course.

    I sincerely do hope Dick Puddlecote has no objection that I quote a paragraph of his blog:

    Here is how she described it by email.
    What happened I found out in stages – apparently someone saw me at the week-end refilling the vape from the ‘sipped case’ – and told them. This evening a nurse walked over to me me and said, ‘what a sweet little teddy’ and proceeded to play with him – ‘Oh do you keep your pen in there, good heavens no its a vape’. It was so odd that I didn’t twig at first. Well, I got the rules and regulations read to me in such a patronising tone of voice.
    But it was just the way it was done, pretending to ‘find’ the vapeur like that, it just added to all the electricians checking plugs, and signing disclaimers for sandwiches, and everything else, I’m not a bloody child, I’m a grown woman whose been more independent than most of them can begin to imagine, and now suddenly I’ve lost the use of my legs and I’m treated like I’m 3 years old.

    This is apparently how staff at a hospice (run by MacMillan, according to Anna) treat someone in her dying days.

    Dignity? What happened to:

    – Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family
    – Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control

    ? HUH????

    George Orwell never looked into this part of 1984……

    Oh, give up smoking and you can look forward to similar treatment when you live 10 years longer, frail. We live in a sick world.

  6. Joe L. says:

    Another excellent post, Frank. The Animal Farm analogy is sad but true throughout history. No matter how large and hopeful the revolution, society always eventually winds back up under tyrannical control.

    The thirst for control seems to be a normally latent characteristic that is inherent in the human psyche. Most people seem to be be able to keep it in check, but there is a small percentage (i.e., sociopaths) who can’t, and some of them inevitably weasel their way into positions of power.

    Coincidentally, I recently found this 2003 article describing how the CIA helped pervert Animal Farm into an animated anti-communist propaganda film in 1954, a few short years after Orwell’s death, conveniently changing the most poignant part–the ending–to suit their agenda. I’m sure Orwell was (and probably still is for countless other reasons) rolling over in his grave.

    For George Orwell, there was nothing pro-American about Animal Farm. The CIA, however, had other ideas. Karl Cohen tells the remarkable story of how US intelligence secretly funded a landmark British movie

    The cartoon that came in from the cold

  7. slugbop007 says:

    Ocean seabed ‘Black Smokers’:

    “Black Smokers”

    by Kathy Svitil

    In the frigid depths far beneath the ocean surface, at the ridges where new crust is born, lies a landscape more alien than earthly. Here, strange long-necked barnacles, giant clams, and bizarre worms, their blood-red gills fanned out of bodies like bone-white tubes, clump beside towering spires of mineral. Nearby, sooty black clouds billow out from fissures in the seafloor, and organisms swim by, glowing with their own, otherworldly light.

    The setting for this surreal scene is the submarine hydrothermal vents of Earth’s mid-ocean spreading ridges. At the mid-ocean ridges, molten rock bubbles up from the mantle to the sea floor and cools to form new oceanic crust. Cold sea water percolates down through the fissures in these ridges, and many types of minerals — like sulfur, copper, zinc, gold, and iron — are transferred from the hot, new crust into the water.  

    The water, now rich with dissolved metals, is heated and then gushes back up through the cracks, forming hydrothermal vents. As the hot water — which can reach temperatures of over 700 degrees Fahrenheit — escapes from the vents and comes in contact with the near-freezing water of the ocean bottom, the metals quickly rain out of their solution. The result are surging clouds of particle-rich water called “black smokers,” which often erupt out of tall chimneys of previously deposited solidified mineral.

    Such hydrothermal vents were predicted long before they were first discovered by the submersible Alvin in 1977, as it surveyed the Galapagos Rift, along the eastern Pacific Ocean basin and over a mile and a half below the surface. (Other active systems being studied include the Juan de Fuca Ridge, off the coast of Washington and Oregon, and the Southern East Pacific Rise, in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean.)

    A “black smoker” in the East Pacific, discovered by the submersible Alvin.

    Because so much metal is spewed out, hydrothermal vents have been responsible for many of the world’s richest ore deposits, like the copper ores mined on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, many economic geologists have suggested that active vents — not just the sites of former ones — be mined for their massive metallic deposits, although their remote locations might make that difficult.

    The vents are also remarkable for their unusual, diverse life forms, like the tube worms, giant clams, and long-necked barnacles. Life is possible at the hydrothermal vent systems because of a unique type of bacteria that forms the basis of the food chain there. The bacteria harness energy not from the rays of the sun — no sunlight reaches these great depths — but by metabolizing the large amounts of sulfur in the hot springs.

    Some researchers believe that life on Earth began in extreme environments such as these submarine hydrothermal vents. If hydrothermal vents are now (or once were) present on other worlds — Europa, Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, is one possibility, as is Mars, where minerals that on Earth are commonly formed at hydrothermal vents were just discovered — life might very well have arisen there too.  

    Photo: Dudley Foster. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Article: The Earth at Work | Sidebar One: Probing the Depths | Sidebar Two: “Black Smokers” | Sidebar Three: Ring of Fire | ANIMATION Hell’s Crust: Our Everchanging Planet  |  The Restless Planet: Earthquakes Out of the Inferno: Volcanoes  |  Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis

    I wonder if the ‘Black Lives Matter’ group will eventually protest the use of this term?

    There are some pretty heavy metal chemicals down there and these plants and animals are surviving quite nicely, thank you.


  8. margo says:

    Some of us have been saying this for years (about 40 years, in my case – I’m bored with saying it). Environmental pollution (road traffic, industry, radiation) are the most probable causes of cancer. But it’s the rise in childhood cancers that’s incontestably damning and should suggest that Doll was indeed wrong (whether intentonally or not) to change the focus of his studies in the 1950s from ‘What is causing the rise in lung cancer?’ to ‘Let’s prove that smoking causes lung cancer’.
    Well, there’s nothing special about the lung – it’s just one of the places where cancer may develop or to which it may spread.
    That man and all the anti-smoking fanatics who have followed him have delayed the chances of real understanding by 60 years. What an achievement.

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