A totalitarian system is a system where all human activity is strictly governed by an often brutal system striking down at any attempt of subversion with violence, torture and imprisonment. North Korea has been called totalitarian, so have Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and fundamentally Islamic Iran. A totalitarian society is signified by the total and all-encompassing control of a nation similar to George Orwell’s nightmare vision of thought control in his famous book 1984.
History shows that totalitarian systems can be subverted through mobilization of the people against the state, often through rebels forming a guerilla-type military that takes over power in a coup with aid from allied nations, such as was the case in Germany, Italy and Iran.
But then what is inverted totalitarianism and how is it located in our heads and in the hands of our heads? And what does that even mean? The concept – which is not really a concept but actual manifested reality – was inaugurated by American political philosopher Sheldon Wolin. In recent years it has also been given more momentum as an often referred-to term by the American journalist, author and scholar Chris Hedges. Hedges has written several books on the topic and on related topics and his speeches and lectures can be found on both YouTube, Vimeo and other sites. These are vital to listen to, to burst the bubbles we are currently residing in in our heads and in our consumer-democratic nations – so definitely suggest to put on the headphones and listen to Chris Hedges an afternoon while doing dishes.
What characterizes inverted totalitarianism is according to Hedges that “the leader is not the architect of the system, but its product”. This perspective was also presented in the important documentary series done by Adam Curtis on Century of The Self but for Hedges it is even more pronounced. There are no leaders in inverted totalitarianism which also means that no one is responsible or can be held accountable. Instead it is the corporations that ironically as non-entities are legally recognized as corpuses that govern the political decisions on earth. And because corporations are driven to maximize profit, economics becomes the leading driving force of the global community while politics takes the backseat as merely that which gives economy its prerogative and momentum.
Now – within the notion of inverted totalitarianism the word ‘inverted’ refers to the fact that it is the system itself that acts totalitarian on itself. But it also refers to something that is more subtly mentioned by both Chris Hedges and Adam Curtis: that the totalitarian system is inverted through how we as human beings are endorsing it from within and as ourselves.
Instead of a totalitarian system where an external power oppresses its people, we have now inverted such a system into our very bodies and minds.
The consequence of the engineering of such a system is not far from the human battery fields of the Matrix movies where each is plugged into an alternate virtual reality and live their life in a bubble of total delusion while actual life, their physical bodies, are harvested to provide energy for the machines – machines invented by humans to begin with. And if you want to brainwash and disarm an entire population to have them exist as slaves for profit this makes total sense. Because history has shown that classical totalitarian systems can be subverted by the people. But in an inverted totalitarian system people first of all don’t even realize that their every move is being orchestrated by corporate elites through consumerism. But second of all and more importantly: they are doing so willingly to the extent where they will even fight for their enslavement and attack all attempts of subversion. This is done, claims Hedges “not on immobilization of the masses but on a politically demobilized society, one in which citizens are kept lethargic and fearful. And you do that through a constant assault on the stability of their own lives.”
In other words, the mainstream media feeds us with a constant impulse of fear through presenting external enemies that pose a threat to our lives; communists, Arabs, North Korea, Romanians, Muslims, Jews, Cults, Aliens – whatever gets your blood pumping with fear. This then has the effect Hedges says that people start clamoring their own enslavement in a perverted form of patriotism. And when that happens, a soothing array of mass entertainment awaits with a smothering embrace to welcome you into its fold of dreams and hope and happiness where you can seek shelter from the storm that has built up in your mind – never realizing that it is the exact same media that supported you to live in fear in the first place. This is also why and how people clamor to religion and spirituality. But even science is used to blind ourselves with positivity and sweet talk. As Hedges say: “This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity. … It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”
Chris Hedges and Sheldon Wolin argues that an inverted totalitarian system functions through a constant ambiguity where it “outwardly professes to be the opposite of what it is”. This is then what they call ‘anti-politics’ where the big government is presented as the enemy and at the same time as the saving grace of the people. In other words: “An inversion occurs when seemingly unrelated even desperate starting-points converge and reinforce each other. An inversion is present when a system such as a democracy produces a number of significant actions, ordinarily associated with its antithesis.” There are vast examples of how this plays out daily all over the world – because while Wolin speaks primarily about the American nation as a Superpower, it can be argued, which is also what Hedges do, that there is a form of global inverted totalitarianism considering how the domain of corporations reaches every corner of the earth and leaves no stone unturned. As such Hedges claim that the sneakiness of an inverted totalitarian system is that it takes over so gradually and smoothly that people don’t even notice that it’s there and by using reversed propaganda it disclaims its identity – people fighting for the freedom of their country becomes terrorists, those that speak up against the system are labeled as traitors or unpatriotic. And the people, where are the people? “The citizens, instead of participating in power are invited to have opinions, measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them, like voting on American Idol… participatory fascism. “ Hedges say.
As such we walk around in our meticulously orchestrated lives not unlike Truman in the movie the Truman show completely unaware of the product placements around us or that none of our actions are our own because we are constantly being coaxed with words such as ‘Freedom’ and ‘independence’ and ‘be yourself’. As such we would rather believe ourselves to be the masters of our own lives than to admit that we have absolutely no power whatsoever and that our lives and the values we hold dear have been prompted by calculated marketing schemes. The commercial media thus, Hedges say, “… help citizens feel as if they are successful and have met these aspirations, even if they have not. They tend to neglect reality (they don’t run stories about how life is hard, fame and fortune elusive, hopes disappointed) and instead celebrate idealized identities – those that, in a commodity culture, revolve around the acquisition of status, money, fame and power, or at least the illusion of these things. The media, in other words, assist the commercial culture in “need creation”, prompting consumers to want things they don’t need or have never really considered wanting. And catering to these needs, largely implanted by advertisers and the corporate culture, is a very profitable business. A major part of the commercial media revolves around selling consumers images and techniques to “actualize” themselves, or offering seductive forms of escape through entertainment and spectacle. News is filtered into the mix, but actual news is not the predominant concern of the commercial media.”
Totalitarianism is inverted because we each hold it inside our heads as an internal navigation and operation system that, using our minds as the interface upon which it uploads itself, interjects itself into our bodies. Like venom or a virus it takes over our bodily chemistry and holds our entire system in check through the impulses of emotions and feelings. It only works because we make it work. It only works because we are participating actively in it. It is a conundrum and a paradox, because even though we are brainwashed and without any form of control or self-will we are also doing it to ourselves. We are the ones who created this system. We are the ones who abdicated our power, authority and responsibility to the corporations in the big and to our minds in the small. There is no one else. There are no leaders we can blame this on. We did it to ourselves.
But where Chris Hedges urges us to go onto the streets and protest – at Desteni we propose a different approach to subverting the system of inverted totalitarianism. Because exactly because the system is inverted and functions from within us, that is also where the subversion has to happen simultaneously with an external subversion. But the two are intrinsically interconnected and juxtaposed because reality is holographic in the sense that ‘as above, so below’ – the world system is reflecting in an exact replica the inner system of totalitarianism of the mind inside our heads. And the world system with its energetically charged vocabulary and brainwashing institutions such as family and school systems is equally co-producing our minds that takes over all our bodily functions – until we start blaming the body for that which is created through the mind.
And that is how the world is in the hands of our head.
In the next post – we will continue on the topic of the internal totalitarianism in our heads and how the solution lies within each of us to stand up, within as without in a movement of equality and oneness with what is here. We will also discuss how you can wash your brain with Chris Hedges and Desteni
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