Into The Soft Abyss
In Volume II of The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes one element of what daily life was like in the Soviet Union that caught my attention in my recent re-readings of some of his works.
In a chapter entitled Our Muzzled Freedom, he writes of the Constant Fear under which the people of the USSR lived:
…Just as there is no minute when people are not dying or being born, so there was one minute when people were not being arrested. Sometimes this came close to a person, sometimes it was further off; sometimes a person deceived himself into thinking that nothing threatened him, and sometimes he himself became an executioner, and thus the threat to him diminished. But any adult inhabitant of this country, from a collective farmer up to a member of the Politburo, always knew that it would take only one careless word or gesture and he would fly off irrevocably into the abyss.
Just as in the Archipelago beneath every trusty lay the chasm (and death) of general work, so beneath every inhabitant lay the chasm (and death) of the Archipelago. In appearance the country was much bigger than its Archipelago, but all of it and all its inhabitants hung phantomlike above the latter’s gaping maw.
Fear was not always the fear of arrest. There were intermediate threats: purges, inspections, the completion of security questionnaires — routine or extraordinary ones — dismissal from work, deprivation of residence permit, expulsion or exile. The security questionnaires were so detailed and so inquisitive that more than half the inhabitants of the country had a bad conscience and were constantly and permanently tormented by the approach of the period when they had to be filled out. Once people had invented a false life story for these questionnaires, they had to try not to get tangled up in it. But danger might strike suddenly….
The aggregate fear led to a correct consciousness of one’s own insignificance and of the lack of any kind of rights….
Do we not live in a milder, a softer, form of this fear in what used to be The United States Of America?
A whole lifetime of building a successful career in any field or a solid reputation can be destroyed by one wrong move and/or utterance that brings down the wrath of those in Power And Control.
The couple who want to build a house on a piece of property they saved for decades to afford and have begun to do so are ordered by some government agency to tear down what they have built because it violates some ridiculous Regulation. And, if they don’t do so immediately, they are fined tens of thousands of dollars per day. The couple has to spend all of their savings and take out ruinous loans if they decide to fight this injustice, this violation of their Property Rights.
The successful Entrepreneur who has risked his own monies and those of his Investors building a successful company dares contribute to a cause deemed not acceptable to The Arbitrators Of Correctness and he is physically and verbally harassed and forced to sacrifice his career to save his company or is ousted by it’s Board or by enough of his Cowardly Investors.
The average person who expresses an opinion that is unpopular with the aforementioned Arbitrators is targeted for a vicious campaign of abuse, his employers contacted and threatened if they do not take action, and his very Social Standing undermined, to the point where he must either grovel and abjectly apologize or face economic and social shunning.
The death cells of the Lubyanka have not come to America literally, but a seedling version has begun sprouting across The Fruited Plain.
In the Soviet Union, people were murdered directly or worked to death or declared UnPersons.
In America, a softer, non-fatal version of this Extermination of Humanity is now taking place, where innocent people are being forced to either humiliate themselves and join The Hive Mind or are facing a lingering Social Death in the Soft Abyss.
How long before those in Power And Control get frustrated with dealing with those who are UNMUTUAL and begin using harsher measures against them? And I don’t mean measures as cruel and final as used by the Communists in every, single regime they have ever commanded.
How long before those of us who resist these Tyrants and Destroyers of Humanity are each brought into our own Room 101?
O’Brien smiled slightly. ‘You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will.
‘We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.
‘It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation.
‘In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.
‘The command of the old despotisms was “Thou shalt not”. The command of the totalitarians was “Thou shalt”. Our command is “Thou art”. No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean. Even those three miserable traitors in whose innocence you once believed — Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford — in the end we broke them down. I took part in their interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down, whimpering, grovelling, weeping — and in the end it was not with pain or fear, only with penitence. By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men.
‘There was nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother. It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean.’
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four [re-paragraphing mine]
We are engaged in a Life And Death Fight for Humanity’s very survival.
Aut mori aut liberos vivere.
[I will not be a slave.
I will either live free or die.]
Is anybody there?…
Does anybody care?…
Does anybody see what I see?
—John Adams, 1776