1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, and yes – he simply flipped the last two years as a nod to “where things are headed.” It has been in the news recently because at this writing (January 2017), it is currently #1 on Amazon. This is due to the recent election of Donald J Trump to the presidency of the United States, as many see similarities in his policies and Orwell’s view of a government controlled by ‘Big Brother.”

The essence of that worldview is described by Orwell in the book:

Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

There is of course a lot of fodder for similarities, but the situation isn’t unique to the United States or to the present time. It also ignores the spiritual dimension driving the macro sociological undercurrents.

It comes as no surprise that political elections are a circus of carnival barkers. We yearn for greatness with sentimentality, but long ago surrendered meaningful, complex dialog for media sound-bites and tweets. This postmodern condition was described by sociologist Stjepan Mestrovic as “postemotional” which feeds on routine banalities and clichés. It’s what Emile Durkheim called “collective effervescence” (think Jerry Springer).

This is nothing new.

When citizens are untethered from spiritual moorings they eventually cry out for a king to stop their drift. As Mestrovic observed, this opens the way to manipulation by the unscrupulous on a vast scale to a totalitarianism that promises restored greatness. Once people have lost their connection to God, they are sure to be enslaved by a Caesar. In that condition there is little patience for a King who is not of this world.

They will cry out for Barabbas every time.