26 Jul 2011

How life in the 21st Century looks like the fruition of ideas from the 20th Century

Edward Louis Bernays was the nephew of the illustrious psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the field of Public Relations.

The following excerpt from his book, Propaganda shows just how uncannily closely the world has followed the scripts of early 20th Century writers like Bernays' Propaganda (1928), Orwell's 1984 (1948), and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1931).

"In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.

In theory, everybody buys the best and cheapest commodities offered him on the market. In practice, if every one went around pricing, and chemically testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic life would become hopelessly jammed. To avoid such confusion, society consents to have its choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention through propaganda of all kinds. There is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea.

It might be better to have, instead of propaganda and special pleading, committees of wise men who would choose our rulers, dictate our conduct, private and public, and decide upon the best types of clothes for us to wear and the best kinds of food for us to eat. But we have chosen the opposite method, that of open competition. We must find a way to make free competition function with reasonable smoothness. To achieve this society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda."

George Santayana, a Spanish-American philosopher wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." He wrote it in The Life of Reason (1905-06).

Have there really been no new ideas since?

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