The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a 2007 BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis. (See his blog here)
Part 1: F*k You Buddy
Part 2: The Lonely Robot
Part 3: “We Will Force You To Be Free”
An excerpt from Part 1:
[…] “In 1979 Mrs. Thatcher has come to power in Britain. What she promised to create is a society based on the dream of individual freedom. People would be liberated from the arrogant elites and the State bureaucrats (…)*. But Mrs. Thatcher new she would have to find a new way of managing and controlling (…) in a complex society in order to avoid chaos. And to do this, just like the psychiatrists in America, she would turn to systems based on the objective power of numbers. But underlying the new mathematical models would yet again be the very dark and suspicious vision of human beings that the cold war strategists had assumed. This vision will now penetrate to the very heart of the British state.
Thatcher government began in the early ages by selling off many of the state owned interests. But it soon became clear that in the modern world there were large areas of the State which would have to remain under government control. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to free them too from the old forms of management.
To do this she would bring in a system no longer run by ideas of public duty, instead public servants would be encouraged by incentives to follow their self-interests.
It was all in keeping with the idea of the inventors of Public Choice: James Buchanan.
He believed that those politicians and bureaucrats who preached the idea of public duty that were the most dangerous, what he called the zealots. They have to be got rid of them.
Buchanan: […] If our success depends on the goodness of politicians and bureaucrats, then we are in real problem.
It was a dark and pessimistic vision of human motivation, but it was about to become the bases for a new system for managing the British state.
In 1988 Mrs. Thatcher announced the complete reform of the way the national health service was run. The fundamental (…) was to overthrow the power of the medical establishment and replace it with a new efficient system of management. To do this Mrs. Thacher turned to a man who had been one of the nuclear strategist of Rand Corporation at the height of the Cold War. (Alain Enthoven)
[…] Enthoven developed a technique he called system analysis. It was a technique of management that he believed could be applied to any type of human organization. Its aim was to get rid of all the emotional and subjective values that confused and corrupted the system, and replace them by rational, objective methods, mathematically defined targets and incentives.
Enthoven had first tried to apply this system back in the 1960’s when he was still in the military. The secretary of defense Robert McNamara asked him to help transform the way Pentagon was run. Enthoven began to get rid of the idea that Patriotism should be the guiding force of America’s defense and replacing it with a rational system based on numbers.
What replaced patriotism and notions of duty, were mathematically measurable outcomes.
But McNamara’s experiments had ended in disaster when he had tried to run the Vietnam war with rational mathematical way through performance targets and incentive. The most infamous example has been the body count. It has been designed as a rational measure of whether America was winning the war, but in fact troupes simply made it up, even shot civilians to perform (…)* targets. […]
If we assert that in Iran, poets and rulers occupy most of our historic memory and have influenced, more than all others, our collective life, will this be an exaggeration?
A simple poll around us can demonstrate the truth of the above. If we ask most Iranians to name the two most important historic figures of Iran, there is no doubt: a poet and a ruler will be the answer.
Isn’t it true that historically we are proud to have great poets and silly kings? And aside from these our memory has a feeble spot for other notable men? What have the rulers and the poets done to claim most of the books, publications, seminars, researches, etc… etc…?
It seems to me that both have been equally instrumental in unwrapping the concept of the Iranian and his destiny: The poets with their words, and the rulers with their acts. The Iranian, still a mystery to the social sciences of Iran, and perhaps to the world, can easily be recognized in the words and acts of these two.
A glimpse at our poet’s books shows that most of the words are about the unity of beings, purity of hearts, banishment of hatred, conciliation of thoughts and dignity of men. In other words, all that we lack, all that we aspire to; it is appealing to us and elates us in our minds eye.
And most of what has divided, stained our hearts, promoted hatred and wars, slighted our humanity and dignity has been the acts of the rulers. In other words all that any Iranian can easily become.
The essence of poets’ words is that the Iranian loves beauty since thousands of years ago, but to reach it, he must cross the rulers’ path. We have always kept the same distance from our poets’ vision, the distance of our governments.
Poets have reminded us that we are not perfect, not gods; that we are still in pursuit and we must finish this ‘unfinishedness’. And our obstacle is a corrupt power and until it is uprooted there will be no salvation.
Steered by our poets we have strived to realize our humanity by seeking rulers to decree: “be you humans“; a force to portend “your suffering will end and there will be happiness – and if I am your ruler I shall make it possible for you to be human, to live free, to be yourself.”
Before the two, the poets’ words and the rulers’ power, the intellect is powerless. It is prevailed in poetry by love, and in politics by passion.
We love poetry, we love this love, a love that is longing and goodness, a love that transcends, it is god and it is peace. Our rulers and politicians inspire passion in this love and draw us to realize the dreams made by our poets. But alas, the rulers reduce the poets’ pure love to an envious, egocentric, and narcissistic one. A love totally devoid of virtue, rooted in possession, greed, power and supremacy. And every time we expect someone who is different, one who will….
Have I drawn a dark picture? Yes, it is very dark and I should add that in my opinion a nation who is mostly proud of its poets and looks for historic legitimacy through the pages of its poets’ tomes and rely so totally in its rulers to accomplish its destiny is inevitably on the verge of madness, and … !
P.S: I was going to add a post script, but I changed my mind. It was to attract many … and I realize that I am not quite inclined to publish profanity!
PS: Thank you Rita! Thank you CK for editing and Thanks Robo for the link to Iman’s great website.
Control energy and you control the nations. Kissinger
What is most important to the history of the world? The Talliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold-war? – 1998 Brzezenski
Frederick William Engdahl has written on issues of energy, politics and economics for more than 30 years, beginning with the first oil shock in the early 1970s.
After a degree in politics from Princeton and graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm, he worked as an economist and free-lance journalist. He currently lives in Germany and in addition to writing regularly on issues of economics, energy and international affairs, is active as a consulting geopolitical risk economist.
Engdahl is the author of the best-selling book on oil and geopolitics: A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.
The University of Michigan Press: This book is a gripping account of the murky world of the international oil industry and its role in world politics.
I am not a morning person. I have a PM personality. I don’t wake up unless I am awoken, or … I am really excited about something. Only on vacations I change from night-owl to being a morning person. 🙂
On Wednesdays, at 8:30 AM there was a class about aesthetics by a French philosopher, which was not even held at the university I was attending! 🙂
A friend of mine mentioned that it might interest me. After the first session I attented I became addicted. The course consisted of informal discussions between the teacher and students. The theme, as I mentioned, was aesthetics but would naturally glide in all directions. Believe it or not what amazed me the most was that it was the first time I saw someone “thinking” before speaking! Whenever a question was raised, our professor, who with his long hair and beard looked like a Greek philosopher, would think in an undisturbed silence and would respond after about a minute. At that time, to me, his answers were magical. No clichés or fast ready-made ones. Each one was like opening a window in a direction unknown to me…
1981 was the year of the French elections. In my ignorant eyes it was akin to mass hysteria. When the election was won by the Socialist Party people celebrated in the streets as though Bastille was liberated once again.
The last Wednesday before the elections someone asked the professor for whom he was going to cast his vote.
To everyone’s surprise he said he was not going to vote at all. He considered both parties liars, giving false promises and manipulating voters’ fears. It was against his principles to vote for liars.
Almost the whole class reacted: “how come? This is an historic moment for the country, how can you refuse to participate… to lie is considered normal for politicians because their adversaries also lie, it is part of the game of politics etc..”
The professor looked at the main cheerleader and told her that she was like the spokeswoman for the Liar’s Syndicate. He did not believe that people were stupid. If a politician spoke honestly, avoided promising miracles, did not invent imaginary enemies, did not simplify the problems by blaming them on his adversaries, and just talked about what he can improve and what he cannot … people would understand. He would vote for someone who tried this form of campaign.
Naïve? Maybe, but it still sounds right to me.