The rise of strong central governments were well on their way in 1940 when Auden penned this poem.
The Soviet Union under Russia and FDR’s America pointed at that time toward ever growing government observation and control. Ford’s assembly lines ushered in an even more regimented phase of the industrial revolution.
Huxley’s Brave New World foreshadowed an overarching society in 1932, along with outlining the consequences of the eugenics movement which was in popular discussion before the Second World War.
The character Ford in Brave New Worlds’ global state was referred to as a deity.
This worrisome concern of governmental control was sidelined with the urgency of World War II, only to reemerge most notably in 1948 with Orwell’s 1984.
Eugenics was delivered a crippling blow when the Nazis used its ideas in a horrifying and failed way to produce a master race.
Conformity again became a subject in America in the 1950s, only this time framed in the context of the business world.
The Man in the Gray Flannel suit was written in 1955 and addressed a lack of purpose in life when the only sense of purpose seemed to be to fit in.
It has been 80 years since Auden wrote this.
China is now using social scoring on its citizens and everyone in America has most of the information and events below recorded in their credit file.
The United States government may not be efficient enough to document everyone’s life but the three major credit bureaus certainly can. And do. You may not have a credit card but you have a credit score.
It’s not always Big Brother that you have to be concerned with. It’s also what we hackers called Little Brother.
The Unknown Citizen
W. H. Auden – 1907-1973
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
“They’ll be no shelter here. The front line is everywhere.” RAM
It took six months for Joe Biden to condemn Antifa after they and related groups had rampaged and rioted across America following George Flyod’s death on May 25, 2020. Yet it took only an hour for him to condemn the actions of the protestors who took over the Capitol building today.
The hypocrisy is disgusting and telling. We are all hypocrites at some time. But we don’t coistrol people’s lives like politicians do.
Biden cares more about a single building than the thousands of businesses and homes that burned to the ground following violent protests that truly threatened our democracy. Entire cities burned night after night last summer. This single act today was no different than the years of occupations and sit-ins that happened in the 1960s.
(The tragic death of an unarmed Trump supporter occurred at the hands of security. There are no reports that any protestor brandished or used a gun.)
Many old guard Democrats in power today were student protestors during that era.
Back in the 1960s, the media condoned the activities of the SDS, the Weathermen, and the Chicago 7 because their cause was their cause. The same is true today with socialists like Biden and Pelosi.
Tom Hayden became a successful politician and Angela Davis became a celebrity.A recent TV production glorified the Chicago 7. The press at the time also tolerated the sometimes weeks long takeovers of government buildings and properties. Remember Alcatraz?
I’m here in Pahrump, Nevada. Trump country. The media isn’t going to tell me or people like me to stand down when they and their socialist brethren ignore the true terror caused in our country by Antifa related groups and organizations like Black Lives Matter. Burn. Loot. Murder. Defund the police?
This is the first large scale action that has turned violent by Trump supporters. Compare that to the rampaging, looting protests that have gone on since last year. Anarchists and such are still rioting nightly in Portland.
I ran! First run since I injured myself in March. 9:33 for one mile.
I’m still under medication and awaiting a massive steroid injection but this is really positive. I may have hiked my way out of this. And to think, the physical therapists gave up on me after only two sessions.
Next goal will be to get back to under 30 for a 5K. I’ll be 63 then but I can do it!
You don’t know me, but I stumbled across your rockhounding blog a couple of years ago and have learned so much about the hobby from your writings. I’m in my mid-50s and am experienced enough in life to know that the more one learns, the more he realizes he doesn’t know. It truly is never ending. You know so much more about the subject that I ever will, and you are blessed to live in a part of the country that I dearly love and hope to move to someday. Way back when, I heard a saying that boils down to ‘Someone somewhere dreams about the things you take for granted’. There is nothing I would enjoy more than hiking and exploring the desert southwest every day, so in a way you are ‘living the dream’ and I’m envious as hell.
I have had family members who struggled with severe mental illness, and am sorry to read that you must endure that in addition to the difficulties posed by the aging process.
Please know that this reader (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) is pulling for you and wish you many more years of doing what you so obviously enjoy. Thanks again for your educational and informative site, It is greatly appreciated.
Discouraging talk with my family practitioner yesterday.
Although he wouldn’t admit it in so many words, no cure or fix exists for my chronic anxiety, nightmares, or insomnia. There never has been.
All the medications and talk therapy over the decades has only been to help. Not cure.
Some of those drugs and talk have helped me for a while. Perhaps. Because its difficult to know if I got better on my own (spontaneous remission) or whether I got better from a treatment.
For the majority of people like me suffering long term mental health problems, however, cures are not forthcoming and never will be.
It is in a doctor’s nature to want to help. They do that by prescribing treatment after treatment, even when the problem is insolvable
Medicines for most mental illness just tamp down or help control symptoms, they don’t root out the problem.
I’ve always envisioned electroshock or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a method to reset or change my brain in a fundamental way but no doctor I’ve talked to will prescribe it. I haven’t checked overseas.
Failing that course of action, I’m not sure what’s next. Other than my conditions continuing while old age problems add to my misery.
Compounding all of this, the insurance industry would now like to see everything through the lens of depression or anxiety. Anything outside these two conditions is too complex, untreatable, and therefore not worth covering to the extent those problems need.
Myself aside, what about the mentally ill homeless people who haunt our streets? No fix for them either or perhaps even treatment. Without insurance, what happens? Who covers them? If they did get their meds, though, would they take them on schedule? And what if they drank?
I no longer drink but I used to. I had to quit alcohol each time a doctor asked, to make sure they knew I wanted to get better. Many of the powerful drugs I took were contraindicated by alcohol. I don’t know, therefore, how these meds could help someone who has a drinking problem.
Everyone seems to need help.
Given my forty plus years of dealing with mental health problems, I think a better approach to the craxy expensive and unavailable mental health system would be a network of advocates.
People assigned to patients, people that could be called at two in the morning to listen or someone to go with the patient to anxiety crippling events like blood draws or dental appointments.
People oriented management may be a better approach or an adjunct to all these short term fixes which in fact are no fix at all.
Louis Wain’s drawings of cats as his schizophrenia worsened.