Saturday, January 16, 2010

 

Vocabulary Lesson: Totalitarianism

Apparently many people fail to understand the meaning of the word "totalitarianism." Mention totalitarianism and they envision scenes of goosestepping men in hobnailed boots, posters of Mussolini or communist regimes. Yet totalitarianism easily exists with none of this.

Let's look at definitions of totalitarianism from Dictionary.com.
Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed:
Domination by a government of all political, social, and economic activities in a nation.
While we commonly associate totalitarianism with Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, no where do fascism, communism or Nazism become part of the definition. A democracy or a republic can also be a totalitarian state.

Considering the U.S. government's growing intrusion into "political, social, and economic activities," one easily sees a threat of growing totalitarianism in this country. During the past 50 years, government control over businesses, health care, financial institutions grew significantly. Our personal behaviors and activities come under ever increasing scrutiny, smoking, drinking, what light bulbs we use in our houses, how much money we withdraw or deposit in our bank accounts, etc.

Whether or not the increasing control is "good" or not matters not in defining a totalitarian state, just that the government has control or domination. Nor does it matter whether government officials are elected, appointed, enlightened despots or dictators, just that the government has control or domination.

We have yet to reach the level of control or domination described in Orwell's 1984 or Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, but we're far beyond where we were 50 or more years ago.

Curiously, many groups clamor for government control and domination. Numerous activists groups scream for more laws and government control on everything from our social interactions to what we eat. Is living in a free world such a scary thing that we can't tolerate someone eating a Big Mac, fries and Coke or need to prosecute someone for making an unpleasant comment?

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