VONNEGUT ON TOTALITARIANISM


On rereading some old Vonnegut writings, in this case Mother Night, I came across a fascinating definition of the totalitarian mind.  He writes thus:

I have never seen a more sublime demonstration of the totalitarian mind, a mind which might be likened unto a system of gears whose teeth have been filed off at random.  Such a snaggle-toothed thought machine, driven by a standard or even by a substandard libido, whirls with the jerky, noisy, gaudy pointlessness of a cuckoo clock in Hell.

Jones wasn’t completely crazy.  The dismaying thing about the classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, though mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined.

Hence the cuckoo clock in Hell — keeping perfect time for eight minutes and twenty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time for two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year.

The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten year-olds, in most cases.

The willful filing off of gear teeth, the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information —

A very interesting comparison, indeed.  I am now rereading Arthur Koestler’s two-volume autobiography, Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing, wherein this great thinker describes in detail how this filing off of gear teeth is accomplished.

A good and valid lesson for all times, even today.

Particularly today, when the art of propaganda is so widely and ruthlessly practiced.

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About Michael J. Kubat

I'm a grumpy Czech-born clinical social worker who is vitally interested in the survival in the United States as a viable democracy and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
This entry was posted in bigotry, bloated government, censorship, community organizers, crushing dissent, dictatorship, philosophy, silencing opposition, socialism, strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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