It was not, honestly, difficult to become a consciencious objector to neoliberalism; it seemed, after all, to want me dead, or in a state of living suicide where it was necessary to deny everything I was and everything I believed I had a deeper moral duty to be or to become in order to fulfil the roles ordained for me. These roles were so restrictive that nobody with an understanding of what a human can be could want them for themselves; I have known enough of them to recognise the degree to which each of them was optimised for the same abstract and arbitrary notion of productivity as might be described by a handful of quantifiable variables while the space I had in my life for any of the uncountable abstract nouns religious or spiritual thinkers or philosophers dwell on, was nil.
Not everybody understood what the Russian Revolution meant in 1917 and those that did were not necessarily the more clear thinking about the dangers of the Communist International; many simply had more to lose. A broader understanding came in waves: there were times when people came to understand more about the particulars and the parameters of the communist threat. There was Hungary in 1956, Czechslovakia in 1968, and then ample other insights from the dissidents who found a voice here and there in the West. There, those who wanted to see what was going on had occasion to do so. Not everybody wanted to see it. In the East, it took a certain style of temperament and a little luck (good or bad), to begin to figure it out, but it could be done, and people were well motivated. Measuring until 1968 where, in the Czechoslovakian case, we might view the Warsaw Pact invasion that ended the Prague Spring as the very latest point we might conclude people both inside the country and outside of it ought to have understood the full danger to freedom, it took half a century to understand the consequences for freedom of the struggles for (a certain kind of) freedom of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
The situation is similar now with that other September 11th, the 1973 coup d'état in Chile which brought General Pinochet to power. Pinochet's Chile became a blueprint. Better than anyone else I know of (though there will be many other accounts, and she has drawn on many of them), Naomi Klein has dissected what this looks like. Others have picked apart neoliberalism, bureaucracy and surveillance capitalism. To begin to understand what is happening now we need to familiarise ourselves with these accounts and - this next step is a mere next step and far from inevitably follows from the first - to confront them, since for most it will be a confrontation. Broadly speaking, we can be sure of one thing: in the days since 1973, 1979, 1989 or whichever period most corresponds to local realities, the doctrine of neoliberalism, the Washington Consensus, Chicago Boys-style "Austrian economics" or whatever you like to call it, has been much more effective at creating consumers than the Soviet Union was at creating the Soviet Man [sic]. That is to say that, in a similar proportion of the world that was once occupied by the British Empire, you could observe the people around you and see most of them act primarily as consumers. Of information. Of entertainment. Of data. And then of course as gadgets, clothes, styles, cars etc. As was the case with communist comrades, consumer-citizens were theorised before they were shaped with brutal and brutalising incentives. It is just that consumer and citizen are two very different concepts.
It's not out of the specifics of a totalising ideology - a worldview which purports to explain everything that wants explaining in the world and which succeeds in convincing a governing class of its full-spectrum explanatory power - that makes all that is human disappear first from the lives of those unfortunates prominent among the least well placed in the models or those playing the role of antagonists within them, then from their communities, then from whatever is the periphery of the models, and then, as the model fails, in a more wholesale fashion until another model is found. It is rather the mere fact that, once a model is taken up by a governing class with a governing structure, they bring in those who subscribe to the model, others are pushed out to the fringes, and soon enough the mere fact of pointing out those areas where the models deviate from the real world of lived reality, will see an individual frozen out.
Mainstream history has it that none of these things were discussed behind the Iron Curtain. In fact all of these things were discussed behind the iron curtain - not because it was easy, but because it was hard. In the absense of information, people go out of their way to find it. Now, in the surfeit of information, at a time where social relations have become commodified and each of our selves is prepared as a sumptious catalogue of preferences, opinions, kinks, and vulnerabilities for the delectation of as many billionaires and powerful people who might fit into a mid-sized town's largest primary school, most people don't know how to go out of their way, or indeed out of any kind of way where every piece of information they come across is custom made to appeal to them, and utterly worthless or dangerous.
No less than was the case in communist Czechoslovakia, our putative leaders are incapable of recognising or telling the truth. No less than was the case then, we are not going to find a way out of this mess by paying more attention to them. We're going to have to talk to one another, again and again, without paging their Eye of Sauron every time we have an orgasm, take a dump, or walk a step. We are also going to have to create, to build.
The one thing that's comforting about all of this difficult work - what they most don't want you to know - is that this has all been said before, and this has all been done before. Untrend yourself from all of the bullshit lazer focused on the present moment, and it can all begin to make sense. Automat Svět will examine the essential discipline of living life in a world of relentlessly aggressive distraction.