How can every human being on the planet not spend their days being puzzled about pretty much everything?
Every day I ask myself questions like: How does that work? Why did that happen? Who was responsible for that? What was the purpose of that? Where did that come from? Constantly, one or more of the interrogatives – Who? What? Why? Where? When? – applied to the natural, political, built, mechanical, social worlds.
Can never remember a time when I wasn’t curious, puzzled, interested about the world around me. All children are I thought. But it seems many adults lose the curiosity. Seem to settle for a quiet intellectual life in which people they believe are authority figures tell them how things are, the way they are going to be, and they accept the propositions as given.
How else can you explain the willingness of the 99% to vote, in spite of conservative failures over 50 years or more, against their interests and elect neoconservative governments? How else can you explain the lack of action on climate change? How else explain the successful campaigns by rich miners (originally a typo almost had them as rich moners), by alcohol sellers, poker machine makers and clubs, developers, fishermen.
How else too can you explain the following of fundamentalist religions, of fake medical “cures” like homeopathy and naturopathy, of faith healers and “psychics”, of get rich quick schemes, of populist politicians.
And how else explain why we, the people, accept incuriously what the mainstream media tells us, asking no questions so told all lies. No one it seems is puzzled when they are told one thing one day, the opposite thing the next day; or when told about two identical actions by two political leaders, one of which is great the other abhorrent.
No one is puzzled when the ‘reasons’ given for starting a war turn out to be completely spurious; when behaviour said to be perfectly safe turns out disastrous; no one is puzzled that “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”; no one thinks it odd that “The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation”.
Oh yes, quoting Orwell is so 1980s isn’t it? But it seems increasingly that not only are political parties and whole countries using it as a manual for controlling and manipulating the public, but so are the media. Think of just three aspects. Winston Smith’s job involves dealing with “unpersons”, people now deemed politically embarrassing, so he alters records, changes photographs, to ensure that the person has not just disappeared from modern awareness, but from history as well. Then, to fill a gap where the unperson once appeared he invents “Comrade Ogilvy, a fictional party member, who displayed great heroism by leaping into the sea from a helicopter so that the dispatches he was carrying would not fall into enemy hands”.
Finally of course the idea of our tv screens watching us hasn’t happened (although …), but the tabloid press tapping phones, going through rubbish bins, and governments using spy satellites and getting internet records means the sense of privacy, lost in “1984″, is rapidly being lost here.
Inner Party member O’Brien says that in the future “There will be no curiosity”. And he is right. The public it seems now have no curiosity. And therefore the media can create a fictional narrative, an alternative to reality, that people will simply accept as truth. And in that reality they will also accept what conservative political leaders tell them.
So, I hear you ask, what is the answer?
Well, you don’t need me to tell you, the answer is “education” of course, teach kids to question, not rote learn, to be curious … oh, sorry, no, can’t keep that up.
Do you think the Inner Party doesn’t know that? Why else have preschools been privatised, religious and other private schools been massively funded, public schools and teachers constantly attacked, demands always made for more “3 Rs” (plus trade courses) to be taught and none of this “contentious” stuff about climate change or politics, ethics classes attacked and religious ones (with “chaplains”) encouraged, all attempts to encourage thinking slammed as being brain washing by the Left? Why the call for kids to leave school early and get jobs? Why the determined defunding of universities, the encouragement to teach more business courses and less “Arts”, the push for private paying students, the defunding of student unions, the constant attacks on any political involvement by students, the constant attacks on university lecturers for being Left Wing?
The 1960s and 70s gave the Inner Party a big shock. This is what happens when children are taught to think in school and university and they were having no more of that. So they have thrashed the curiosity out of education (with the willing acquiescence of the Labor Party, also not keen to see too much curiosity about its own policies and behaviour).
So no, I don’t have an answer. Anyone for a job in the Ministry of Truth? Plenty available.