‘The Man in the High Castle’: How Its Post-war Speculative Fiction Still Rings True
What if we lost the war in WWII? What if, in 1947, allied forces surrendered to the axis powers after an atomic bomb was dropped on Washington D.C. and the world saw a violent leap towards a dangerous new empire?
This is the alternative history Phillip K. Dick envisioned in The Man in the High Castle. Our leaders and resistance fighters kowtowed to oppressors and years later, life in America is partitioned into the Pacific Japanese States and the Greater American Reich. Life goes on but liberty is dead.
In the Amazon adapted TV series of the same name, rule by fear is the name of the game. Citizens are expected to obey, commit themselves to the greater good, and avoid the path to moral decay. The repercussion for failing this is torture and death. This is when you start to see that the war was really won not when the allies laid down their weapons or even when they submitted to a powerful enemy, but when people accepted defeat and the new world they were given. As the non-conformist, Randall, reminds his fellow prisoner:
“Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”
The Man in the High Castle paints a bleak post-war alternate reality, and in this reality an ailing ‘Fuhrer’ obsessively calls for the banning and destruction of mysterious anti-government “propaganda” films.
These films show what could have been. A world that defeated the Third Reich. It’s a dream that the resistance risk their lives for (with our lead protagonist’s sister paying that price in full). Therein we see that ideas are dangerous, they can threaten the establishment. The control of all media is one facet of the empire’s method of supreme control and it’s a testament to what we’ve seen enacted throughout our very real history, even to this day.
The Censorship of Modern Reality
One aspect we tend to think of when we talk ‘censorship’ is the news or news sources. However it’s even more widespread than that. The tools to spread propaganda are a hundred-fold more than what people experienced in the WWII era.
I’m talking about the politicizing and editing of all social media, especially through celebrities advancing their own agendas. Secondly, we have search engines like Google (who also helped China develop its own search engine) taking over the dissemination of information. Everything funnels through one major source. Next we have the entertainment industry which, in all its various forms, is constantly being used as a method to transmit a ‘thought culture’ that consists of transmitting various national values, dangerous ideologies, ‘teaching’ people edited histories based on dramatic interpretations instead of fact, and subtly transposing unchecked political beliefs under the guise of stories. Finally, there’s Rupert Murdoch who owns major newspapers worldwide and controls a media network that includes Fox News, The Times London, The Wall Street Journal, and NewsCorp Australia, as well as considerable stakes in Twentieth Century Fox, HarperCollins, and the Chinese-owned ‘Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings’; which is alarming when you realize that he has the money and influence to manipulate what content filters down to the people.
…we have the entertainment industry which, in all its various forms, is constantly being used as a method to transmit a ‘thought culture’ that consists of transmitting various national values, dangerous ideologies, ‘teaching’ people edited histories based on dramatic interpretations instead of fact…
Censorship has become more blatant and widespread. We see the free thinkers of our time – the likes of David Icke, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning – ridiculed, imprisoned, or silenced when they have tried to engage with audiences about the mechanisms of control, surveillance, and the schisms enacted by our seemingly democratically elected members of outdated two-party systems. Recently, both David Icke and Chelsea Manning were both denied entry into Australia even though audiences were eager to hear them speak. Snowden still resides in Russia for disclosing just how far mass surveillance has gone and Julian Assange was arrested carrying a book by Gore Vidal that discusses the military-industrial-security complex and its effect on history/freedom of information.
It’s alarmingly similar to the movie, Equilibrium, where no one is allowed to think, feel, or disrupt the ‘comfortable’ status quo. The only difference is, we have allowed ourselves to blame for being medicated by ‘packaged news’ and the the comforts of modern convenience instead of investigating the great challenges of our time.
It’s alarmingly similar to the movie, Equilibrium, where no one is allowed to think, feel, or disrupt the ‘comfortable’ status quo.
The Hidden Costs of Freedom
Smart TVs that listen to conversations. Phones that track your location data. Virtual reality games that will one day be indistinguishable from reality. These are all just the tip of the iceberg. Think bigger. Has it ever worried you that ancestry.com owns data about your bloodline/family history going back hundreds of years, yet somehow you have to pay for it? Shouldn’t that information be free? It’s concerning that, with the advent of streaming services and faster internet, we are not only carving out less time to think independently for ourselves, but that it’s actually leading us to self-regulate our behaviors, develop technology addictions, and rewire our thought patterns. What is that, if not the ultimate control? Not fighting via border disputes, coup de tats, or the systematic invasion of multiple countries by the West, but by taking the fight to last real frontier. The human mind.
Wake up, Neo. The Matrix has you…
Part of our modern dilemma is that so many things afforded to us actually end up circumventing our freedoms:
Our food and water is chemically altered for our ‘health’. We’ve somehow been convinced that carrying (multiple) mobile radiation devices on us at all times is a good idea. When in fact, higher frequency band 4G and 5G networks are harmful to our health on a genetic level and radiates everything in the target area. Airport full-body scanners are not only invasive but deliver radiation 20 times higher than first estimated (incremental effects for frequent flyers). Lastly, it is proven that our minds and hearts emit a measurable magnetic field that can be altered by certain frequencies such as the Shuman Resonance and solar activity. It begs the question, how the frequencies produced from our home technologies affect our brain and thoughts. All of these things, including the aforementioned rewiring of our brains by technology, manipulate us at a physical level.
Not to mention that most of us have a portable propaganda machine in our living rooms that constantly sends out daily doses of programming. Between reading books and watching shows created by others, how much of our free time do we devote to independent thinking?
The Fight for Liberty
Returning to The Man in the High Castle, it strikes a chord with us not just because history shows us that we have lost whole generations to global conflict or that they have been pressed underfoot by aggressive totalitarians, but because in many places throughout the world this is the life people live right now.
…Uighur re-education camps that effectively seek to wipe out religious freedom, culture, and identity.
In the ‘real world’, we see ruler-for-life Xi Jinping carrying out the communist agenda of Uighur re-education camps that effectively seek to wipe out religious freedom, culture, and identity. We also have Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s opposition in the 2018 election, allegedly arrested (which the European court of human rights says violated his rights) and therefore (conveniently) found unfit to run for election due to fraud. Then, mirroring the dominated North American society in The Man in the High Castle, many places throughout the world, including Britain and Australia, are quickly developing into police states.
Have we become too complacent to investigate the repercussions that our indifference (or willful ignorance) has on our modern liberties?