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Surveillance and Cultural Revolutions

By Lochard | Asylum Daily | 14 Aug 2022

As someone who is not good at history, it is still obvious to me that there are things that we can learn from the past.

The Cultural Revolution is one of the most appalling crises known to me. I am not even the kind that likes talking about loving family, friends and people, yet I find it hard to imagine the bulk of the people going against their own. I mean, in a sense it's not really that special because it is not really that much different from war, but then, do you go on literal wars with your family, friends and countrymen?

Thanks to my ill luck to have the privilege to be under surveillance as a nobody, not only in my own homeland but also in a foreign land, I start to have somewhat an understanding of how it could have happened. Ah, perhaps it is not really that much of a privilege, not in the sense that it is not exactly a benefit, but in the sense that perhaps it has become so easy with the technologies today that they would put it on me for fun and whatever petty reason, if it could be called one. Guess this is part of what people talk about when they say that without the advancement of mind, the advancement of technology would bring forth our own demise. Or at least a harbinger of it.

Have you any experience with animals like dogs or children? Children that are still very young and highly influenced by the others around them. It is not hard to see that their attitude to something, or rather, someone in this case, is often “learned” from the others or the circumstances. For example if a wife shows no respect to her husband and her husband is the kind that would rather not to argue, chance is that their children and even pets will likewise hold little respect for the man. And from my experience I am afraid adults are not immune to such effect.

This is probably the hierarchical instinct of animal at work. With which one, consciously or subconsciously, seeks to achieve relatively high status by establishing or reinforcing a situation where a comparable individual is being “lowered”.

Seems to me kind of similar to dehumanization. The husband in our example is deprived of respect, essentially made a lower being in the group. Once it is established, it would take more than an opposite scene to override such recognition. It doesn’t only take a new recognition like it would in the first place, but it also requires self rebuttals, in this case, to recognize not only a trivial mistake but also the implication of the behaviour that is against the traditional virtues pretty much every human society upholds, on the table at least.

Some instincts of living things will object. One of the most, if not the most, fundamental instinct of living things is to maintain the continuation of oneself and to facilitate that with limited lifespan, to copy oneself, as in reproduction. Many of our behaviours are arguably shaped by such instinct. For example instead of beautifying it and say that it is the bright side of humanity to help one another, one could argue that we are merely seeking safety by sticking together. Instead of saying that there are virtues in humanity, one might argue that we are just trying to construct an environment that would be easier for ourselves to thrive in. One example is that the traditional virtues are set with such desire in mind and by conspiracy, to taking advantage of cheating others into believing while considering oneself above them. But even cheaters would have to appear believing to avoid public indignation. Thus we all try to abide by the ancient teaching or as least try to appear that way. Whichever case it is, we instinctively maximize our chance to live on and reproduce, which translates to strive for a better status, that is, to put oneself on high ground and to get approval from others as well as from oneself.

So, we won’t want to acknowledge the new recognition which will re-elevate the lowered and at the same time lower oneself since it means acknowledging one was wrong and might have hurt someone without a good reason. It is detrimental to winning approbation from others and self recognizing, which is possibly more important than the former.

With these, we would be more than happy if we have any chance justifying ourselves. It translates to subconscious aggression – to look for the faults of the wronged that might not even relate to the matter and to try to have all the attention on them. Often time this goes hand in hand with continuing the mistake to have it appear nothing wrong happened. Or reversing the causation by taking the result as the reason. Hence the saying it is in human nature for people to hate those they hurt.

This is where surveillance comes in. Be it developed with good intention or not, surveillance tools have become a synonym of authoritarianism (or totalitarianism). Laws on this regard not only fail to protect us but also centralize the power of surveillance, making it a tool almost exclusive to the influential and authorities. An unchecked power will be a power corrupted. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lucifer Effect would quickly kick in even on the operating level, let alone the supervising level. Actually, it probably feels supervisory as it exactly allows one to oversee others.

It quickly becomes a position where one would feel superior in “sight” and he/she knows better on pretty much every thing, including how the watched should behave (evidenced by the term re-education camp you probably have heard of). In case confronted with wrong doings, one would utilize the power of surveillance to attack the questioners on matters not necessarily relative to the questions. It surely doesn’t make it any better if there are other powers one can wield.

With “shared sight”, the situation becomes similar to the family example. The watched are made lower beings and the watching feel entitled to judge without even knowing the watched in person (an interesting phenomena, though not that interesting when you are the watched) and have little sympathy for them. Much like we rarely have sympathy for chickens in cages. Nor feel guilty for that matter.

The dehumanization mentioned above probably was an important factor that allowed the Cultural Revolution. The persecuted were seen as deserving what they suffered. Their persecutors – their friends and families, driven by an ideology and see the persecuted as enemies, might even feel righteous for “putting them in place”. Just like putting bent metal tools on anvils for hammering. If they come out the shape we want, we consider them regulated. If they are broken, we consider them beyond fix. Either way the hammering hands are never considered at fault and press on with the hammering. For some driven by the hunger for power or the instinct of continuation, to get better statuses, it might be seen as just how the world works.

Safety in numbers morph into reason in numbers. With a somewhat enclosed environment where one does not have to worry about global value and only the persecutors have access to power, the hope of reasoning with such... “belief” is dim.

Think about the re-education camps put up by the party that facilitated the Cultural Revolution and you will see that history is repeating, in a subtler way. If you think that they are the only party doing it and feel safe in other parts of the world, you better think again.

The new Cultural Revolution might be less bloody with the global values promoted in the last decades. However, the surveillance, which was conducted with bare eyes of those who are close to you – your friends and neighbours, and sometimes your family, is now assisted with technologies and becomes way more pervasive and ubiquitous.

So, what did we learn from the past? Do we consider the Cultural Revolution a crisis and prevent it from happening? Or do we consider it a failed attempt that just has to be done “better”?

Everyone seeks a better status, but there are two kinds of people in this world. The ones who try to make themselves less miserable, and the ones who try to make others more miserable. Both approaches are legit on the regard of continuation, lowering the statuses of others means one’s own status become relatively higher. It almost feels going double time if you steal the fruit grown by others. But is it really the better way in long term? To quantify the matter, if one number is self incrementing and another is absorbing the other, given the same rate of change, surely, the latter will become relatively higher, but what about the average? Pragmatically speaking, regardless of what we hope humanity to be, is it easier, in real life, to achieve an absolute height with the average, the ground, being prevented from elevating? Pragmatically speaking I might be self defeating because relatively high is as good in most cases. And we as unique individuals cannot really perpetuate, even our direct descendants are not the real extensions of our own existences. There might be little value for an individual to worry about the average standard of the whole specie, as the effect of the average level we will see within our limited lifespan could be negligible.

But is it what humanity is all about?

But then and again, maybe all these considerations are out of the question once we are made lower, or to begin with. Why would a wife belittle her husband? Perhaps it is just me subconsciously looking for relatively hopeful explanations. It might very well just because there really are two kinds of people.






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Asylum seeker in Lithuania. My short-lifed daily on GitHub

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Sometimes the seemingly trivial matters are better kept recorded. One premise is that many others will record them, not for you, anyway. E.g.: the big teches and the Big Brother, or just someone next to you.

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