Valuing the present while learning from the past

George Orwell is a famous British author. He was a worked for a British government media outlet, the BBC, during World War 2 as a war correspondent. His wife worked in the Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information in central London. (Source: )

After the war, he wrote one of the most famous pieces of anti-propaganda propaganda in recent history, titled “1984.” That composition was soon made in to a TV movie by the BBC. While the radio broadcast of Orson Welles’ “the war of the worlds” caused more hysteria in the US than most any other media stunt of the 20th century, the first televised broadcast of 1984 in the UK was one of the biggest media scandals in the history of the UK.

The first airing caused so much public outrage that… the BBC broadcast it once again the following weekend. Riding the wave of controversy, the viewing audience for the second airing was historic. The second wave of public outrage was even more enormous.

With the massive boost in publicity created through the BBC’s TV movie production of the book, soon, Orwell’s 1984 went on to be the best-selling book of the 20th century. When I think of government-sponsored anti-government anti-propaganda propaganda, I think of 1984.

One of the many famous ideas from Orwell’s 1984 was the idea that those who control the minds of the people today can influence how the people relate to the past now. Simply by programming people to relate to the past in particular ways, the dominant institutions of mind control can influence how people relate to the future. By influencing how people relate to the future, not only can institutions implement “mind control” programs, but “behavior control” programs as well.

Note that I think of “mind” as being another word for “linguistic behavior,” as in the activities of how people use language to interpret reality and form experience. We do not just experience what is external to us. In fact, we never experience what is external. Experience is internal. We experience our internal perceptions.

Those internal perceptions are not only perceptions of direct sensations, but also perceptions of any linguistic labeling of those sensations. We internally experience our internal sensations plus our internal interpretations of those sensations.

While sensations are purely internal to each organism, the linguistic interpretations are intrinsically social. Language is social. We are programmed with language to interpret our sensations in ways that are fundamentally social (and not intrinsic to those sensations).

So, we may be trained to label certain experiences as emotions. Among those emotions, we may be trained to label certain emotions as negative or shameful or socially dangerous.

We may be intimidated or traumatized in to suppressing the expression of certain emotions. We may even be encouraged to participate in social rituals of intimidating and traumatizing others so that they also suppress the expression of certain emotions.

The best way to disrupt the expression of a particular emotion is to suppress the emotion itself. It takes a lot of physical exertion to block certain innate movements of the tongue, such as the actions of crying or laughing or shouting. More adaptive than simply “holding the tongue” is to divert or displace emotions.

So, if individuals are trained to expect a repulsive social consequence for expressing fear (even displaying it in their facial expressions or gestures and posture), then they may learn to displace all instances of fear in to grief or sadness. “No, I am not scared… I am just sad… about… about….”

Once people are intimidated or bullied in to displacing fear, they learn to create a victimhood narrative. That narrative may be rewarded or ignored. If rewarded, it is likely to be repeated with expectations of future rewards.

A victimhood narrative is basically a pretentious rationalization for sadness or grief. Note that people naturally will have occasions in which they are actually victimized and so they experience a sense of betrayal that is beyond mere disappointment or grief or sadness. They may also share commentaries that correspond to whatever triggered their emotional response.

That would not be what I mean by a victimhood narrative. That is just being startled by a certain sequence of events and then suddenly withdrawing toward perceived safety. Someone can tell the story of all that without there being any pretense (with the entire thing being sincere). In other cases, there may be a distressed outrage about defending the idea of their sincerity.

However, in a simple, plain mode of retreat, someone can directly admit that they are in retreat. They will either retreat further or admit that they have been retreating (with no shame or shameful distress). They will certainly not hysterically argue that they are not retreating.

They may apologetically protest say “Of course I’m afraid! Of course I’m withdrawing! Of course I’m fleeing to safety.” However, they will not protest aggressively with “No, I am not afraid and how DARE you question the sincerity of my grief?!?!”

Someone who is actually grieving (like in despair) is likely to flee from most any confrontation or conflict. However, someone who is only pretending to grieve may be eager to seek out any rationales or justifications for a display of outrage or tantrum.

So, there are many forms of grieving, such as disappointment or regret or shame. Note that all forms of grieving  involve “flight” from a perceived threat.

With mere disappointment, the withdrawal may be very brief, like “I just need a moment to catch my breath. That really shook me up.” With despair, the retreat is likely to done without any social announcement. People in despair would just definitively withdraw. At least as long as they experience despair, they are likely to attempt to avoid directly talking about the issues. “What difference would talking about this make?!?! Why bother?”

Also, someone who is intensely grieving may want to withdraw from being reminded of a certain detail of the past, including isolating themselves from any social interaction that MIGHT involve a reference to that “shameful” thing. We naturally attempt to avoid what still disturbs us or “makes us sick.” Eventually, the “tenderness” of the distress may subside and so a passing reference to a particular detail of the past might not cause any disturbance or hysterical panic.

In fact, something that may have been disturbing or shameful could eventually be “fully accepted.” The same subject that previously upset someone could become something that they can make relaxed jokes about, even triggering relief in those who are still tense about the particular subject.

So, in a victimhood narrative, someone is currently terrified of being socially “accused” of experiencing fear. They are in a state of chronic anxiety or paranoia.

They displace various instances of fear and habitually mislabel them as types of grief. They may even ridicule others who seem to display fear:

“Why do those police officers always buckle their seat belts? Are they consumed by fear? Don’t they know that caution is a sign of spiritual inferiority? I bet they even use turn signals while driving. I bet some of them even lock the doors of their homes. I saw one of those cowards wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying an assault rifle while doing SWAT team training. It was a just a training with no real gunfight, so why were those naive fools wearing real bullet-proof vests? Can’t they even read? If they could read, they would see that they were in a gun-free zone because the magic shapes of ink on that sign prevent guns from crossing from that side of the street over there to this side of the street.”

A victimhood narrative corresponds to a particular form of hysterical distress. The basic idea is that it will be safer to socially present one’s self as a victim (as in now and extending back in to the past eternally). Vilifying villains is a standard part of a victimhood narrative. Ridiculing certain other victims (as being “deserving” of victimization) is another common feature.

Again, I am using victimhood narrative only as a reference to a coping mechanism for pretending not to be experiencing fear. If someone vilifies a villain whom they specifically relate to as a threat, that may just be their sincere fear.

The idea of pretentious victimhood narrative involves a cover for an underlying fear. “No, I am not afraid of them. I just want all of those kind of people to be punished.”

The narrative can be very big. There can be huge fractions of humanity that are labeled as “the villains” and huge fractions as “the victims.”

People may not even identify themselves as a victim or potential victim. They just habitually vilify someone. In a way, it might be more accurate to use the label of a vilification narrative.

But when someone says “I am just so sad that those villains way over there are victimizing all those victims,” why is all the concern with THOSE victims? Are those the only victims in the world today (or at whatever point in time is being referenced)?

Or, are those victims simply the most convenient for displacing one’s one emotional distress? “Those people are afraid, not me” is a displacement of fear. Even “I am just afraid FOR them” could be a displacement of fear.

Am I afraid for thousands or millions of people who I do not personally know? Is that really a rationale, logical thing to say?

I might be afraid OF thousands of people, but if I am really afraid FOR someone, it would be one person at a time, right? If I am afraid FOR a family member in regard to their health, I might not displace the fear as “being caused externally.” No, my fear is MINE.


People who are ashamed of fear (which may be a lot of folks) are not likely to say “I am worried about the consequences for ME if that person’s health does not improve.” Some people openly “own” their fears. Some people displace their fears. Some deny having fears (and invalidate the experience of fear as if some emotions are more “valid” than others). In other words, some are terrified of or afraid of fear.

For them, “the unknown” or “the unfamiliar” could seem to be a massive threat, since they are pretending not to be afraid. They may be terrified that the pretenses of their “victimhood narrative” will be met with skepticism or, even worse, disinterest.

So, the first common displacement of fear is to anxiously say “No, I am not socially anxious about that. I am just sad.” People in that mode of distress do not relate to sadness as a form of fear. Again, all forms of sadness involve a contraction or retreat or flight from a perceived threat or presumed threat. We only withdraw from things that we perceive to be threatening or intimidating or disturbing, right?

The next common displacement is rage. “I am not sad, and I sure as HELL am not scared, you little bitch!” When there is shame about fear, then a common compensation is to focus obsessively on something that truly does not seem frightening. Then, one can gloriously and heroically prove one’s “courage” by taking on a “challenge” that one does not actually perceive to be particularly “challenging.”
At least, that is the typical pattern of another narrative.

Those who are ashamed of fear and compensate by creating a persona of “savior” need to find victims who are open to vilifying one or more villains. Then, the “savior” can rescue or protect the victims from the villains.

A less personal variation is the “reformer.” Reformers do not heroically save specific individuals from other individuals. Reformers gloriously save institutions from embarrassing injustices.

Reformers relate to a particular set of behaviors as “the only right ways to interact” and a contrasting set of behaviors as “ways of interacting that are inherently wrong or socially invalid.” They got those doctrines from institutions that were programming them to focus on certain facts (and fictions). Their focus was programmed in order to promote social rituals to glorify those specific institutions as “the best” or “the most holy” or “the most just.”

Naturally, the activities of the institutions are not entirely identical to the publicized doctrines about “how all institutions should be” and “how all people should treat each other.” Those doctrines are promoted to distract people from certain activities of the institution. Further, the masses are directed to focus on certain facts (and fictions) that are evidence that the particular institution is the most holy or sacred or just or good.

So, as people gain real-world experience with institutions (or interact with others who have such real-world experience), then there will seem to be “isolated cases” of corruption. It was that one incident or that one politician or that one party.

The system in general is still worshiped presumptively, but there are isolated cases of “negligence” or “misconduct” or even “shameful corruption.” At that point, reforms are not relevant because “for the most part, our system is perfect, with only isolated exceptions.”

Those folks just call for justice in regard to those specific isolated cases. The next stage develops when the number of cases of contrast between observation and doctrine is much larger. The corruption is not isolated to one case or one villain or one agency. Throughout history, agencies have at least had occasional instances of corruption.

Corruption is recognized as widespread across different individuals and groups and regions and periods of time. Maybe corruption is not essential to all large institutions (or else why bother with hysterical campaigns of reform)? However, the key issue is that the “reformer” is ashamed of the realities of corruption. They promote shame in others. They are demoralized and are coping with their demoralization by heroically reforming “everything.”

What fantasy of a future are they pursuing? After they heroically and gloriously defeat corruption and reform our inherently perfect system to make it even more inherently perfect, then finally they will have compensated for the various occasions in their past in which they personally violated their sacred principles of conduct.
However, there is no salvation for such savior and reformers. Their entire program to earn salvation is based on a misconception.

We do not need to fear social punishment for all of our past violations of codes of conduct and laws and so on. On the whole, most people do not really care what we did. If they really cared, they would ask or investigate (or interrogate).

It is not the business of most people to prosecute or persecute others for their behaviors. It is the business of court officers (such as cops) and the media, but most other people just do not really care.

There are way too many cases of people doing things that “they should not have done” to interest most people. Many people are looking for villains to vilify, but distant villains are the safest, right? Also, hysterical vilification does not involve much interest in the actual past. Fiction is perfectly suitable as justification of vilification and contempt.
Who is most likely to be targeted for vilification: someone who is unashamed and comfortable with simply keeping their mouth shut about something… or someone who is ashamed of what they did (or failed to do)? Which is more magnetic: someone who is likely to seek attention (like from the media) to make passionate statements to defend themselves and deny the accusations… or someone who prefers to avoid controversy?

When the ruling class is actually concerned about someone being “found innocent” in a criminal court ritual, haven’t there been a series of famous deaths to keep people silent? From clear assassinations to “accidental suicides in which the defense witness shot himself in the back of the head four times,” the ruling class has a history of using the government and media to demonize a particular target and then silence them by execution. Or, they just silence their military targets without demonizing them first.
However, most political assassinations truly are isolated cases… even when it is a few dozen MDs who were speaking out about the dangers of a particular medical treatment (before their deaths). The majority of cases of vilification involve people who are perceived to be vulnerable to social intimidation (like through the court system or the media).

Why do cops and prosecutors systematically target certain elements of the lower class? One factor may be that people in the middle class are more likely to effectively avoid conviction.

The Department of Justice needs crime or else why should the government extract wealth from taxpayers in order to continue to expand the power of the Department of Justice? “Winning” the war on crime would be horrible for certain business interests. Even if the taxpayers are successful at decriminalizing the possession of alcohol or marijuana, legislators can simply invent new crimes as long as there is enough lobbyist support, right?

So, we may learn to avoid our fear of social punishment (our shame) by displacing all distress in to grief or contempt. In contempt for ourselves and for the system, we may anxiously and desperately attempt to reform the system to make it how it should be. It is actually quite an arrogant approach (and often includes claims of spiritual superiority).



There are many ways to relate to the past. We can appreciate certain things that did happen or wish that certain things had not happened (that did happen). Also, if we think of the absolute simplest way of relating to the past, it would be to simply question “what happened?”

Even if I have asked the question of “what happened” many times before in regard to a certain incidence or sequence, can I continue to operate in a mode of curiosity or openness or respect? Or, is it inevitable that eventually I will reject the idea that curiosity may ever be relevant in regard to some subject… because I finally “really know” exactly what happened and so curiosity would be a… terrifying threat?

In some cases, people will form a specific commentary about the past and then relate to that commentary as if the commentary itself was identical to the actual past itself. However, the activity of forming a commentary is something that happens in the present.

We can form a commentary or make no comment. We can repeat a commentary that we previously made. We can reform an old one. We can cease to repeat one that we have been repeating. We might even question a particular commentary for relevance (which is to me a more important issue than even the precision of a particular commentary).

We can also notice that other people can form distinct commentaries about the same past incident. Some commentaries will mostly overlap with each other and some may sharply contrast with each other.

Notice that the past is never in conflict with itself. However, commentaries about the past can greatly contrast with each other or even conflict.

All conflicts involving the past are either conflicts that happened in the past or conflicts that are happening now about the past. If two different people or groups have formed contrasting commentaries about a particular incident in the past, then it is possible for them to engage in a conflict presently about their conflicting commentaries.

People may seek to defend a particular commentary. They may present evidence and seek social validation or encouragement. They may invalidate or ridicule contrary commentaries (and also to vilify the villains who seem to threaten their commentary… by failing to enthusiastically validate it).

When people are more interested in a particular commentary about the past then in the past itself, that is a state of tension or anxiety or even conflict or shame. They may be using the commentary to resist or suppress their own capacity to learn today from the past.

They may already be relating to the past as a present threat. They may form a particular commentary and then use that commentary to attempt to insulate themselves from the perceived threat of the actual history.

How is it that people might relate to past incidents (even that happened decades or centuries in the past) as present threats? Clearly, an incident that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago is not a present threat to an organism. So, what is it exactly that can relate to the distant past as a present threat?

The past is only a threat to a commentary that is designed to obscure the past or to hide it or invalidate it. The reality of the past is only a threat to a fantasy that conflicts with the past.

So, in moments of distress, we may form a commentary about some incident or sequence of incidents. That commentary on language must focus on certain details, de-emphasizing or omitting certain other details. That commentary may also include elements of interpretation or even fantasy or intentional deception.

The commentary itself is always adaptive to the perceived circumstances. In other words, from how we perceive our circumstances, we form commentaries about those perceptions. Are commentaries always fit with our perceptions.

How is it that a variety of people can have a variety of commentaries about the same incident that happened decades ago or centuries ago or even seconds ago? The variety of perceptions form a variety of interpretations or commentaries.

Am I open to having no particular commentary about some of the past or all of it? Am I open to respecting alternative commentaries? Or, do I hysterically resist the future as an eternal threat in which my deepest shames might be revealed? Do I live from a psychological state of eternal torment or hell?

If I have, then could I make jokes about that historical possibility? Consider that I could make such jokes and, more than likely, I will do so in the future.

The British Empire was the system in which the British East Indies Company was created. In 1830, “Jardine-Matheson & Company of London [inherited] India and it’s opium.” (Source: )

To this day, networks of gangsters may operate massive plantations of economic slaves, then expand them, and even sell portions of them to each other. Obviously, we need an organization like the United Nations to rescue us from inequality, right?


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