Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Everyone Belongs to Everyone Else"

Between Mark Zuckerberg and Julian Assange, the prophecies in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" are coming to pass long before the year 2540 in which the novel is set.

The two have combined to speed up the timetable for the death of privacy reflected in Huxley's dystopian slogan, "Everyone belongs to everyone else."

Coming from opposite ends of an over-sharing universe, Zuckerberg the billionaire and Assange, now an accused sex offender, have been diminishing individual reticence and institutional confidentiality to the vanishing point.

Everywhere in this culture, from politics to entertainment to private behavior, a new kind of person is emerging--assertive, opinionated, self-centered, ruthless and yet, although in constant interraction with others, perhaps more emotionally isolated than cave dwellers.

Even "romantic" comedies are less about human love than mutual use and manipulation. Judd Apatow, anyone?

Emerson and Thoreau are long gone, but their ethos of American individualism now seems like a message from another planet.

"All our progress is an unfolding," said Emerson, "like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit."

"How vain it is to sit down to write," Thoreau added, "when you have not stood up to live."

No problem now. Forget about thinking and/or actually living. All stray thoughts are created equal and meant to be shared instantly on Facebook. All information, no matter how damaging, is fair game for Wikileaks.

Zuckerberg gets a prime-time commercial on "60 Minutes," with only light questioning about Facebook's privacy problems, but it is Assange who is more faithfully living out Huxley's premonitions.

As governments try to figure out how to prosecute him for damaging international affairs, the UK has him locked up for living out a basic implication of "Everyone belongs to everyone else"--complete sexual freedom.

The irony is that Assange may first be punished for doing to a few women what he has been doing on a grand scale to governments all over the world.

Update: In this topsy-turvy new world, Assange is now a martyr in the eyes of sympathetic hackers who attack sites deemed hostile to Wikileaks and set off what could escalate into an anarchic cyberwar. "Brave New World" ends with a mass orgy. Is this where all this is heading?

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