The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 27, 2014

HEY HINK: Will we keep Orwell’s dystopian vision at bay?

EDMOND — June 25 marked the 111th birthday of Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell. Orwell’s 1949 masterpiece “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was a chilling portrayal of what society might become if economic, social, military and cultural power becomes centralized in a government intent on preserving that power at any cost.

The government in Orwell’s dystopia demanded that everyone’s behavior, expressions of opinion and even their thoughts must follow rules enforced by the authorities.

This oppressive government rewrote history, told blatant lies, kept its citizens under oppressive surveillance controlling every aspect of their lives. Government employed intense psychological pressures and skillful manipulation techniques to ensure the governed were tricked, lulled, intimidated and ultimately forced into behaving in obedience to government wishes.

Orwell warned that the more passive and apathetic a population becomes in face of growing centralized power and tightening controls, the more likely the “Orwellian” future will come to pass.

This week, as I reflected on the growing strength of our federal government and its increasing intrusion into our private affairs in the name of environmental purity, public health and political correctness, I wondered if Orwell would detect warning signs.

As an intellectual exercise, let’s consider how Orwell’s oppressive government might react to some recent scientific findings.

For example, since this government would be totally responsible for public health, it might take notice of a BYU study published in the June issue of The Journal of Marriage and Family. These researchers determined that happily married couples actually put less stress on the health care system than couples involved in more marital conflict. Rick Miller, one of the principal researchers, believes his findings should lead policymakers to encourage insurance companies to cover marriage counseling, “because it can help shore up marriages and prevent future health problems.”

Orwell’s totalitarian government might reason that since happy marriages lower health care costs, the government should make marriage counseling mandatory. After all, why should society pick up the tab for couples whose domestic disagreements cause them to be less healthy? Of course, the government would need to determine on the front end which couples are at risk. This would necessitate all couples completing government-approved questionnaires to measure the degree of domestic tranquility. These, of course, would need to be re-administered periodically to allow for rapid intervention should the relationship becomes strained and in danger of leading to increased health care costs.

As happy marriages have a beneficial effect on overall health, it would become the government’s responsibility to see that all married couples follow proper guidelines to ensure that their marriages are sufficiently “happy.”

Then, there’s the study released this week published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. According to researchers from the Department of Health at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, adults who watch TV for three hours or more each day increase their risk of premature death. Orwell’s totalitarian government might determine that certain segments of society are too important to run such a risk. Consequently, the government would need to monitor the number of hours each person spends sitting in front of the television. If someone’s sedentary lifestyle poses a threat to the overall level of health care costs, the government might feel the need to impose some regulations — for the good of us all.

In the words of one of the researchers, “As the population ages, sedentary behaviors will become more prevalent, especially watching television, and this poses an additional burden on the increased health problems related to aging. “In Orwell’s totalitarian state, this would certainly require governmental intervention.

Finally, this week the Institute of Food Technologies conducted its annual meeting and food expo in New Orleans. This group points out that mankind’s carbon footprint could be significantly reduced if people included more insects in their diet. “Insects require less feed, less water, less land and less energy to produce and their production generates substantially lower environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and greenhouse gases.” An Orwellian government fixated on the dangers of climate change might determine that we’re all better off eating more bugs. Such a government might see the benefits to mandating that processed foods contain a certain percentage of “nutritional insect matter.” These regulations would help counter climate change and would, no doubt, help to reduce the level of obesity as people would be much less likely to overeat.

Of course, we in America are in no danger of sliding into and Orwellian dystopia. Our government would never intrude so far into our private affairs in the name of reducing health care costs and reversing the dangers of climate change — would it? I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.

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