In all its humor, 1984 ½ would have in actuality been a very fitting title for Terry Gilliam's Brazil. An invisible, all-powerful government, the struggle of the individual against the state, the apparent hopelessness, there is no doubting the similarities between George Orwell's dystopian creation and its more recent adaptation. But at some point between the opening scene and the end credits, an important difference surfaces: the motive. 1984 is the exploration of totalitarianism, a government that controls to instill fear into its citizens. The government in Brazil controls because it itself is afraid. Both Terry Gilliam and the modern world have learned that in times of terrorism and great tragedy, there is a certain pattern of extreme security taken by the state, pattern that is an exact replica of John Mill's theory of utilitarianism.
[...] Terrorism shakes the foundation of any government, and instability in the ruling party ripples down, giving birth to a universal fear that transcends all classes. The government in Brazil only uses mock concern for its citizens to keep them happy, which in turn suppresses any discontentment which could lead to further uprising, which in turn keeps the government happy. Those that do no revolt must not be in excruciating in pain, and since utilitarianism does not recognize the gray area between extremes, these passive people must be happy. [...]
[...] But in the end, that destruction of the threat and the expectant reinstatement of those rights should create a new happiness beyond comparison with the former pleasures. Utilitarianism comes with an obvious price, spelt out word by word by the theorist himself. Freedoms may have to be sacrificed to be secured in the end. This very admittance is the foundation of the controversy surrounding the modern PATRIOT Act in the United States. While many opponents of the law change go so far as to claim it away rights that safeguard all Americans” (EPIC) or that it is profoundly mistaken approach to the question of balancing liberty and security” (Posner), the key is that the designers of the PATRIOT Act themselves admit that it allows for some bending of the rules. [...]
[...] One terrorist caught could save an infinite number of lives, so why should the government worry about one man put to death unfairly? His pain and the pain of his family will never overshadow the joy felt by an entire population leaving for work in the morning to return home at night to a warm dinner safe and sound. And if this promise of life can only be achieved through the horrendous use of torture, so be it, for “torture is an investment in the right to be all- knowing” (Williams 796) when the torture is for such a greater good. [...]
[...] Is the pursuit of happiness really worth the sacrifices along the way? Security is important, and so is happiness, but no one person should be denied either for the benefit of everyone else. Justice and truth, freedom and equality, all are necessary for a healthy society. The extreme measure that is utilitarianism is a result of a terrified mind, of an embarrassed government, and unbalanced legislation such as the Ministry of Information and the PATRIOT Act should not be the solution to terrorism and threats. [...]
[...] Suspicion is now as deadly as fact; even the strongest backer of the Act, General Attorney Ashcroft, takes pride in the fact that “hundreds of suspected terrorists have been identified and tracked throughout the United States” (Ashcroft). The key word is “suspected.” America has not seen a terrorist attack since September 11th, and only a handful of bombs have even been discovered inside the borders. Utilitarianism has allowed for security to become one of the greatest threats to freedom ever witnessed by the United States. [...]
using our reader.