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'1984' revisited

Review by Webdiarist Mark Sergeant, who wrote Webdiary's 50,000th comment on the old site, illos by Webdiary artist Lawrence Winder

Image by Lawrence Winder

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

Back in Make-believe democracy: drowning with the authoritarians, Margo asked if I'd like to re-read and review 1984 for 2005. I've now re-read it, and here is the review.

Image by Lawrence WinderIt is, within a year or two, 1984. Winston Smith is a minor Party bureaucrat working in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rectify the documentary record. To correct the records when they do not reflect what is now known to be true. Others work in the Ministries of Peace (concerned with war), Plenty (economic affairs) and Love, which maintains law and order. The totalitarian society Orwell depicts is clearly modelled on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It is guided by the loving wisdom of Big Brother.

Winston is restless. He starts a diary. He is uneasy about the daily Two Minute Hate. He remembers things that are no longer (and therefore never were) true. He embarks on a love affair with Julia.  None of these things are illegal, because there are no laws, but they will, when detected, be severely punished. (Aside: Orwell's immersion in his own creation fails him with the word "punished". Errors are not punished by the Ministry of Love; they are, lovingly, corrected.)

That sets out the basic framework of the novel. The plot unfolds without major surprises, but is not very important. Only the details need filling in once Winston picks up his pen to start the diary. What is important is the depiction of the society of 1984. My copy (a '69 Penguin) has 245 pages of text. There are about 22 pages (in smaller type) of quoted document and an eleven page appendix, both setting out a description of the society. Part Three (about 57 pages) deals with Winston's rectification. Apart from the pain, it is mostly concerned with why, and how, to love Big Brother.

Before discussing the relevance of 1984 to today, there are a few more things that should be mentioned.

The Proles.
Image by Lawrence Winder These are the mass of ordinary workers. They are not subject to party discipline, so in spite of material poverty their lives seem more attractive than those of Party members. The proles can never revolt, because without comparison they cannot be aware of their own oppression. There is no politics, so there is no way that any political grievance could be articulated.

The War.
There are three roughly equal powers, engaged in a perpetual war. From time to time alliances change (which generates lots of work for Winston as he brings the documentary history into line with current reality), but the war continues. The primary aim of the war is to exhaust any economic surplus, thus avoiding any risk of raising standards of living, which would lead to change.

English is being replaced by Newspeak. This process is still in relatively early stages in 1984. It's just as well, since the concepts in 1984 could not be expressed in Newspeak, and Winston could not think the thoughts he does. The primary aim of Newspeak is to make unorthodoxy impossible. It achieves its aim by drastically reducing vocabulary, and restricting the meaning of remaining words to exclude any undesirable connotations. The transition is expected to reach completion in about 2050.

This is the thought process which allows a good Party member to hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and to accept both of them. Typically, the contradiction is between the evidence of one's senses and Party orthodoxy. Doublethink enables resolution of the contradiction in favour of Party orthodoxy.

How relevant is 1984 to us in 2005? What (if anything) of Orwell's vision has "come true"? I will deal in some detail with The War and Doublethink, which I think raise some very important issues for today. But first, an overview.

The totalitarian vision based on the Soviet/Nazi example does not have a lot of current relevance for anyone likely to be reading this review. It does, though, carry two reminders: it is happening now in, for example, North Korea and Guantanamo Bay; and it has happened before and can happen again - even to us!

The economics is all wrong, of course. Instead of central planning we have the "Free Market". The rationales for economic stagnation and perpetual war don't make sense. How much more sensible is our economics?

Orwell got Big Brother wrong. Instead of the cult of the beloved, but firm, leader, we have the cult of celebrity. Instead of a single, immutable hero we have a constant cavalcade of them. And the direction of gaze is reversed. Big Brother does not need to watch us (though, in myriad manifestations and ways he does) because we are watching Big Brother. It's the free market triumphing over central planning again.

Perpetual War
Image by Lawrence Winder Perpetual War is with us. Orwell was commenting on the beginnings of the Cold War, as well as his economic role for the war. When the Cold War ended, the War on Drugs was tried, and is still sputtering along. Now we have the Global War on Terrorism. There is no end in sight.

In 1984, the role of the war is to consume any economic surplus. It has side benefits of access to conquered labour and resources, and propaganda value at home. These days, propaganda is king. Halliburton may find the economic benefits irresistible, and it is indisputable that Iraq, for example, has significant resources to be conquered, but the main role of perpetual war is the perpetuation of the incumbent regime.

Traditionally, and in the popular mind, war is best entrusted to the conservatives. This perception is a bit odd, because from the Australian experience, Labor seems to have a better record. Partly it is the perception that conservatives are tough, no-nonsense managers who can do what it takes. Partly it's that conservatives are looking after family values and the white picket fence.

Today's perpetual war does not directly effect most of us. We experience it as we experience Big Brother - through the television. We experience it in the hatreds and fears it generates. We also experience it, less visibly, in the erosion of rights and liberties. It's the same in 1984. The primary purpose of the war is not to defeat whoever is the current enemy, but to politically benefit the ruling party.

Doublethink has always been with us. Contradictions are embedded in our relationships with the world, each other and ourselves. Since humanity has had sufficient intellect to reason about the world we have been inventing Gods and Devils to help explain it. These gods tend to develop lives of their own, and before long are requiring us to disbelieve the evidence of our senses. It's not always pernicious, but it does tend that way.

Image by Lawrence Winder It's not just religion. It is particularly characteristic of social and political thought, Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions discusses (in different terms) the process in science. A particularly frightening current example is our inability to resolve the contradiction between a consumption driven economy and the planet's finite resources. Apparently benign examples are the theory of comedy as unexpected and incongruous resolutions of contradiction, and the wave/particle duality in physics.

In 1984, as you move up the hierarchy of the Party the role of doublethink becomes more conscious, complicated and significant. The proles don't have much need for doublethink. They aren't concerned with Party doctrine, and not expected to think, so mostly it is a simple matter of reconciling their own experience with the news reports. For ordinary Party members it is a bit more complicated, as they are concerned with doctrine, and their work is commonly (as it is for Winston) concerned with the mechanics of doublethink. But they are just doing a job, and higher authority must know what is right. (The Nuremberg defence.)

It is in the Inner Party that doublethink really comes into its own. They require both a clear understanding of doctrine and a detailed knowledge of the actual state of the world. They must know, for example, that the Party can only ever act in the interests of the people, and at the same time know it only ever acts to ruthlessly maintain the power of the Party.

Ultimately, the role of the Inner Party is to create reality. If hard, material facts get in the way, then they are rectified, just as Winston spends his days rectifying the historical record. It's a sort of collective solipsism. What appears to us as the real world is simply a manifestation of the party's will.

That's what is really scary about the aide's words quoted by Suskind. He's not talking about a small (or large) war here or there. Not even the making of a new world order, although that is part of it. He's up there with the Gods.


PS: Jackie Hangjas has pointed us to Evgeny Zamyatin's We as prior (and better) art. And with humour, which is noticeably lacking in Orwell's effort. I haven't read it, but it is in the Dymocks catalogue, so I'm adding it to my list.

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re: '1984' revisited

Probably one for the memory hole, but I will say it anyway. Mark's article and Lawrence's illustrations - doubleplusgood.

re: '1984' revisited

Just a comment on the photos used for this article? Has this blog become a fetish site? Very disturbing.

re: '1984' revisited

I knew we were in trouble when talk began of the black armband view of history.

re: '1984' revisited

The Proles: "They are not subject to party discipline, so in spite of material poverty their lives seem more attractive than those of Party members."

This was a straightforward manifestation of Eric Blair's (George Orwell's) sentimentalisation of the working classes - and oddly also a fine example of his bourgeois condescension toward them.

He was an Eton chap, after all. Damned nice fellow, though.

Also, it is a view oddly out of synch with our own times - what, with the almost obscenely high levels of material consumption enjoyed across all classes in the developed world, and much of the so-called developing world, too.

I mean, that's where the Proles - according to theory - were supposed to reside, no? In the industrialised world?

Academic Marxists in Eric's own day hated his guts of course.

In his scathing attack on Blair/Orwell, leading Marxist academic AL Morton said:

"It is significant that he never indulges in a general diatribe without adding a specific sneer directed against Communism and the Soviet Union, and not less significant that 'Ape and Essence' has been so widely praised in the United States.

"It might be thought that this book represented the lowest depths to which the new genre of anti-utopias could fall, but the publication a year later of Nineteen Eighty-Four robbed it of even that distinction." - AL Morton, The English Utopia, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1952, p273.

A fair indication this lickspittle slogan parrot never actually read the book, of course, is revealed a moment later when he refers to the Orwellian concept of 'Double Talk' instead of 'Double Speak'.

Presumably as the instructions came through from Moscow, some hapless Cominten factotum carelessly translated, then re-translated 'Double Speak' first into Russian, then back into English as 'Double Talk'.

Professor Morton would have been none the wiser and innocently regurgitated the mistake.

Nice to know they were no less supine in 1952 than today, even if they're working for different masters these days.

Anyway, just getting back to the Proles for a moment. I was stuck in traffic on Broadway today as hundreds of Proles made their point of view on the IR draft legislation clear during a protest march.

As I said, Eric was a lovely chap. But I remember the real 1984. The worst things about it were Duran Duran and t-shirts with shoulder pads.

The best thing about it was the Richard Burton portrayal of O'Brien in the film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

re: '1984' revisited

G'day. Webdiarist Sasha Marker on the launch of the Cheek political diary's in Tassie today:

Can political retirement = a conscience? Are ex-politicians who ‘break ranks’ to be applauded or rejected? There were many negative and often misleading media reports on The Latham Diaries written by journalists who did not come clean about being mentioned in it and which, after I had read the book, made me wonder if they were reviewing a something else completely. Today, Bob Cheek, ex-Tasmanian Liberal MP launched his own book, CHEEKY: Confessions of a Ferret Salesman at Salamanca Inn in Hobart.

Tasmanian Liberal party figures, past and present, have already voiced their disapproval over his book and there was even a letter (reproduced in Crikey) from Mr. Rene Hidding, current Liberal State Opposition Leader to Bob Cheek, which threatened legal action over any perceived damage to Hidding’s reputation or character. As the excerpts on the Tasmanian Times website already make much more juicy reading than anything in The Latham Diaries, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is said about Bob Cheek’s book in the media.

At a time when those inside the political system seem to be entrenching themselves further and further into a closed world of privilege and restricting our ability to access information about this world, themselves or even our ability to ask questions (the government’s proposed sedition laws come to mind), autobiographical writings from ex-insiders, regardless of what we might think about them on a personal level, can only add to the public debate at large. Information about the launch and excerpts from the book can be found online at The Tasmanian Times.

re: '1984' revisited

Eric Blair was always appalled at what he took to be the "apathy" of the working classes.

In the Road to Wigan Pier he specifically mentions with dismay the apparent nonchalance and bemused disinterest of groups of Proles as they gawp at this or that socialist (or perhaps even Communist) agitator preaching a political sermon at a street demonstration.

This was before Eric himself went to Spain during the Civil War and found out that the Commies were a bunch of lying, murdering thugs.

He was a saintly anarchist at heart. And never apathetic himself. And he never surrendered his socialist principles.

I suppose if anyone had reason to complain it would have been the poor bastards he met at Wigan.

Oddly enough, today's Wigan is a comfortable, if rather dull suburban neighbourhood consciously trying to live down the reputation Eric gave it.

If you go there, people will even tell you they are annoyed that George Orwell devotees visiting the municipality will express disappointment that 'Wigonians' don't today still live in decrepit hovels, six to a room and having to share clogged lavatories with their neighbours.

They have to go to Cuba to see that.

I wonder what Eric would have thought of modern Wigan? Probably would have hated it - though probably for entirely different reasons than in 1935.

Today, I suspect, he'd be a huge Greenie. And peace activist. But probably not a pacifist as such.

He's an easy fellow to like, though, isn't he?

Apathy. It's sometimes what we call the cautious, sceptical indifference of the non-believer.

And I bet by now he would have realised that.

In Nineteen Eighty-four, the vision of the future O'Brien outlines for Winston Smith - the boot eternally smashing into a human face - was inspired by a Communist Party poster Eric saw in Spain. In which a Communist soldier stamps his jack-boot into the face of a Phalangist.

He was a decent fellow - and a romantic to boot, constantly falling in love with the wrong women - and all the time viewing life with that simultaneous pessimism combined with limitless optimism of a true saint.

re: '1984' revisited

C Parsons, just a quick note in support of Canberra. Having lived there for 16 years throughout my childhood, adolescence and young adult years, I know for certain that I've seen more stretch limos after two years of living in Sydney than I ever did in Canberra. Of course, every town has problems but we must not forget that those cocooning themselves in the privileges of Parliament come from the rest of the country.

I can assure you, those living in Canberra would be quite happy for many of the political fly-bys to stay well away from their town for good.

It seems to be folk law that 'Canberra' gets the blame for everything that the electorate is unhappy with but as the Prime Minister picked up his skirts and moved the proverbial castle to Sydney in 1996, why hasn't the blame been shifted?

The people of Canberra are not responsible for the monstrosity on the hill (there used to be a very nice actual hill before it was bulldozed and replaced by the current parliament building) any more than they are responsible for electing the majority of silk worms who get elected to spin there stuff in it.

re: '1984' revisited

C Parsons: "[Orwell] was a decent fellow - and a romantic to boot, constantly falling in love with the wrong women ..."

CP, I won't argue with you regarding Sonia - out dancing while he breathed his last - but how can you say Eileen was 'wrong' for Eric? I seem to recall from what I've read that they were a devoted couple.

re: '1984' revisited

Margo Kingston: "At a time when those inside the political system seem to be entrenching themselves further and further into a closed world of privilege and restricting our ability to access information about this world..."

First thing we have to do is get them out of Canberra. It's a lotus land filled with suited blimps riding around in those tacky white Ford stretch-limos.

That's what destroyed Bill Hayden. It's a Michel Foucault thing. Mixed up with Marshall McLuhan.

re: '1984' revisited

Michael de Angelos, my defining moment came in 1996 when I notice the PM's wife and daughter attended his swearing-in ceremony in hats and gloves - reminiscent of the good old days when some women were able to protect the sanctity of their white skin from the sun, to distinguish them from those unfortunate enough to have to work for a living... very 19th century.

re: '1984' revisited

Very good CP. "A lotus land filled with suited blimps.." indeed. Too true.

Sounds like the city (er, big town) belongs on Sgt Peppers! Now, that being the case, the "rocking horse people" would be the opposition (rare as rocking horse...). Who then would be the "Plasticine porters" and the "girl with kaliedescope eyes?"

re: '1984' revisited

Jacob A Stam: "CP, I won't argue with you regarding Sonia - out dancing while he breathed his last - but how can you say Eileen was 'wrong' for Eric?"

Eileen and George stayed together until she died, of course. And she was a doll. And she had his baby.

But Sonia was definitely a lying, two faced gold digger - and poor Eric was just swept away by her physical beauty thinking himself in love. Same with Brenda Salkeld, with whom he was desperately in "love" for decades - and she strung him along for years, then made a career of telling people how she'd rejected him. She was the worst.

While Eric was alive, she didn't hesitate to tell people how far beneath her he was. But she was just a PE and dancing teacher at a second rate girl's school if the truth be known.

Then she endlessly got off recounting it all after he was gone. Absolutely loathsome girl.

Who was his mate's older sister that he was in love with when he was a kid? I'll have to look her name up. Gorgeous of course. She couldn't believe it as an old lady when she finally found out about his crush. Was stunned.

S Marker, Hi! Yes, lad, there are more white stretch limos in Sydney. But in Sydney the stretch limos are all being used by 17-year-olds for school farewells and hens nights. Or else they're in funeral processions.

Saw a fantastic sight here recently: a basic 1968 Datsun 1600 - but fully stretched out and with black tinted windows.

Even had the little vertical outrider lights on the sides.


re: '1984' revisited

You take it bloody-well correct Jacob!

The cardiac unit phoned to report no - they actually said this - out of the ordinary irregularities. Meaning I'd imagine Josh only recorded normal abnormalities?

Next visit December seven.

Michelle Grattan - yes. The press gallery as well. Porters of...? Propaganda I suppose.

What then would that make our rather rigid, straight-jacketed Fairfax admonisher?

Can't be Fool on the Hill, that's George W at State of the Union time.

Maybe "Henry" in Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite"?

re: '1984' revisited

Slightly tangential I know, but C Parsons,, I would expect bloggers on this site to be able to distinguish Canberra from the Fed Government. Please do not lower yourself to the level of the gutter press, who can't. Thank you S Marker for so clearly spelling it out.

As for the relevance of 1984 in the here and now - a blatant example of current doublethink is a Prime Minister, notorious for deceit, saying 'look at my record'. But I suspect Peter Reith is the master.

re: '1984' revisited

Ministry of Love with Philippe Ruddock in charge of hating all people from beyond our borders. At last John Howard's government has reached 1984. I thought he was still stuck in the 1950's (with the white gloved spouse).

re: '1984' revisited

G'day C Parsons. Now you mention Brenda Salkeld, some of it's starting to come back to me. I'm trying to locate my copy of Shelden's Authorised Biography to ascertain the childhood 'flame' you mentioned as well. Have to re-read the Shelden book when I get a chance. Or maybe a good 'unauthorised' bio.

Further to your discussion below on a favourite theme of yours, CP, it's interesting isn't it that Blair/Orwell, although a lifelong socialist, had such little time for some of its then-trendier manifestations, a position succinctly summed up in Road to Wigan Pier: "As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents."

He also viewed vegetarianism with marked disdain: "The food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcass; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity." (I guess a great many people might today be regarded by Orwell's standards as 'food-cranks', with healthy eating becoming increasingly mainstream.)

No doubt you're aware Orwell's polemics were intended towards his desired goal of getting socialism out of the clutches of middle-class 'cranks' and into the everyday life of mainstream workers. It seems, however, that the contrary has obtained, with market capitalism increasingly entrenched in the mainstream, while socialism is increasingly marginalised and portrayed as a clinging vestige of a troglodyte past.

G'day Michael. The 'plasticine porters' are quite obviously 'press gallery reporters'. It follows that 'the girl with kaleidoscope eyes' can only be Michelle Grattan. By the way, I take it no news is good news re young JP, as the young fella continues from strength to strength?

re: '1984' revisited

Dear Mr C Parsons, please leave my city alone. We keep your pollies restricted to the parliamentary bunker and they only venture out to fly home. We in Canberra note that on Thursday afternoon once the pollies have flown back to Sydney, the IQ of both cities increases. Please also note Sydney is down, both morally and vertically from Canberra as anything at sea level is down from the Canberra height of 660 meters.

Your Humble servant.

re: '1984' revisited

S Marker, a delicious observation and one that escaped me. I must point out that my dear mother wore a hat and gloves to "town" until the day she died. She was extemely conservative but a arch-socialist as well.

re: '1984' revisited

Eric changed. Before he went to Spain he was well within the grip of the Independent Labour Party and it's fiery Scottish leader (Maxwell?) and therefore signed up with the Trotskyist leaning POUM militia rather than the Stalinist leaning International Brigades.

After he managed to survive the suppression of the POUM and get back to England he was for a while ferociously anti-war before rediscovering why he didn't like Nazis. And Communists. And the self proclaimed "left/liberal" intelligentsia that inhabited the universities and media of his day.

For my money he is by far the most interesting intellectual of the 20th Century who wrote in English. I guess these days they would label him a "neoconservative".

re: '1984' revisited

Who wants to do a review of Kafka's The Trial in this context? Poor old Joseph K. Arrested, and he never finds out why.

re: '1984' revisited

Warwick Davenport: "Dear Mr (sic) C Parsons, please leave my city alone. We keep your pollies restricted to the parliamentary bunker and they only venture out to fly home."

I had the great pleasure of meeting Bill Bryson briefly. We were also in the company of a young Canadian at the time.

Bill mentioned he was going to Canberra the next day.

"Oh, I was there last week," said my Canadian friend.

"What was it like?", said Bill.

"Kinda like Regina, Saskatchewan, actually - but without as much night life," said the affable Kanuk.

Bill - despite his naturally very ruddy complexion - visibly blanched at my Canadian friend's unfavourable contrast of Canberra with the morbid Provincial capital of Saskatchewan.

That says a great deal.

It would be like finding out that some destination of one's own, the capital of a far flung nation in Latin America say, did not compare favourably with Dapto.

And knowing that you must go there tomorrow.

For my part, I was once in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. That gave me a fair idea what Washington DC would be like if it had no living people in it.

I was also immediately reminded of Canberra - at just about every turn in that expansive Virginian necropolis, in fact.

The clipped laws. The gently turning autumnal Plane trees. The bright marble masonry. The eternal repose of the inert political, judicial, martial and administrative leadership of the nation - which in Arlington's case can at least be excused on the grounds of it being dead.

Take Brazil.

If you put Rio at one end of a scale of 1 to 10 - giving it a solid 9.5 perhaps - and that country's capital Brasilia at the other end - maybe rating it 1.5 for sheer dreariness - where would you place Canberra on the same measure, I am forced to ask you?

re: '1984' revisited

Geoff Pahoff, I take it you're using the term 'neoconservative' only figuratively - or not? My impression is that Orwell tended to be contrarian on most leftist issues because, although he was committed to a social democratic type of socialism, he was also heir to a (sometimes stuffy) conservative outlook that he was eternally both retreating into and attempting to break out of.

Thus he'd rail against the trendy sandal-wearing beatnik vegan socialist, while in almost the same breath championing social justice causes and decrying injustice. The centre of gravity for him was what he would often refer to as 'common decency'. And, yes, I couldn't agree more that he was truly a gem of the 20th Century.

Michael, I'm thinking the straight-jacketed one might be Mr Mustard, but he's not on Pepper's. Great to hear JP's travelling well.

Dan Miles, it could be interesting to read Scott Parkin's take on The Trial after his experience.

re: '1984' revisited

C Parsons, for your interest ladette, not lad, on the subject on limos, the most ridiculous ones I've seen are the 4WD stretch limos - I used to work around the corner from a recording studio in NYC and these monstrosities seemed to be particularly popular with the bands.

re: '1984' revisited

Thanks Geoff, and sorry, silly me should've seen it.

re: '1984' revisited

S Marker, been to the "National Portrait Gallery" (how bloody pretentious) lately? Observed how the only PM to be portrayed with spouse is the good JWH and his helpmeet? Do you wonder why I and my mother hiss (faintly) every time we walk past that hallowed stretch of canvas? (BTW, the only reason that I didn't write "my mother and I" was that I did not want it to be thought that I followed her lead - the opposite meaning, of course, is not intended: the hiss is univocal - so far as hisses can be.)

re: '1984' revisited

Warwick Davenport, to be as absolutely truthful as is possible in a devious world, the CPS has probably never been as simon pure as one would have wished. After all, my own dearly beloved father (retired some quarter of a century ago) rejoiced (at any rate, I rejoiced on his behalf) under the soubriquet of "RH Negative". A name bestowed because he would never - no matter the pressure - say "yes" if he believed "no". And - believe me - he was crucified for it.

re: '1984' revisited

Getting back on topic, the public service has lost the ability to give "Frank and Fearless "advice. My time in varous departments has seen a shocking attitude of not telling the minister bad news or contrary points of view.

All advice is run past the minder first, before being adjusted for the ministers ears. In this way the Government can state "I did not know".

This is very reminicent of 1984, and creates situations more like Brazil (the movie). I am disappointed by the lack of responsibility shown by Government members. Surely after DIMIA they would be keen to know whats going bad in the department so they can fix it. That would be the strong Australian thing to do.

C Parsons, I see you are happy to bag Canberra, but from your comments I see you have never really been here. Let's keep it that way. I also ask that you take responsibility for the Sydney infliction of Howard, Ruddock and Abbott on my town. Maybe you could keep them at home next time.

re: '1984' revisited

Yes Jacob. Figuratively. An attempt at irony.

re: '1984' revisited

S Marker: "4WD stretch limos - I used to work around the corner from a recording studio in NYC and these monstrosities seemed to be particularly popular with the bands."

You can get a "lady's" Hummer now, too.

Must have a vanity mirror or something. Probably above the grenade rack.

Given their performance in Iraq, you might be better off with a standard Ford Focus anyway.

I reckon if I was a rock star I'd get a fully restored Checker Cab, but fitted out inside like a Lincoln Town Car. And painted purple or something.

With hydraulic lifts.

Also, I'm gender neutral when in here. It adds to my mystique.

re: '1984' revisited

Fiona Reynolds, I visited the National Portrait Gallery with my partner who, upon seeing the painting in question not only hissed, but, if I recall, had to leave the room quickly lest he be arrested for vandalism. I was not impressed. I guess they wouldn't let JWH put it in the current parliament house - Mrs Howard never having been an elected Prime Minister - so the National Portrait Gallery (in the Old Parliament House) won the lucky prize.

Apologies to the artist, but I also thought that the contrast of some of the more interesting portraits of political figures - paintings that tried to capture the actual person as opposed to the facade - with the one of Mr and Mrs Howard with its white-washed glow and sickly lolly pop finish was very telling.

re: '1984' revisited

Walter Cronkite, in his Preface to the paperback edition of 1984 published by The New American Library, said Orwell wrote his novel as an essay on "power, how it is acquired and maintained, how those who seek it or seek to keep it tend to sacrifice anything and everything in its name." That statement gives us the key: the real purpose of control is power; power over others. Knowing that political leaders seek control over us should not surprise us, for government is an evolutionary thing and usually evolves towards more control... Amen and Awomen!

PS: Mark, this is a fresh review with many deep insights and even the images seem fall into a category that the Czechoslovak Ministry of Thought Control would actually censor. ;-)

re: '1984' revisited

Geoff Pahoff, the irony almost works. I'm no expert on Orwell, even less on Eric Blair (is he Tony's grandfather?). But when I started reading for the review, the first note I took was "profound conservatism". I think it was prompted partly by the way he depicts the proles, partly by the changes he makes to emphasise the ugliness of society (metrification in particular), and partly by the depiction of women.

Anyway, there is certainly something very conservative. There is also the Trotskyist background, which I understand is essential to the true neoconservative. But I can't see anything very "neo" about it. My understanding is that roughly that combination of radical and conservative has a pretty long history.

But, really, I just want to get in this quote from the book. If we remove the Trotskyist qualification, then it stands as a pretty good description of the neoconservatives.

Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist. The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink.Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world. (p155/6 of my '69 Penguin)

And Warwick Davenport, we're sorry. We thought we were just getting rid of them - sending them where they could do no harm. We were wrong.

re: '1984' revisited

re: '1984' revisited

Jozef, thanks for the kind words.

When Winston is being corrected by O'Brien, he gives a very stupid answer when questioned about why the Party wants power: "for our own good".

O'Brien wearily explains: "The Part seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power." (p211)

A little later, he is explaining that power is power over the mind: "We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do... We make the laws of nature... For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes around the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it?"

re: '1984' revisited

Jozef, I notice that of the "for our own good" passage, Jennie Bristow has O'Brien yell in exasperation. I have him wearily explain. The actual text is "he said". I prefer my reading. There is textual evidence on the next page, where O'Brien is described as "tired" - but it doesn't matter, as the Party will replace him when necessary. It also seems to me that it is more in line with the character of O'Brien and of the Party.

A certain weariness (as he turns the dial up to 35) is perfectly in accord with the Party's infinite patience. As would anger (the dial still goes to 35) be appropriate to the immediate necessity of the Party. But exasperation is not in the range of emotions available to a member of the Party. It would indicate a lack of control.

Too often we do love Big Brother, whether it is for our own good or not. It is, after all, easy to accept the voice of authority. Particularly if we don't notice.

re: '1984' revisited

Mark. Don't know about Tony. Could be related to Tim though.
Terrence Ed. Geoff, please try to keep messages intelligible to all posters

re: '1984' revisited

Indeed, Mark, apathy breeds love for big brothers and sisters ...

CODA: Another review of note - Orwell the angry proletarian Two irascible Englishmen: Mr. Waugh and Mr. Orwell

re: '1984' revisited

Terrence. "Please try to keep messages intelligible to all posters."

Well I could try I suppose. But it is kind of impossible around WD, isn't it?

re: '1984' revisited

Here is Robert LeFevre's classic argument (1959) for a purely free society, the essay that made him a leading, if controversial, spokesman for the libertarian position on government and society in the 2nd half of the twentieth century. He argues that government is in its essence a violation of rights, one that makes life brutal, poor, and short. He demonstrates that no government anywhere has lived up to its basic promises, and calls on all people to contribute to building a new kind of freedom.
The Nature of Man and His Government

re: '1984' revisited

Jozef Imrich - thank you for posting Lefevre's essay. His "Abstain from Beans" link here is the reason why I have never voted.

re: '1984' revisited

The comment frequently made about the setting of 1984 is that it is assumed the story is about facism of the Nazi sort or Soviet communism. I don't think that Orwell's representation was that abstract.

He had served in the colonial government of the Empire and he was describing the way that England itself governed and the future that would represent for the third world. The horrors of the Second World War were only a continuation of the treatment that had been handed out to the people of the European colonies for hundreds of years by the European governments.

To say that the Nazis were uniquely brutal and genocidal is to ignore the history of the Americas. We are indoctrinated in school that the genocide of the Native Americans could be called by a much more friendly and upbeat name like manifest destiny. Double speak goes to the very core of what it is to be of European ancestry.

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