1984 – “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength”
Imagine a society completely cut off from its own past and unconcerned about the future, permanently trapped in the circumstances of now. It’s a society so permeated with subjectivism that words mean the opposite of their definition, history can be rewritten, and disfavored thoughts are hunted down and punished.
In this society, hatred of political enemies is a ritual, objective facts are abolished, and authorities can monitor your every move and listen to your every word. Truth itself is whatever you want it to be in this hellish place, and the authoritarian state makes sure your version of truth is compliant with their objectives. There is no “truth,” there is only the “truth” that you are told to believe.
For those who want to see the consequences of government’s and the mob’s manipulation of truth, watch the TV show Chernobyl. You’ll find this Orwellian quote:
“We are on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They’re practically what defines us. When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there. But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”
This sums up the wretched society described by George Orwell in his definitional novel, 1984. The pinnacle of Orwell’s career, 1984 and Orwell himself have come to be synonymous with a bleak future devoid of independent thought and frozen to death by oppression. I read this book every five years and, while he didn’t get everything right, every five years we get closer to Orwell’s dystopia.
Orwell envisioned a world divided into three super-states each under a different form of statist authoritarianism. The states were engaged in a perpetual war in which allies and enemies changed frequently, and as a consequence who was required to be viewed as heroes and villains also had to change.
A reason for the brainwashing of the citizenry was so the state overlords could rapidly persuade the people that yesterday’s hero had not only become today’s villain, but had always been the villain and was worthy of hate.
Sound familiar? Today we hear that our Founding Fathers were immoral men, that the American flag is actually a symbol of oppression, and that U.S. History is not a journey of expanding freedom and liberty here and abroad, but the very root of evil itself. Silly me, I always thought sin was the consequence of Adam disobeying God and partaking of the tree, but apparently evil was an American invention and we must hate ourselves and our past, or so goes a new version of history being taught to our younger generations.
Orwell wasn’t wrong about rising “untruth” and authoritarian tendencies in the Free World, but those tendencies have largely not emerged from our government. In some key ways, we are imposing Orwellian chains on ourselves.
In 1984, ubiquitous “telescreens” are in every room, transmitting mandatory propaganda and keeping tabs on a person’s every move. Considering that television was in its earliest stage at the time Orwell died in 1950, it is remarkable that he foresaw not only the technology but its potential peril as a tool of authoritarians. While that’s another example of the book’s allegory, in our reality the screen is voluntary. We spend hundreds of dollars on them and insist on taking it with us at all times.
I’m no luddite, but it is remarkable how much information we volunteer—where we are, what we look up, who we talk to and what we say. And what we say to or type on those screens may not have been a big deal a decade ago, but today a few “incorrect” words will make you the enemy and the recipient of the Alt-Right’s or the far-left’s two minutes of hate, a sick ritual where 1984’s brainwashed citizens gather to publicly and loudly denounce the villain of the day.
November is sure to be one of the most Orwellian elections in American history. There will be separate sets of “truth.” There will be exponentially more anger and hate than contemplation and discussion about public policy. Orwell’s 1984 may not have come to fruition exactly, but elements of Orwellian darkness have descended on this great nation.
It’s time to counter the rioters and claims that looting and arson are sometimes justified, challenge the language police, and fight for the principles that have made us a great nation. I constantly hear from conservatives who say they are with me and other Classical Liberal conservatives, but they are scared of the consequences of standing up. They are scared of crossing their own party, they’re scared of the left’s hate machine, and they just want to live in peace in a land they love and respect.
George Orwell was not a conservative—in fact he was a Socialist. But although he was comfortable with government control of business, government control of your thoughts and speech was an entirely different matter for him.
I take a different view: the same mentality that allows for the seizure of private property for the collective interest is the same mentality that leads to 1984-style Newspeak, “designed to diminish the range of thought” and seize control of language and thought for the good of the collective.
It’s time for the silent majority to find their voice and engage this November, or our journey to the year 1984 will continue until the silent majority is no longer able to live in peace. Orwell’s book 1984 offers a clear vision of a society no one should want any part of.
Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) represents the 5th Senate District. RightBooks with Dale Kooyenga is a monthly feature at RightWisconsin.