I reread the book 1984 a couple weeks ago, and I keep thinking about it. The description below just seems so very timely. At one time, I wouldn’t have believed doublethink to be possible, but I honestly think there are many people practicing exactly this sort of thing today.
His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself–that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.
George Orwell was a wise man. He foresaw a lot of things that are taking place today. And interestingly enough, his political views were extremely leftist, so apparently Orwell practiced a bit of doublethink himself. Perhaps he could see the dangers of socialism and yet was still enticed by the potential that it had for CHANGE?
Another quote that caught my attention, about the proles, which is what they called the common people.
It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus on petty specific grievances. The larger evils inevitably escaped their notice.
That’s happening, too. Feed the people, through the schools and media, enough propaganda, and they will no longer even know how to think the thoughts that might lead them to truth. One of the main principles of Newspeak in the book, by the way, was to eliminate from the language any words that conveyed ideas that might be contrary to the Party. By eliminating the language, people no longer have a way to communicate any “badthink” ideas. Ponder that in connection with a report that the word sin was recently taken out of one dictionary (I forget now which one.)
The country that is the setting of 1984 is always at war. Nothing is really ever gained by the war, but “the primary aim of modern warfare…is to use up the products of the [national] machine without raising the general standard of living.” But really, George Orwell’s vision is unnecessarily cluttered here. We don’t need a big war to use up our excess–we just put the farmers out of business (see my last post) and put the small businesses out of business….and on and on–and soon there won’t be any excess. The standard of living will go down steadily, even without all the messy business of war.
How very efficient.