Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell, Party slogan, 1984
Today the reference to Nehru was cut out from the announcement – N. being in prison and therefore having become Bad.
Reading Orwell’s 1984 for the fourth time, I was reminded of the Victorian lady who complained that Hamlet was full of clichés. So much of the book originally titled The Last Man in Europe is familiar to us that it has spawned its own cliché; that the ‘leaders’ of modern states, reading 1984, mistake a novel for a how-to guide.
Big Brother, Newspeak, Two-Minute Hate, Telescreens, Room 101, Doublethink, The Ministry of Truth… 1984 contains a lexicon for the modern surveillance state many of us fear we are walking – slowly, so slowly – into. The idea of the lexicon is also central to the book. Newspeak functions by compromising freedom of thought through reducing the range of its available vocabulary;
‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.’
This agenda exists in today’s West, with certain words becoming verboten according to the dictates of PC, the PR front of the hard Left. Look at how many of today’s non-stories concern use of language.
Orwell, a sick man, retired to the remote Scottish island of Jura to write 1984. He must have felt like the last man in Europe. Eric Blair (Orwell’s real name) intended 1984 as a critique of Communism, which makes the book’s relevance today all the more frightening. All the while the modern Left believe that collective totalitarianism is a utopia to be desired, we all risk our past being thrown down the Memory Hole, acceptable collateral against a future Orwell’s O’Brien infamously pictures as ‘a boot stamping on a human face – for ever’. This is our Western future if we fail to defeat the hard Left.
Although famously a Socialist, Orwell wrote of the ‘Pansy Left’, a phrase which, if coined today, would cause Owen Jones to have conniptions. It is that Pansy Left, however, that effectively runs the West. Of course, the neo-Communists gearing the West for decline and fall are not Orwell’s Inner Party, but there are protocols which must be observed on pain of imprisonment and ostracisation.
Orwell himself would have had no time for PC. Delightfully, he writes to Anthony Powell in 1936;
‘It is so rare nowadays to find anyone hitting back at the Scotch cult. I am glad to see you make a point of calling them “Scotchmen”, not “Scotsmen” as they like to be called. I find this a good easy way of annoying them.’
The Guardian would have a self-righteous seizure at this today.
Something which had eluded me previously is that 1984 is a wonderful love story. Love ought to exist as a beautiful oasis in the midst of a wasteland of ugliness, and Orwell achieves that. Winston is a physical cripple – a shade, perhaps, of Orwell’s tubercular self – and Julia is not attractive. ‘Except for her mouth, you could not call her beautiful’. Orwell fails to predict the rampant sexualisation of the modern age – Julia works for the Anti-Sex League, unthinkable today – but the scenes of the couple’s affair are genuinely touching and well handled. Winston’s love for Julia is his personal revolution, his hubris, and the point of his otherwise tawdry existence, exemplified by her defiant statement that ‘In this room I’m going to be a woman, not a Party comrade.’ Today’s feminists could learn much here.
As a writer, Orwell’s style is spare, austere and sometimes drily funny. A man wears ‘a concertina-like black suit’. A room contains ‘a deep, slatternly armchair’. His scene-setting is perfect for the sense of despair and hopelessness pervading almost every scene. Grit, dirt, grease, dust sweat; these are the elements of Orwell’s laboratory. It is pleasant to note that Orwell, as all writers must, also has his images which fascinate him. In 1984, a ruined woman neighbour is seen ‘fiddling helplessly with a blocked wastepipe’. The same desperate image occurs in The Road to Wigan Pier, as Orwell sees a woman from a train ‘kneeling in the gutter in a back-alley in Wigan , in the bitter cold, prodding a stick up a blocked drain.’
In the end, Orwell’s genius was to show a world under totalitarianism as a world which is now all too feasible. The malodorous alliance between Europe and America’s hard Left and Islam echoes throughout O’Brien’s manifesto toward the end of the book. O’Brien diagnoses the captive Winston;
‘You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You could not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity.’
Despite the bleat of politicians telling us that Islam means peace, it does not; the word means ‘submission’. This is far from the only prescient foreshadowing of Mohammedanism in 1984;
‘The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.’
This is our dystopia too, if we choose to avert our eyes from its gradual dominance.
In an echo of Lenin’s lament, Winston Smith decries that ‘if there is hope, it lies in the proles.’ But we are busy, far too busy with our trinkets and Telescreens and time-saving devices. And this failure to see what is hidden in plain sight will be our undoing. Read properly, 1984 could still be the worm in the Left’s septic rose, if we read it at all.
‘The world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.’