Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Big Brother: Down to Size

            Eric Blair is probably a person you’ve never heard of before; I had never heard of him either until I opened the textbook for my class on the Cold War and discovered he was the man behind the pen name George Orwell and author of 1984. That piece of trivia has nothing to do with the meat of this essay, but I felt like including it anyway. We’re covering two topics from 1984 today: why an Orwellian government cannot be sustained, and why doublethink is already prevalent in American society. As QBA essays focused on books or movies are wont to do, this essay contains spoilers.
            While many activists and politicians want us to petition or vote in a way that will keep America from becoming an Orwellian state, there are certain facets of human nature that guarantee the impossibility of a sustainable state that monitors every action, requires absolute devotion to the Party, and systematically demonizes all other entities and cultures. Society may elect leaders and allow laws that are in that vein, but it would be impossible for them to last.
            Man is inherently vain and greedy. The reasoning for such attributes is a question to ask your religious leader of choice, but those attributes make 1984 as a reality an impossibility. The only way to perpetuate the idea of the state is to require complete devotion to Big Brother, the fictional head of the Party in Oceana, from all subjects. Given the number of people necessary to create the farce that is the Party’s absolute control, at least one of those people would see it in his or her interest to take credit for some event or feel deserving of praise. If there is one thing Watergate and other attempted conspiracies have told us, it’s that someone always finds it in his or her best interest to talk or try to get ahead. The secret to destroying a 1984 government is not to ‘wake the proles,’ it’s waiting to watch the government implode. However, it would be preferable for most people just not to instate an Orwellian government in the first place.
            Moving on to doublethink, holding two contradictory ideas in one’s head at once, we can see that it is and has been part of our train of thought. For any regular readers, you know that my last regularly-scheduled essay discussed Tolkien’s anarchy in The Lord of the Rings and how it could be applied to the real world. Did anyone think of the fact that Tolkien’s work was a work of fiction, and there is no reason that any scenarios in his novels could be applied outside the realm of Middle Earth? Of course not. You were practicing doublethink. What could happen in The Lord of the Rings could happen in reality, and magic does not exist. My ration of chocolate is now smaller than it was yesterday, and my ration of chocolate has been increased. There is a less ominous name for this particular use of doublethink: suspended disbelief, but it is doublethink nonetheless.
            1984 is a novel I’d suggest reading every couple of years. My copy was annotated for my Junior year English class, and it was extremely entertaining to see what I thought of it then in comparison to what I think now. In fact, I found some notes scribbled in the margins about my preference for a hierarchy based on character instead of fear and power that I found fleshed out in Atlas Shrugged. Small world.

-Jason Rossiter

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day: Romantic Love

            Almost six and a half months ago, I asked out a girl who was never supposed to say yes. However, she did, and I got stuck in a wonderful relationship that forced me to put a rush order on the parts of my personal philosophy that I hadn’t completely formulated yet and pertained to relationships. Since love is popular topic at this time of year, I’ve decided to interrupt the flow of essays I started with Orcs and Anarchy. My apologies to anyone who really wanted to know how I was going to make fun of people who used the fantasy world to fix the real world; you’ll just have to wait a little longer.
            The Greeks, being more OCD with their language than the English, had several words for love: agape, eros, philia, and storge. Romantic love, in its modern sense, hangs somewhere between agape and eros because nothing is worth writing about if it isn’t confusing to begin with. Agape love is the unconditional love that can’t be wrecked no matter how stupid the recipient is acting. Eros (the root of ‘erotic,’ obviously) isn’t just hot-and-heavy lovin’; Socrates through Plato describes it as a desire for a person that can become a love of the eternal beauty within that person. I leaned heavily on Plato for my definition.
            However, being a Christian, I also combed the Bible for help, but the Bible absolutely sucks in defining romantic love. There is the 'Song of Solomon', which is pretty much one long, erotic, love poem between a couple in love, and clear statements that there is no ‘the one’ since widows are able to remarry and there are religiously acceptable reasons for divorce and remarrying. I wasn’t able to find any, “Romantic love is…” statements, only, “We are in love, so we feel…” statements. That was annoying.
            Also, I further delved into Plato’s and Socrates’ ‘eternal beauty,’ finding it to mean the absolutes the recipient of love represents for the lover (not that kind of lover). An example would be my girlfriend representing altruism and grace for those of you that don’t like ambiguous philosophy terminology. The one being loved is a proxy for larger ideas that are loved. For those who believe that absolutes are an extension of God (touched on very briefly in Save $ By Not Killing People), it can be said that romantic love recognizes the godliness in another individual.
            Lastly, I concluded that love had to be a choice. If there is no ‘the one,’ there are, at least, ‘the few’ (this is also talked about in Atlas Shrugged for Dummies; it should be noted that I considered romantic love in Atlas Shrugged as different from the romantic love discussed in this essay. An explanation for that is that the actions in Atlas Shrugged are done for a form of eros that doesn’t find ‘eternal beauty’ to correlate to godliness). One could, of course, hop from one partner to another at a whim based on certain features found attractive, but there is no love in that, only appreciation for the attractive features. Therefore, ‘true love’ needs some form of permanence. Marriage is some statement of that, if used Biblically. It just means tax breaks otherwise.
            All that being said, here is what I’ve cobbled together as what I think is the best definition of romantic love available on the Internet:

Romantic love: strong affection felt for someone found attractive at an intellectual and physical level who represents eternal beauty or godliness, whose needs and wants make one happy to fulfill, and beyond the initial attraction it becomes a choice to honor relational promises; romantic love can be lost if left unnurtured, i.e. given up on

             For any (possibly most) of the readers of this, I'm not going to force-feed a Biblical interpretation of romantic love. Feel free to reinterpret at will as long as you acknowledge that, like in Atlas Shrugged, a different interpretation can lead to extremely different results. But I'm only a 19-year-old whose longest relationship so far is six months and a fortnight; what do I know?
            I would like to take a moment to look smugly at my fellow QBA author, Adarsh, who just shrugged and said, “Love is love,” when we started our long discourse on the topic. Ha. Ha. Hahaha… Ha.

-Jason Rossiter

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