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.