is designed to make lies sound truthful
and murder respectable,
and to give an appearance of solidity
to pure wind."
One of the most
influential books of our time, its message resonates today as much
as it did when it was first published over 65 years ago - as shown
by its recent surge to the #1 spot on Amazon's bestseller list.
It changed the course of social history by spawning new language relating to the structure and mechanisms of our society, expanding the scope of human language and thought, and therefore, humanity's understanding of itself.
And that legacy seems
perfectly fitting, for in the story of 1984, the world is controlled
by so many restrictions that even the expressiveness of the official
language, "Newspeak", is deliberately narrowed by the ruling
institutions in a way that limits the ability of individuals to
express "thought-crime" - that which is deemed illegal by the "Inner
Party", the State.
As a work of symbolism, however, it stands as a reflection of modern fact in the U.S.A. and the world today. Within its narrative, the five freedoms of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution were infringed and removed.
In particular, the
freedom of speech was so restricted that there was only one source
of news operated by the official governing body and an entire branch
of government was dedicated to steadily eliminating language deemed
detrimental to the State.
The new language allowed
his narrative to portray and expose age-old structures of thought
and language manipulation - structures that have exponentially
escalated in the modern day.
'Big Brother' is the human image that represents The Inner Party (and the Party line) via the Telescreen providing an 'official' narrative while appropriating and misrepresenting the notion of brotherhood and unity into a 'brand name' - one that actually instills a psychology of collectivism, not brotherhood, just as the controllers in our own world instill nationalism and war-mindedness in the name of "freedom" and "liberty".
Indeed, the Telescreen is the primary means through which norms were forced on the society and false imagery and narratives embedded in its collective consciousness.
Totally transfixed on the Party line, as told by the Telescreen, the fictional society of 1984 has lost the ability to think such that it will believe two plus two is five, as the saying goes, as long as it is presented as such on the Telescreen.
They have been captive to this set up their entire lives, and, with language and thought restricted and outlawed, they are blind to their own captivity, unable to discern for themselves.
Thus, lies are made to be
"truths" using logic so distorted that it not only convinces the
masses that two plus two equal five, but that war is peace, freedom
is slavery, and ignorance is strength.
Such distortions of language and thought (and, incidentally, history) are the perfect means by which to disempower and co-opt an entire society - means that are not limited to the works of fiction.
Orwell knew that ideas do not exist separately from language. Language, in both spoken and written forms, is essential to our ability to form and communicate thoughts and ideas.
That is why today the United States government, the shadow powerbrokers that control it, and the mainstream media that support it (the entirety of which is owned by only 6 corporations) continue their war on "fake news" - i.e. ideas that are skeptical of government pronouncements, and information that proves them to be false - taking aim not just at independent journalism but independent thought itself.
While government surveillance of its own people continues to increase, government secrecy is at an all-time high, the sharing of ideas that challenge the status quo is becoming more heavily censored, releasing information on institutional and State activity is now punishable by law, and whistleblowers from inside the State are systematically destroyed.
If that wasn't Orwellian enough, Donald Trump's advisors have begun coining phrases like "alternative facts", and we have even seen the creation of an Orwellian "Ministry of Truth",
However, as our minds are freed, one at a time, we are ultimately finding that our society is heavily embedded with such norms and structures that perpetuate false imagery, preserving the status quo of the State from the 'threat' of individual thinking - hence the modern war on "fake news".
We are beginning, as a
society, to question such falsehood, and exercise our inherent
freedom to expose it.
is the freedom to say
that two plus two make four.
If that is granted,
all else follows".
This descriptive and evocative title idea provides a clear glimpse into George Orwell's intent, and encapsulates a main point of 1984, a title perhaps too revealing to be anything but a working title.
Certainly, that is the way many of us feel when we first become aware of lies and partial-truths that are presented as reality by those in control of our society today, and accepted in totality by seemingly everyone else - it is as if we are the last lone person.
Indeed, the road of the
freethinker can be a lonely one, and the story's protagonist,
patriot Winston Smith, is made to believe he is the last person who
questions, who looks, listens and speaks.
Yet in reality, Crime-think is what differentiates we freethinkers from those who are lost in the spell of societal illusion and, therefore, pose a threat to the status quo of the State.
But this is part of the
trap of Good-think - it creates the illusion of consensus, and
therefore, engenders isolation in those who do not concede.
There are three described
classes and a suggested fourth, only later is it implied that the
Brotherhood, anti-establishment rebels - has been eliminated
from the narrative jut as those in power sought to eliminate them
from the society.
Idiots refuse information, zealots blindly refute information, elitists misuse information, and patriots seek and distribute information.
Despite dramatic alterations in the world's geopolitical landscape, and some fluctuation of individuals from one group/role to another over time, the dynamic between these groups has historically remained the same, and are inevitably intertwined:
It is no wonder, then, that the patriot has been all but deleted from today's socio-political landscape, with those acting as true patriots being demonized by the State, and the meaning of the word "patriot" distorted and confused (by the likes of George W. Bush Jr.) to mean an unquestioning, flag-waving, with-us-or-against-us brand of nationalistic idiocy. (Check out my article, The First Amendment - The REAL Patriot Act for a deeper discussion of this.)
Using a practice so well-defined by Orwell that it is known today as Orwellian speak, institutions transfer and confuse words and ideas by mixing up themselves, their policies and their products with patriotic ideas and words.
They take the meaning of words and archetypes, and flip them on their heads:
In "Orwellian" fashion, the fourth deleted class of people in 1984, the Brotherhood, who are working to bring down the fascist Inner Party, are deleted through the admission of language.
The other three types, which are specifically mentioned in the-book-within-the-book, the fictional The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, are the High, the Middle and the Low castes.
Similarly, the other three types of people depicted in the society of Oceania are,
The social classes
interact very little.
They are akin to
modern politicians and the financial elite, working with
and against one another, and clamoring to gain and maintain power.
They have privileges the other castes do not, including being able
to (temporarily) turn off the propaganda-spewing Telescreens.
The Outer Party are given state administrative jobs and are composed of the more educated members of society.
The lower class of workers that perform the majority of menial tasks and labors are known as the Proles.
They live in the poorest
of conditions, are not educated, and instead are kept entertained
with alcohol, gambling, sports, fiction and pornography (called "prolefeed")
- the 1984 equivalent of "bread and circus".
The Brotherhood, the organization of patriots, are portrayed by the controlling 'Inner Party' as only a rumor, and the notion of their existence is belittled by the Inner Party, via the Telescreen.
In Oceania, if the Telescreen is to be believed, there are no patriots, nor is such action allowed - and any who think that way are isolated by the divide-and-conquer tactic used by empires past and present.
Thus, like so many in our
failing society, Smith believes himself to be 'The Last Man
telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
The "proles" in our
society must begin to look beyond the bread and circus, beyond the
prolefeed, and become a true brotherhood, and sisterhood, by
questioning information, educating themselves, and sharing what they
learn with others in order that we might overcome institutional
oppression and finally create the 'golden age' that is our combined
God and Gold is
in the place where there is no darkness."
The name of the character who leads the Brotherhood rebellion is named Emmanuel Goldstein, a name that translates roughly to mean God (Emmanuel) and gold are within (Goldstein).
The use of this character name by Orwell asserts a developed, even transmuted human being, who has transcended the imposed limitations of the system he is opposed to, and grown from dull to refined, disempowered to empowered.
It also reveals Orwell's
knowledge of how such patriotism and rebellion can become
A word evoking pure institutionalized collectivism, it suggests that the individual has no value other than the labor and progeny he provides to the State. (If you're only value to the state is as a breeder and consumer, well what kind of world does, sorry, would that result in???)
Now compare that definition to the name Emmanuel Goldstein, Golden Godliness is Within.
In complete contrast, it
is a statement of inner development, of individual enlightenment and
empowerment - which, as Orwell knew, are the only forces that can
successfully lead a rebellion against the institutional oppression
of both fiction and reality.
Its most powerful message is in its omissions: in the omission of information, which is the only way the Party/State can maintain authoritarian control, and in the deliberately-omitted fourth human archetype, the righteous rebel, the marginalized voice of descent who is led to believe he is the "last man in Europe".
But in fact, the last man in Europe is you and I.
We are everywhere. And,
as we open our minds and our mouths, and embrace the gold within,
we re-tell the lost narrative of the Brotherhood, and turn our
Proles into our Brothers.