Wednesday, October 06, 2004

1984 Revisited

I've been reading George Orwell's 1984 again during this pre-election season, and though the book is structurally not very good it has some images which really strike a bell right now:

It need hardly be said that the subtlest practitioners of doublethink are those who invented doublethink and know that it is a vast system of mental cheating. In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. (p. 177)

The recurring theme in the book is the wars that Oceania is waging. As the enemy changes inexplicably, all old records of the previous enemy are erased and it is agreed by everybody that Oceania has always had the current enemy, always. It is not Eurasia that Oceania is fighting, it is Eastasia. Not only that, but it has always been Eastasia. Never mind what you know really happened just last week. And 2+2=5.

It does, at the end. Poor Winston Smith is converted forcibly to the Party's way of thinking. If he lived today he'd agree happily that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 atrocities. He'd also agree that feminazis is the Newspeak word for all those concepts of fairness and equality that no longer exist.
My copy of 1984 is by Signet Classic.