In a horrific instance of life imitating art, many of us are languishing in the abysmal hell of one of the most deprived worlds imaginable.
George Orwell sent his manuscript of Nineteen Eighty-Four to the publisher in December 1948. Oceania, the setting of the book, was an oligarchy in which 85% of its citizenry were under the rigid and demonic control of its two tiered elitist government. Proles were subjected to near constant surveillance by the elite, whose purpose was to control the minds of its citizens and to deny the masses the basic rights that you and I perhaps take for granted.
In the wake of the horrific genocide and the standardization of dehumanizing entire societies that was the tragic epitome of the second world war, Orwell's novel resonated among people hungry, aching to return to a world where mass brutality was nonexistent, or at least concealed from the delicate eyes of polite society.
Sixty-two years later, does Oceania still thrive?
Make no mistake. Oceania is alive and well in 2010. The same atrocities, at a less visible and arguably less lethal level, thrive today. One way to recognize its many forms in contemporary society is to become familiar with Newspeak, the language used to define the very real Oceaniac undercurrent which courses through nearly every social institution today.
Like the language of any culture or subculture, fluency in Newspeak is essential to living successfully in Oceania. Newspeak is the politically correct language, the only tolerated language, of the Oceanic society. Just because many of us do not know the language does not mean these words do not exist.
Here is a cursory lexiconic sampling of Newspeak:
Bellyfeel - the ignorant approval of an idea, embraced enthusiastically but without foundation in the individual’s personal ideologies. Bellyfeelers revere the words of others simply based on who those others are, and not what those others are actually saying. Some will call this blind and superficial loyalty. It is essential to the perpetuation of Oceania's social fabric.
Crimethought - unorthodox thinking; in Oceania, crimethought is punishable by death. Few of us today, in the United States, experience physical death in retaliation for thinking subversively. However, in some groups and subgroups, the public admission of an idea contrary to the de facto elite often results in some level of censure. While infrequently leading to death, the losses associated with such censure can be spiritually, emotionally, and socially paralyzing.
Ownlife - the enjoyment of one's own solitude. People who engage in ownlife may be viciously labeled “anti-social,” “stuck up,” “self-serving,” “narcisistic.” They may be accused of not being a “team player,” and being “self-possessed.” If an ownlifer inadvertently becomes popular with the masses, the elite, threatened by the potential loss of their own shallow sense of popularity, may accuse the ownlife perpetrator of actively seeking favor with peers. This is considered to be reprehensible and treacherous.
Thinkpol - those people whose job it is to monitor the citizens in an attempt to flush out and expose perpetrators of crimethink. These are the "tattle tales" of Oceania, and they derive an almost sadistic thrill in outing citizens who falter on their way.
Does Oceania exist today? Absolutely!
In many families, work places, schools, churches, political parties, and other social institutions, the dynamics so clearly described by Orwell in Nineteen Forty-Eight are acutely, poignantly, brutally existant. In virtually every community of any sort, the potential of Oceana’s repugnance is present, active, suffocating, demoralizing.
In our culture today, as in Orwell's Oceania, how do the elite seek to enforce their mandates?
Ostracism – Most people have, at their very core, a desire to belong. Many people will abandon their erring ways if they are confronted with the possibility that their behavior might lead to being expelled from the membership. If citizens of a group realize that by continuing in their repugnant behavior they risk being excommunicated from the Church of Acceptable Beings, they may well abandon their erring ways.
Ridicule – Shaming is a very effective deterrent to straying from the Golden Way. When Oceania’s administration feel threatened by a member’s defiance, that member is placed on public display, coerced into humility and personal degradation. Should the member falter after his or her public confession of wrong doing, members of the elite or their minions are ever present to continue to publicly harass the fallen pole.
Confusion – In Oceania a memory hole is a depository for information, data, facts construed by the elite as being inflammatory and corrosive to the state party line. Subversive material is simply shoved away from public viewing and replaced with propaganda that promotes the new “truth.” In this way, the population was spared from being exposed to “wrong” truth or ideas counter to the reality as the elite dictated reality to be. If an untruth is repeated over and over, it will eventually work itself into the masses as authentic truth.
Self-appointed keepers of the guard attempt to circumvent individuals from expressing their views, their own sense of self. Once on the elite’s radar, people who speak what is in their hearts come under the watchful, vigilant glare of the authorities. Should proles residing on that radar veer off the party line, members of the Inner Party and the Outer Party swarm like invading flatworms devouring a piece of raw liver.
It can get real ugly.
Conform to the demands of the elite, or be prepared to meet O'Brien in Room 101.
To any human heart that yearns to celebrate its own spirit and hear the music of its own unique authority, be forewarned:
Big Brother is watching.
And he is not amused!
© Kit Duncan, 2010