Book Review: 1984
So I just finish “1984” by George Orwell. It’s a pretty amazing and unique book. I think there are many people familiar with this book. If you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you are at least familiar with one of the main concepts in the book: Big Brother.
Big Brother is the figure-head of “The Party.” The Party is the governing party that has created a society where they desire to completely maintain the social hierarchy of power. And they will go to any means to do so. They employ constant supervision of every member of the high and middle class (termed the inner and outer party, respectively), torture and complete control over the people. They will stop at nothing to maintain their control and even pride themselves in being more sinister and cruel than the Nazis and Communist Russians.
One of the most interesting concepts outlined in the book is “DoubleThink.” DoubleThink is similar to the commonly known concept of double-talk where you say one thing and actually mean something else. DoubleThink however is at a totally different level. It involves not only saying or thinking something that you don’t really mean, but it’s actually believing in something you know really isn’t true.
A few examples are the slogans of the ministries of the government; “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength”. These of course are oxymorons and strong examples of DoubleThink.
Sometimes I wonder how many people we encounter in our lives that “unknowingly” employ DoubleThink. I really think many politicians (and sales executives) have to use DoubleThink in order to survive. They actually have to believe their lies. Perhaps I just believe people are fairly decent at heart and I am hoping that people are not truly evil enough to just flat out lie like they do. I think DoubleThink is perfected by some of these guys.
The other concept with which I was very much intrigued was “NewSpeak.” The Party wanted to exert complete control over the people and a major part of that is to control communication completely. The best way to control communication is to create a new language in which the people cannot express themselves properly.
NewSpeak isn’t really about changing the language. It’s more about reducing the language and eliminated words that conflicted with their philosophy. They also reduced the definitions of some words. The word “free” no longer had any connotation of political or intellectual freedom. It only connoted a price.
Other parts of NewSpeak actually make sense. Rather than all the odd conjugations that the English language currently has, they eliminated what they deemed as the superfulous ones. They even removed some words that could be expressed by the negation of other words. For example, the word “bad” was eliminated in favor of “ungood.” In doing so, they not only exert control, but also seriously hinder poetry and literature — two traditionaly very rebellious “professions.”
And of course, you always have the question of whether something like 1984 could actually happen. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible. Not in the American society of today. Of course, my two friends, The Idealist and The Centrist don’t agree. They have strong feelings that we need to “jealously” guard our rights granted by the Constitution. I don’t have anything against that. I believe that we need to seriously guard our rights, but I guess it’s a matter of trust.
I believe in the American people as a whole. They have been given the tools to combat such attempts at taking power from the people. The Constitution was very much an inspired document, brought forth by the hand of God, to prevent just such power plays. The American people, who often show a lack of intelligence when it comes to political choices, in the long run will make the choices to keep the power where it belongs — in the hands of the people.
There are bigger fights in which to place our efforts than in something that is already sufficiently protected by our Constitution.