Saturday, July 30, 2005

Let's party like it's 1948 (part three)

Someone commented on a previous post and anticipated that I would draw the same old parallels between the Bush (or Blair) administration and 1984.

And I’m going to. But only kind of.

Bush and Blair and their administrations have only been in power for a relatively short time, certainly not long enough to shape our world to the extent that it has been shaped. They have accelerated change but they didn’t start the process. Before the War on Terror there was the Cold War. Before Osama we had Saddam, though Saddam was far too mortal to be a patch on Osama. Osama has supernatural powers and really kicks arse. Osama has to kick arse to justify a trillion dollar a year spend on the military.

No, it’s not exclusively Tony and George’s fault. It’s an old story. What is so striking to me right now is just how perfectly Orwellian our leaders’ words and behaviour have become recently. It’s getting to the point where they are more or less quoting 1984 verbatim; the promise of perpetual, unwinnable war, the shadowy, omnipotent mastermind, the doublethink. It’s all there and it’s freaky to behold;

I would personally find it much easier to cope with all of this if 1984 was written after 9/11 and its fallout rather than before.

And one question is uppermost in my mind.

Is all the Orwellian behaviour on display the result of deliberate plotting, as internet conspiracy theorists would have us believe, or is it a form of behaviour that societies unconsciously gravitate to? Is it just human nature?

Of course, most people would flat-out disagree that we’re living in an Orwellian world and would maintain that nothing particularly dark is going on and certainly nothing that matches a pattern mapped out by an TB-ridden, lapsed socialist scribbling in a shepherd’s shack in Scotland sixty years ago. Maybe 1984 is the literary equivalent of a psychic ‘cold reading’. It contains no real insight. All I am doing is interpreting the words of the book to match my own preconceptions.

But my response could be, ‘well, you would say that wouldn’t you and the book explains why’

To me, the most interesting and chilling aspect of 1984, and what's going on outside right now, is not the surveillance, the use of fear or the application naked force, it's the manipulation of thought. 1984 ends with the hero totally broken, believing that 2+2=5 and loving Big Brother. And if a political system can really do that to its people, secret police, security cameras and all the rest of that stuff are merely accessories.

I’m going to toss this around some more tomorrow and try to explain why I believe Orwell is a much better guide to what’s going on in the World and, specifically, in London right now than any of our politicians or newspapers...

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