[ExI] 1984 and Orwell's Warnings

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed May 21 00:59:14 UTC 2008

Thomas had asked if I ever read 1984.  Oh, yes, indeed.
I did read it---on my own (not in a class), the first time at
age thirteen, and then twice more about every three years
through high school and college.  I read it for the fourth
(and so far last) time in 1983.

The book certainly warped my 13-year-old brain,
and it's not clear that I have entirely recovered  :-)
"He who controls the present controls the past",
opened my eyes to some real possibilities in terms
of the way the world actually (sadly) works.

And the triple


got rationalized by a too-charitable reading just as is
so common among the young.  I could sort of follow
O'Brien's explanations.  I'm afraid that I didn't get
entirely over believing that "truth was relative", e.g.,
truth might be whatever the Party says is true (or
whatever we find convenient to believe), that is,
I didn't get past the dreadful notion that the truth is
not something objective, until I was almost 18.

Of course now---as it should be for anyone---Orwell's
nightmare scenario simply should serve (as does Animal
Farm) as a warning against certain horrific tendencies
in society, especially prominent since 1917.

The doctrine of "Newspeak" and "He who controls the
present controls the past" can be seen in evidence all
around us. For example:

Even though I am a devout, practicing, orthodox, and
upstanding atheist, I go ballistic whenever I see
someone trying to drop "B.C." down the memory-hole
so that we can replace it with "B.C.E.".  This is the
totalitarian tendency at work, to not only repudiate
outworn concepts such as God (which of course I
agree with) but to DESTROY EVERY LAST
VESTIGE OF OLDSPEAK, and erase anything
that might even incidentally remind people of
"incorrect" thinking.

For so many, It is not enough  to deny God and to
repudiate religion and to completely reject such
mysticism and prescientific thinking.  Oh no, they
*must* go for much more: the Politically Correct
instinct demands that every trace of "incorrect thought"
be obliterated, and that absolutely no reminder
whatsoever of any older way of thinking be allowed
to endure.

He who controls the present does *not* control the
past, not really!  Not if you have any real regard for
the truth.


> MB wrote
>> IIRC both my children also had to read this book for school - so it has 
>> not
>> completely fallen out of favor. ;)
> When it is compulsory to read something the true value is missed out, I 
> think (had my own experience with Hungarian stuff :D). Besides, I read the 
> book at the age of 17. And certainly in an age where I began to 'think out 
> of the box'. I'd say this book and Animal Farm got me started... These two 
> are among the basics for over-system global thinking, which is sometimes 
> what I/we need (not every single day but often enough). By the way, who has 
> seen the film?
> Thomas 

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