Thank you. It’s chilling!
I remember teaching 1984 and Brave New World in 1981 at the Lycée Français in New York (and studying both works as a student in the late 60’s early 70’s). At the time, the books were viewed essentially as social commentary in science-fiction, the emphasis being on science-fiction read as warning. No more: with each passing decade, the two works gain more terrifying relevance as our society has drawn from both its worst soft and hard aspects to bring us to our knees.
For me, one of the darkest aspects is the death of freedom of speech. It’s partly due to my personality I suppose: I like to listen to people, their viewpoints, their experience. I want to understand how their culture, their studies (philosophy, art) have informed their reasoning. But I can’t make the jump from being receptive to individuals to being willing to obey a group who purports to think for me. I can’t join in the collective spectacle of the indignation of the day. To me, that’s theater, coercive theater, which may not coincide with an expression of my real thoughts, or at the risk of sounding pretentious, the complexity of my real thoughts. And yet, this is what’s required of us, more and more, and less and less subtly as exemplified by a questionnaire from Williams College [archived 11 Jun 2020] addressed to my husband, an alumnus. This college, like many others I am sure, takes our indignation, its premises, our willingness to act on it for granted. In their arrogance, they can’t even imagine we might disagree with some of their terms. They impose a reality we may not share but which may become the one and only.
It is not I who am a fascist, it is those who would silence me, and who will use any means at their disposal (censuring me on social media, revealing my identity and address so I can be properly punished, using the mob to do it, using the police or the army, getting me fired from my job, etc), to annihilate me as a social being and setting me as an example to frighten others into docility and surrender. That’s not enough. Thinking silently, even if it is ‘correct’ thinking is not enough. One must loudly proclaim allegiance through pre-determined slogans and abject gestures such as genuflection. This symbolic gesture which nobody seems to comment much on (except on the right), is the ultimate sign of our subservience: we have been raised on medieval stories and movies where kneeling represents submission, even servitude to the nobleman (echoes of Rousseau?), so at a subliminal level this is what we are agreeing to, and it is exactly the reversal of social order the BLM intends to implement. I am not suggesting ‘white supremacy’ or whatever you want to call it should rule, but that BLM intends that reversal. How about just wanting equality, no one genuflecting to anyone?
And this ‘correct way of thinking’ is not only becoming more totalitarian but more and more alienated from reality, and I think the two go together. As an example, J.R Rawlings, the author of the Harry Potter books, has recently been [New York Times] taken to task for her criticism of the phrase “People who menstruate”, obviously preferring the simpler “women who menstruate”.
On Saturday, Ms. Rowling wrote on Twitter, where she has 14.5 million followers: “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
Her Twitter post appeared to be responding to a line that described the “menstrual health and hygiene needs of girls, women and all people who menstruate.”
“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” she wrote on Twitter. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
But apparently, it is, Ms Rawlings. That’s why “Truth is Lies”: it makes it more convenient to eradicate.
Indeed, it is not only free speech that is dying, it is that we are experiencing day-by-day gaslighting. We are told to see things that aren’t there (a man may be a woman, and therefore may menstruate), we are told that two equivalent things are in reality the opposite of each other. For example, on the same day that NPR was praising the large protests and riots (suddenly any fear of the Covid virus had disappeared) it was decrying Trump for wanting to resume his rallies [Infowars] “he is endangering the health of everyone”. Now that the white supremacists have decided to enter the combat field, in the U.S and the U.K, we can be sure that the violence (looting, arson, bodily harm) will be condemned, while BLM’s violence was praised . If the far right attacks blacks, it is out of hate, while BLM destroying black property or injuring blacks is a sign of love, a sign of respect, protectiveness. If anything, it’s “for their own good.”
And on and on. The simultaneity of two events with identical features (large gatherings, violence) will be evaluated as if they were on two planes of reality depending on their origin, even if their effects are the same: infection—as they would have us believe when convenient for them—, destruction of property, injuries, even death.
Reality is a social construct. Indeed. We can’t trust reality anymore, we can’t trust our own eyes, “Who Ya Gonna Believe, Me or Your Own Eyes?” (Groucho Marx). We have to wait for the powers that be to tell us what reality is. And we may well be put in jail or worse if we object.
The more free speech is attacked via nonsense such as this, the more we adhere to it, and the more we agree to our enslavement. There’ll come a point when the ‘common sense people’ will no longer care, will give up. And will shut up. 1984 will have won, perhaps forever since all vestiges of free thought, as we see in the book, will have pretty much disappeared.
Yes, 1984 is more relevant than ever.
1984 Quotes :
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” (end of Pt 1, Chp 7)
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?” (near end of Pt 1, Chp 7)