We all know about George Orwell’s 1984, right? Well, I was re-reading it the other day (for perhaps the 100th time), and thought I’d post some relevant bits from the “Afterward” section, written by Erich Fromm. It’s relevant because it talks about the idea of constant war or aggression against an enemy that you can’t destroy (can we say “terrorism?”). Although he mentions atomic weapons and an arms race, the same idea can be applied to today’s world. (Emphasis is mine.)
Orwell’s picture is so pertinent because it offers a telling argument against the popular idea that we can save freedom and democracy by continuing the arms race and finding a “stable” deterrent. This soothing picture ignores the fact that with increasing technical “progress” … the whole society will be forced to live underground, … that the military will become dominant (in fact, if not in law), that fright and hatred of a possible aggressor will destroy the basic attitudes of a democratic, humanistic society.
Another section touches on “doublethink,” something that we tend to think doesn’t exist in the mainstream, but in fact – it does.
If I work for a big corporation which claims that its product is better than that of all competitors, the question whether this claim is justified or not in terms of ascertainable reality becomes irrelevant. What matters is that as long as I serve this particular corporation, this claim becomes “my” truth, and I decline to examine whether it is an objectively valid truth. In fact, if I change my job and move over to the corporation which was until now “my” competitor, I shall accept the new truth, that its product is the best, and subjectively speaking, this new truth will be as true as the old one. It is one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our own society that man, becoming more and more of an instrument, transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interest and functions. Truth is proven by the consensus of millions; to the slogan “how can millions be wrong” is added “and how can a minority of one be right.”
In case it isn’t clear to you how this applies to today’s society, I have only to point to the rhetoric of our own political parties for proof. They (meaning the people who represent the party and its ideas/beliefs/platform/etc.) exhibit this exact form of “doublethink,” or accepting “truth” without objective facts. Just think of the people who think that global warming isn’t real, or (to use a slightly less pleasant example) the people who claim the holocaust never happened, and you will see modern “doublethink” in action. It is a frightening trend to someone who thinks rationally and objectively considers the facts.
Let me continue with another quote, one that resonates with me in regards to all the “security” measures taken lately by our government – especially the “REAL ID” thing (emphasis mine):
Thus, for instance, if he has surrendered his independence and his integrity completely, if he experiences himself as a thing which belongs either to the state, the party or the corporation, then two plus two are five, or “Slavery is Freedom,” and he feels free because there is no longer any awareness of the discrepancy between truth and falsehood.
It goes without saying that I think these are all troubling signs, but what is to be done? The only thing I can think of is to subtly resist such change where possible (don’t give in to REAL ID; write your representatives in Congress; refuse to be afraid of unseen enemies) and to try to help others see things objectively as much as possible. I’m not talking about trying to spread an ideology here – the ideology is already spread; people are just giving it up for an easier, but less “free” one.
So do your duty. Talk with someone about these issues. Spend some time thinking about the implications of what you see & hear in the news, rather than just accepting the views given by those in power (both politically and in the mainstream media). You may be a minority of one, but as of yet, a minority of one can still be right.
Peace out, yo.