Essence of 1984

The Left always lectures us, when challenged, that context matters. So there is one page in George Orwell’s 1984 that brings it all together, so nicely.  Of course what makes it more poignant to us now are the parallels we see around us.

 

“Sometimes he talked to her of the Records Department and the impudent forgeries that he committed there. Such things did not appear to horrify her. She did not feel the abyss opening beneath her feet at the thought of lies becoming truths. He told her the story of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford and the momentous slip of paper which he had once held between his fingers. It did not make much impression on her. At first, indeed, she failed to grasp the point of the story.

‘Were they friends of yours?’ she said.

‘No, I never knew them. They were Inner Party members. Besides, they were far older men than I was. They belonged to the old days, before the Revolution. I barely knew them by sight.’

‘Then what was there to worry about? People are being killed off all the time, aren’t they?’

He tried to make her understand. ‘This was an exceptional case. It wasn’t just a question of somebody being killed. Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it’s in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself. After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains. The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don’t know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories. Just in that one instance, in my whole life, I did possess actual concrete evidence after the event — years after it.’

‘And what good was that?’

‘It was no good, because I threw it away a few minutes later. But if the same thing happened today, I should keep it.’

‘Well, I wouldn’t!’ said Julia. ‘I’m quite ready to take risks, but only for something worth while, not for bits of old newspaper. What could you have done with it even if you had kept it?’

‘Not much, perhaps. But it was evidence. It might have planted a few doubts here and there, supposing that I’d dared to show it to anybody. I don’t imagine that we can alter anything in our own lifetime. But one can imagine little knots of resistance springing up here and there — small groups of people banding themselves together, and gradually growing, and even leaving a few records behind, so that the next generations can carry on where we leave off.’

‘I’m not interested in the next generation, dear. I’m interested in us.

‘You’re only a rebel from the waist downwards,’ he told her. ” [pg 195-196]

It all starts to sound so eerily familiar. Listen to Julia…. echoes. But when he imagines small groups of resistance banding together, growing you have to think of the very purging and silencing operations carried out now to prevent just that sort of thing from happening – let alone taking root. Are we living fiction?

[Page 197]

“In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself
most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.
They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations
of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity
of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently
interested in public events to notice what was happening.
By lack of understanding they remained sane.” …../

 

“Who controls the past controls the future:
who controls the present controls the past,”

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