George Orwell wrote the book *1984*, after the immense slaughter across the world in WWII and its’ aftermath of more murder and killing via the cold grip of Stalin on personal freedoms across many of the European nations which had been handed him by his Allies, the USA and England. Orwell’s book was published in 1949. Orwell was about 43 years old at the time he was writing 1984, and died young at age 47, and his prescience was remarkable about his own time, about our time.
The protagonist Winston Smith is slowly losing his grip on his own humanity, as is wanted and required by Big Brother. It occurs in part from being assaulted on every side by propaganda lies that insist that everyone believe that Love is Hate, that War is Peace… and through the fact that no one call tell if there is even one decent human being left in the world who holds the old true ideas of justice, love, peace and care of one another—
for most and many are put to the superstitious work of reporting those who are not towing the line, that is those thought to be non-patriots, those who are ‘thinking people’ and therefore considered disloyal to Big Brother– and thus are marginalized as ‘just proles,’ ‘the little people of no consequence,’ or taken off to be killed.
Winston works at The Ministry of Truth. It is housed in what is described as [sounds like a NORAD-like facility] four buildings that tower over all other buildings disproportionately, with 3000 rooms above ground and 3000 identical rooms below ground as bunkers in case of invasion, those loyal workers to Big Brother will be saved, all others will be lost. In other words, the vile organism of BB protects only itself, like some cosmic cockaroach.
The four buildings represent the upside down world that people have been forced to not question:
The Ministry of Truth, which gives out falsified news, propaganda entertainment, mind-numbing repetitious education, and re-interpretation of the old fine arts.
The Ministry of Peace, which rationalizes incessant war—as a means of keeping a form of ‘peace’ in which no one is allowed to be free, save Big Brother and friends.
The Ministry of Love, which maintains “law and order” according to Big Brothers ideals of dishonesty– creating charges against citizens as a result of day and night surveillance by peering in windows, planting listening and video devices right in citizen’s homes, following them about at work and rewarding peers for spying on and denouncing one another… to fatal ends.
The Ministry of Plenty, which overlooks all economic affairs, and falsifies how wonderful the job outlook is, how wonderful commerce is moving up up up, how productive all the workers are –even though the workers live in incessant squalor (Winston only has a scrap of dark bread to get him through the next day) and are afraid to complain…
for as Orwell writes, no one can enter any of these four departments of the government, for they are barricaded and only give access to Big Brother’s ‘friends.’ So there can be no writs of complaint let alone demands, filed with anyone in power, even if anyone so dared.
The names of the Ministries in Newspeak (which is garbled ‘politically correct’ and enforced language,) are: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
Winston fears most The Ministry of Love, it being surrounded by “a maze of
barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.”
The oppression of humans is so great, that even their facial expressions cannot be allow to be sincere. Because there is a tele-screen in his apartment recording in audio and video to make sure Winston is not a traitor, he has to “set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.”
Like the “Victory Fries” that some in the US dreamt up as ‘patriotic’ when some were miffed with France in our time… Winston takes up “a bottle of colourless liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN.” It’s lofty name however cannot disguise that it is cheap rot-gut, for “…it gave off a sickly, oily smell…”
Winston tosses a teacup’s worth back and becomes immediately stunned-drunk from the potion which is meant to keep ‘the proles’ in a state of being unable to think clearly. The cigarettes are equally cheap, desultorily and carelessly rolled so that : “he took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, whereupon the tobacco fell out on to the floor.” The quality that once was in manufacturing of anything, is no more.
Thence Winston commits three purposeful crimes: the worst. the most shocking. He has one tiny place in his room where he cannot be seen by the telescreen (it is forbidden not to be before the screen), and sitting in that hidey-hole, he draws out a tiny book (it is forbidden to own an actual book one holds in their hands) and books stopped being manufactured over 40 years previous– as a way to make the people ‘richer.’
He found the book in the window of a junk shop (it is forbidden to ‘deal in free market,’ [this may be familiar to us, e.g., as we currenty cannot freely travel nor buy certain things like medicines in certain other nations]) but he frequented the slum shops as the necessities of life, razor blades for shaving and other items promised by Big Brother, never came. Thus, he bought the book for an exorbitant price– $2.50.
Winston’s crime is owning a blank book, a diary for one’s own true thoughts, in a sense a ‘freedom of the press’ denied by the government which has brought all newsmedia under one overseer and owner while calling it ‘a free press’ — but one that is iunder the domination of BB.
But more than the diary, is the idea of it, for Winston who is supposed to by now by BB design, have lost all awareness he is being treated like an animal-worker, a beast of burder… still holds the creative ideation that such beautiful old paper in this diary deserves to be written on in pen. And thus, he gradually recalls his own language – before Big Brother, but with effort. And he writes “April 4th, 1984.” But then stops, thinking, “Why was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn… For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him.”
That a soul would have to even be careful of what they wrote in a private document is Orwell’s point. That BB is always watching even when you think BB is asleep. BB never sleeps.
Orwell tells us about Winston’s agony and despair that he cannot change things (this being the PERFECT foil for Big Brother’s continued domination of the people), Winston’s fear that he cannot reach the future, for “How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.”
Orwell shows that Winston had thought all he needed was courage to write down/ record/say in words the thoughts he’d had for years. But Winston finds that it is his despair that nothing will ever change, that keeps him from remembering the salient points of his own true views of what is human and what is not human… Just as BB would have all the workers be, thinking they can do nothing to make change.
And here is the horrible tell of loss of humanity, loss of care for others, loss of concern that others are tortured and murdered… BB’s ideas that others ought be maimed and slaughtered without reason….
and Winston suddenly begins to write his truth for which he could be killed, no questions asked…
“The telescreen had changed over to strident military music….Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up anddown the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its
“April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him, first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water, audience shouting with laughter when he sank. then you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicopter hovering over it. there was a middle-aged woman might have been
a jewess sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms. little boy screaming with fright and hiding his head between herbreasts as if he was trying to burrow right into her and the woman putting her arms round him and comforting him although she was blue with fright herself, all the time covering him up as much as possible as if she thought her arms could keep the bullets off him. then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot of a child’s arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of applause from the party seats but a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting they didnt oughter of showed it not in front of kids they didnt it aint right not in front of kids it aint until the police turned her turned her out i dont suppose anything happened to her nobody cares what the proles say typical prole reaction they never—-
“Winston stopped writing, partly because he was suffering from cramp. He did not know what had made him pour out this stream of rubbish. But the curious thing was that while he was doing so a totally different memory had clarified itself in his mind, to the point where he almost felt equal to writing it down. It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come home and begin the diary today.
“It had happened that morning at the Ministry, if anything so nebulous could be said to happen.”
Now that Winston has written a horrendous account of loss of humanity, what BB has forbidden anyone to retain in memory, in fact has erased and had rewritten any evidences of humane ideation in all documents in the province… now that Winston has identified himself as ‘witness’ to inhumanity- on paper- the inhumanity of the many who’d already lost their minds, and the very few of the poor, who had kept their heartful and visionary minds… even as Winston himself is seeming ambivalent and calls the film and some of its most brutal shots, ‘good’ and ‘wonderful.’ Yet the act of writing it as it was, truly was, remains as a huge renegade act. It appears Winston is awakening through this subversive act, even though it shows evidence of his brainwashing by BB, calling the horrific, ‘good’ and ‘wonderful.’
But we shall see what happens next…
now that the other ‘incident’ that had occurred that day at the Ministry of Truth, was another crack in BB’s dark world from which a thin but pure stream of light poured through, an incident that set Winston off on a death-defying defiance that will grow more and more outrageous… as he tries to come back from the dead mind he’s been pounded down into that believes ‘nothing can be done to make things any different; we’ll just have to live with it all’… as he tries to swim away from the whirlpool which has normalized what ought never be allowed to be considered in any way ‘normal.’
To be continued…