Several quotes from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:
"But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet -----!"
"A few agents of the thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and marking down and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous..."
"From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. ... But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction - indeed, in some sense was the destruction - of a hierarchical society. ... the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. ... But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. ... Ignorance is Strength"
"The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. ... War is Peace."
"And in the general hardening of outlook that set in ... practices which had been long abandoned ... -- imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages and the deportation of whole populations -- not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive."
"There are only four ways in which a ruling group can fall from power. Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. These causes do not operate singly, and as a rule all four of them are present in some degree. A ruling class which could guard against all of them would remain in power permanently. Ultimately the determining factor is the mental attitude of the ruling class itself. ... From the point of view of our present rulers, therefore, the only genuine dangers are the splitting-off of a new group of able, under-employed, power-hungry people, and the growth of liberalism and scepticism in their own ranks. The problem, that is to say, is educational. ... and ... the level of popular education is actually declining."
"All past oligarchies have fallen from power either because they ossified or because they grew soft. Either they became stupid and arrogant, failed to adjust themselves to changing circumstances, and were overthrown; or they became liberal and cowardly, made concessions when they should have used force, and once again were overthrown. ... It is in the ranks of the Party, and above all the Inner Party, that the true war enthusiasm is found. ... If human equality is to be for ever averted -- if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently -- then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity."
"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. ... We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. ... How does one man assert his power over another ... By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation. ... A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. ... If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever."
Several Quotes from Coles Notes discussion of 1984:
"(Orwell's) greatest contribution may turn out to be the lesson he taught about the importance of the individual, so easily threatened by any form of dictatorship."
"The most obvious theme of 1984 is, of course, political. Orwell is implicitly criticizing the kind of government that attempts to control the intellect and emotions of its citizens. ... the most serious shortcomings of a totalitarian state: the all-pervasive character of government and the lack of freedom of dissent."
"Inability to communicate inevitably results in frustration, and this frustration is another important theme in the novel. It is frustration as much as anything else that motivates."
"...unable to formulate the problem fully and is certainly in no position to begin thinking along lines that might lead to a solution."
"However, there is no indication that the masses ever revolt by themselves. Leadership is usually required. In Oceania, in which any potential leadership is immediately rooted out by the Thought Police and any divergence from orthodox behavior is not tolerated, that leadership is not likely to develop."
"He sees the only hope for man in the corruption of the Party from within ..."
"They are essentially middle-class people with ordinary middle-class desires and needs. They do not really wish to change the world in any radical way. They just want to be left alone to live out their own lives peacefully and quietly. One of the horrors of Oceania is that fulfilment of their wish is quite out of the question."
"In a highly ironic exchange, O'Brien outlines the methods of the Brotherhood: murder, etc. ... Also it is easy to see that these methods are much the same as those used by the Party to keep its members and the proles under control. Winston is exchanging one horror for another. ... He has agreed with the dangerous view that the ends justify the means."
"As long as a country is at war, its citizens will put up with personal deprivation. But, the citizens must think that it is a just war, that the enemies are devils whom they are morally obliged to exterminate. The psychology behind Hate Week is precisely that of working up both party members and proles into a frenzy of self-righteous hate for the enemy, pushing out of their minds all thought of the unsatisfactory lives that they themselves are living."
"totalitarian: a government that does not allow any opposition to itself. The individual is the absolute servant (slave) of the state."
"socialism: seeks to obtain the means of production by legal and relatively peaceful means. ... although (according to Orwell) socialism was the only hope of the world, it could not claim to make society perfect."
"The brutality of the prison is made vivid, as well as its sadistic efficiency. This and following chapters demonstrate brainwashing techniques refined to the ultimate through the use of science in a society gone mad ... the Thought Police disorient the minds of the prisoners ... feel emotionally, as well as physically helpless. ... That a victim should come to love his torturer is part of the process of conversion. It is also ... a refinement on brainwashing techniques as practised in contemporary totalitarian societies."
"Newspeak -- is an extension of what (Orwell) saw happening in the use of English in his own time: lying and deceit for political purposes."
"1984 is not a prediction of what the world will be like in 1984; but rather a criticism of existing trends of which Orwell wished to warn his readers. The major trend being satirized is the amoral pursuit of power which results in fear and violence. Both fear and violence become tools of this pursuit of power. ... Orwell is careful to paint an exact picture of what the effects of this attitude are in the fictional world of Oceania. ... The result, in Orwell's opinion, of failing to solve the problem of power-madness is clearly specified in O'Brien's picture of the future: imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever. ... The practice of doublethink and Newspeak is the institutionalization of falsehood on a systematic basis. ... The all-consuming hunger for power admits no barriers, and must have complete dominion over everything ... an indication of the perverse, upside down system produced by the quest for absolute power, in which nothing is safe ..."
"The danger is that man could actually be transformed into an unfeeling machine."
Orwell "saw the rise of totalitarianism, but he was just as disturbed by what he believed was the readiness of liberal Western governments to adopt the same methods of oppression and brutality as the fascists and communists, in fighting those ideologies."
"No one ... can really understand power and the full impact of its exercise."
"By lack of understanding they remained sane. The crime of Winston Smith, the hero of 1984, was the use of a critical intelligence, his Socratic inability to stop asking questions. That 'ignorance is bliss' is no new discovery, but it has generally been assumed that understanding, which brings with it a sense of responsibility, an awareness of suffering and a tragic view of life, has compensations of a spiritual nature. It has been the object of modern tyrannies to deny man this sense of responsibility, and gradually to eliminate all feelings. The greatest enemies of the totalitarian State are not ideas (which can be dealt with dialectically) but aesthetic and erotic sensations. ... Religion is not so dangerous because it tends to be ideological and can be undermined by propaganda. But the sympathy of love, and the empathy of art -- these feelings must be eradicated from the human breast if man's allegiance to Caesar (Big Brother) is to be complete."
And Finally, A Discussion by Gwynn Dyer, "Orwell was wrong, but on the right track":
Gwynne Dyer: Orwell was wrong, but on the right track 23.06.2003 -
He was "Don Quixote on a bicycle", "the wintry conscience of
his generation" and if he had lived long enough he would have been very
surprised. George Orwell, born a century ago this Wednesday, wrote two
deeply pessimistic novels about the inability of human beings to resist tyranny,
died at 46, and subsequently became the most widely read political philosopher
of the 20th
century: Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four were translated into 60 languages and sold 40 million copies. But he was wrong. His original readers were a generation who survived the fascists and World War II only to fall straight into the Cold War and decades of confrontation with the Communists. They were already afraid totalitarianism would ultimately win and the future, in the words of Winston Smith's interrogator O'Brien, would turn out to be "a boot stamping on a human face forever". Orwell's books
told them they were probably right - but they were wrong, too. He would have been delighted to know that, but he died 40 years too soon.
Right down to the end of the 1980s the democratic peoples remained a
beleaguered minority, while a third of the world's people lived under Communist
tyrannies and another third languished under sordid dictatorships of a more
traditional kind. They all controlled what people said, and the more ambitious
also tried to control what people thought. Orwell's name became a
commonplace adjective. A useful one, too. The first time I was in the old Soviet Union, in 1982, we drove past a derelict Orthodox church in the southern Russian town of Belgorod and one of the film crew remarked on it.
"There was no church there," the local Communist Party guide insisted as we watched it recede through the rear window. When we innocently suggested that he drive around the block for another look, he flatly refused. "Orwellian," we said - and then realised by his embarrassment that he knew exactly what we meant. That moment should have told me Orwell was wrong and that the old Soviet Union was doomed, for the official should not have known what we meant. It was more than his job was worth to let us look at that church, and he was used to making the people around him swallow bare-faced lies. But they didn't actually believe the lies, and neither did he. There was surface compliance, but no Doublethink: 65 years of ruthless censorship and totalitarian rule had not even managed to keep low-level provincial party officials from knowing what "Orwellian" meant. The totalitarians never achieved the kind of thought control Orwell and the rest of us feared.
Underneath, most people kept their own values and opinions, and by the 80s they were getting ready to dump the dictators. All they needed was a way of doing so that didn't involve buckets of blood, and by the middle of the decade a powerful non-violent technique for bringing the dictators down was being developed in Asia. The technique spread by example from the Philippines in 1986 to Thailand, South Korea, Bangladesh and Myanmar in 1987-88, and then to Tiananmen Square in the heart of Communist China in 1989. Not all of these non-violent revolutions succeeded - in Myanmar and China they were drowned in blood - but the example was so powerful and the technique so promising that later in 1989 the citizens of European Communist countries picked it up and ran with it: 350 million Europeans were freed in two years, with hardly a shot fired. You can extend the sequence of
non-violent, more or less democratic revolutions to include the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, the overthrow of Suharto in Indonesia in 1998, and the fall of Milosevic in Serbia in 2000, but 1989-91 was when the balance of power in the world changed. From then on, totalitarianism was on the defensive and a majority of the world's people (for the first time in
history) lived in democratic countries.
Maybe Orwell wouldn't have been so surprised after all. Looking at the
cross-cultural appeal of those democratic revolutions, he might even have felt
vindicated in his optimistic belief that the desire for equality and freedom is
an attribute of human nature, not of some specific culture. Orwell would
certainly not have greeted this extraordinary historical liberation with the
of most Western intellectuals. Consider Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, for example: "With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seemed for a time that ... henceforth state control would be minimal and all we would have to do is go shopping and smile a lot, and wallow in pleasures, popping a pill or two when depression set in." No, Margaret. The discrediting of the
totalitarian dream and democratisation of a large part of the world were genuine gains for the human race. Coping with too much wealth and leisure is a problem too, no doubt, but a different and lesser one that only troubles very fortunate people.
Frankly, on this one I'm with President George W. Bush: "Freedom is a
powerful incentive. I believe some day freedom will
prevail everywhere because freedom is a powerful drive." What Bush overlooks, however, is that all the people who overthrew their oppressors in recent decades did it for themselves. It is doubtful that powerful countries with suspect motives can successfully export democracy to others by force, and the attempt of the Bush Administration to do just that could bring a
certain aspect of Nineteen Eighty-four back to life. Not the politics of it, of course that is now gone in most of the world - but the geopolitics.
"What Nineteen Eighty-four is really meant to do is to discuss the implications of dividing the world up into 'Zones of Influence'," Orwell wrote to his publisher at the end of 1948 - and it certainly does that. The three-way cold war of Nineteen Eighty-four, with constant skirmishes between the totalitarian mega-states of Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia and no freedom left anywhere in the world, is geopolitics as nightmare. It would be a pity if the 21st century turned out like that. The 20th century didn't. There
was a long cold war between two great power-blocs, but only one was totalitarian. Besides, it all ended pretty well, with no nuclear war and a wave of non-violent democratisation. But now we can see the faint outline of exactly those three Orwellian blocs glimmering on the horizon ahead. It may never come to that, of course. Most people outside the United States (and
many Americans, too) assume that the reign of the neo-conservatives in Washington and the current extreme unilateralism of American foreign policy are self-limiting phenomena, soon to be discredited by the sheer cost of empire-building in the Middle East. Local resistance to the American presence is growing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and before long Americans themselves will turn against this policy and normal service will be restored.
That is the assumption, and it is why other Governments are keeping their heads down and playing for time. Why have a confrontation with the US now if you can just wait a bit and see it change course of its own accord? But what if it doesn't? What if there is a bigger American empire in the Middle East three or five years from now, the United Nations is on the scrap-heap, and Nato is gone too? The rest of the world won't just roll over and accept American global hegemony, but what will it do instead? In that case we're back in the jungle, where the only way to contain the ambitions of other great powers is the old game of alliances.
What would those new alliances look like? Quite a lot like the world of
Nineteen Eighty-four. Oceania is already taking shape: essentially, the
English-speaking world of North America, Britain ("Airstrip One" in
Orwell's novel), and Australasia. Give or take a Pole or two, that's who
actually showed up for the invasion of Iraq last March (though Canada and New
Zealand are so far managing to avoid being swept away by their respective giant
neighbours). Orwell's Eurasia isn't too hard to identify, either. It is
Nato minus North America and Britain, but plus Russia. It is nobody's first choice, but if it becomes necessary it's a good fit: the European Union's economic strength plus Russia's resources and nuclear deterrent would be a credible counter-weight to America/Oceania - and it's the only way Russia could get into the European Union (which it very much wants) within the next
Eastasia is the puzzling one, mainly because it's hard to figure out which
way Japan would jump: rapprochement with China and a junior partnership in a new
"East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere", or honorary Anglo-Saxon status and
a role as Oceania's Asian "Airstrip Two". Neither option is
appetising, so Japan would certainly try to avoid the choice as long as possible
- but if it did opt for Eastasia, it would go very nuclear very quickly, as the
best way of establishing an equal relationship with China. Which leaves
the Middle East (a string of restive American protectorates), Latin America
(client states of Oceania), Africa (contention
between Oceania and Eurasia), South-East Asia (a zone of conflict between Oceania and Eastasia) - and India. The Indians would be the one major power with the freedom to stay clear of the global alliance confrontations, but conflicts with Muslim neighbours to the west could easily pull them into alliance with the US.
This is an ugly world, but it is not unimaginable. If the multilateral
consensus that has kept things sane for a long time breaks down, a massive
realignment like the one that occurred in the 20 years before World War I is
quite possible, and the result would be a more militarised, less free, more
compartmentalised planet. There would be no primitive "Big
Brother"-style totalitarian systems, for their time has passed, but the
foundations are already being laid everywhere for subtler "national
security" regimes that would encroach greatly on civil rights and political
liberty. Hardly anybody wants this outcome, but then the pre-1914
great powers didn't really want their idiotic alliance system either. They didn't design it, but their responses built it. Something similar could be happening again soon.
Listen, for example, to the tone of some recent remarks by America's
favourite hate figure of the moment, French President
Jacques Chirac - almost as if events were sweeping him away against his will. " ... war should not be used to settle a crisis which can be resolved by other means ... The world today obliges us to seek a consensus when we act, and not to act alone. The US has a vision of the world which is very unilateralist. "Europe is ... here to stay as a major world power. Then we have to take account of the emergence of China on the world stage, and India too ... Whether you like it or not ... we are moving towards a multi-polar world." "Multilateral" implies co-operation and consensus; "multi-polar" means confrontation and conflict. A three-cornered cold war like that of Nineteen Eighty-four is as stupid a way to spend the 21st century as can be imagined. It would also minimise American freedom of action in the world, which is hardly the declared goal of those now directing White House policy.
But five more years on this course and we could be getting close.