Why these books? I personally believe there is an element of truth in all science fiction. Maybe not as written, but the concepts upon which they are written.
1984. For those who have not read this rather sick and twisted version of a future no one wants to be a part of. It is a cult classic, science fiction tale of extrapolation of the worst possible scenario that could happen. At least in my humble opinion. I enjoyed reading it as I have many other great piece of literature. It was masterfully written, enveloping, and although I don’t believe we will live to see this happen, I do see some inklings of things that niggle.
Regardless of how folks feel about the book itself, there are some amazing quotes from George Orwell’s 1984 that we all should be aware of.
The mantra of INGSOC presented by the “Ministry of Truth”:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Two particularly interesting paragraphs at the beginning of the book speak about the signs everywhere with the black-mustachio’d face gazing right into your eyes from everywhere, with the words, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” as a caption. He also indicated the police patroled in helicopters peering in homes, but they didn’t matter, it was only the “Thought Police” that mattered.
Winston, the main character, was trying to remain, what he considered to be sane in the midst of insanity around him where truth was lies, and lies were truth, and truth was only what they were told it was.
He began to write his thoughts down in a hidden book, hidden, at least he thought it was hidden, from the “Thought Police.”
There were televisions in each home, but these televisions were two way -receivers and transmitters of both audio and video – and you never knew when they would be ‘tuned’ into your particular television. Something that would be unnerving to anyone.
His first words in his journal was the date April 4th, 1984 and after some thoughts, he began to madly write thoughts down. Then after some ‘normal’ everyday things happened, including strange mind control rallies where everyone was ‘encouraged’ to take part. Winston sat in his little ‘apartment’ and after realizing that “only the “Thought Police” would read what he wrote before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. He wondered how you could appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive.” He began writing again,
To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone–to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink–greetings!
After some rather morbid contemplation, he wrote again:
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime was death.
He knew first hand how someone could be wiped out; his job was part of the process of rewriting history to reflect the current needs of ‘the Party.’
It is really a very sad story of a man, driven quite mad by the insane life forced upon him and the insane thinking forced upon him by the ‘Party.’
There was no freedom, no true living, no hope.
One final thought from the book, toward the end of the book in one interview with O’Brien, who apparently is trying to convince Winston of the ‘Party’ truth’…
O’Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.
‘There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,’ he said. ‘Repeat it, if you please.’
‘”Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,”‘ repeated Winston obediently.
‘”Who controls the present controls the past,”‘ said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’
Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted towards the dial. He not only did not know whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was the answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to be the true one.
O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’
‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’
‘In records. It is written down.’
‘In records. And—-?’
‘In the mind. In human memories.’
‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’
In our current world of ‘political correctness’, and the wishing to do away with a past that might bother some folks, where wonderful technologies are being created, and used by, or made use of by, massive companies who in turn make use of agencies to control them, and by association, those who make use of them – Well, that could make something ‘like’ these scifi scenarios, like 1984 and others, or the equally unacceptable future in the Max Headroom scifi television series, actually come to pass some day in the future…
This book along with so many other great scifi books really do have some (hopefully) twisted elements of truth in them, but they are still very interesting. Science Fiction is the mind out to play, searching for a combination of possible future science and social responses…and maybe to in some small way, foresee or forewarn.
I genuinely hope we never live to see anything like this come to pass. But it’s great fiction, and thought provoking, none the less.
NOTE: Originally posted: March 2005 (recreated from my original mangled blogspot.com blog)