Euxharisto kai s'agapo koukla mou
Author George Orwell
Publication date 8 June 1949
Genre(s) Dystopian, political fiction, social science fiction
For me personally, there has always been an end goal of my career as a writer. The ultimate and complete dream of the entirety of my life, achieved through ink, paper, and time: an adjective form of my last name. In the 16th century, Italian diplomat and part time assassin Niccolò Machiavelli introduced to the world his "How to" guide to running the state, and in return the term "Machiavellian" was born. Similarly, when George Orwell introduced his cynical dystopian vision of mankind's future, we were given the term "Orwellian"
To understand what sets these writers apart from the rest, and in hopes of learning how to achieve the same success, this two part review series will be looking into both classical works starting with Orwell's masterpiece Nineteen Eighty Four and continuing in part two with Machiavelli's The Prince
Nowadays, it seems as if it can only be the boldest of humanists, the strongest of optimists, and possibly the stupidest of people to look at the future and have nothing but hope. Simply turning on the nightly news can be enough to make us replace sanguinity with apathy. And if this weak, frightening, and devastating view of the world is commonplace in modern day, one can only imagine the severe pessimism of the lost souls of the World War II generation. One such soul would go on to detail his prediction of such an ill-fated future that we would from then on simply know as "Orwellian."
On the surface, Nineteen Eighty Four may not seem different from the average adventure tale placed in a desolate setting. Following the pathetic life of Winston Smith, the plot follows from his dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the government, to his eventual opposition and insurrection.
Though the plot is surely interesting and incredibly suspenseful, it is secondhand to the world Orwell creates around it.
Winston lives in Oceania, which encompasses what is modern-day Great Britain, the Americas, Australia, Southern Africa, and Ireland. And therefore is subject to the perplexing governance of their peculiar ideology called Ingsoc (English Socialism). Oceania is one of the three rivaling superpowers, who despite having ideological similarities are in constant perpetual warfare over the part of land that remains unclaimed.
For those of us turning to the Communists amongst us with smug smiles, it's important to note that Orwell's commentary is not only a slash on far left or far right ideologies. As the book progresses, we realize that this hell Winston lives in is not as far-fetched as we once thought. Other than the constant pro-government propaganda we notice littering every street, corner, and mind of each of its inhabitants, Big Brother has many tools for controlling the thoughts of Oceania's inhabitants. Orwell's imaginative creations that put the force behind the totalitarian regime are quite genius in concept.
Newspeak is territories official language, and unlike all other languages before it, it annually shrinks rather than expands. The ultimate purpose of this is to create a world in which people would literally have no words to express unorthodox thoughts, and therefore have no way to act on them or even acknowledge them to begin with. And if these concepts sounds far fetched an impossible, compare it to the PC culture that our youth grows up in.
However, the cleverest tool in Big Brother's arsenal is metaphysics. Evident in the use of a something called Double Think. This is defined as holding two contradictory concepts at once, and believing that both are true. One example in the book comes from a poster that says "WAR IS PEACE" which we can directly relate to the modern example of the "Peace-Keeping forces" that the US government has placed in present day Iraq and Afghanistan. Another modern-day example of Double Think is found in The Patriot Act, in which giving up our liberties is considered an essential part in retaining our freedom. To which extent do we allow ourselves to give up such crucial freedom in exchange for security, and I Winston's case, ignorance?
Blatant examples of Double Think are evident in the very ways that Ignsoc works. While the Ministry of Truth controls the press and history, The Ministry of Love is the brutally unforgiving police force, The Ministry of Plenty is in charge of rationing, and the Ministry of Peace in command of the war efforts.
Mental Manipulation is only the psychological extent to which Orwell's Human Alpha Male goes to attain his tyrannical grasp. He isn't confounded by Physical boundaries either, with his Thought Police and Telescreens, whose purpose is to survey each individual for unorthodox thought. Children are also raised in a way to serve their all-dominant master, as they're taught from the cradle to the grave to turn in any one suspected of crimes against the government, especially their parents. People who are turned in are vaporized from existence, with every legal and social document forged or destroyed in the Ministry of Truth. In a world were you don't know who is and who isn't part of the Thought police, and one in which you cannot trust your own family, acceptance and trust in the government is the only place to turn.
Winston is part of the Outer Party (bourgeoisie), in-between the inner party (elite) and the Proles (the poor uneducated proletariat). The politics of Poverty is an essential part in Big Brother's control of the people. By keeping the majority worker class in the hands of the Outer Party, the Inner party only needs to focus on controlling the desires and thoughts of a small portion of the population, which in return gleefully subjugates the rest.
Perhaps then, the reason Orwell has achieved such great and coveted success is that like Winston himself, his methods are quite unorthodox. It quite easy to create a such a setting and warning by requiring the reader to suspend belief, its another to explain to him every inch and detail of how this could happen, and in deed does happen, in his own very world. Going above and beyond the normal may have just been what crowned Orwell his desired status.
Next we turn to Machiavelli's The Prince, and see just what it is that he does to achieve parallel success.