Image provided by emychaoschildren.
Anyway, I’m not here to peddle partisan politics, but I’m more than happy to prompt participation in the political discourse – which is to say, the discourse of things that kind of matter. I say, “kind of matter” because, personally, I’m rather disenchanted with the average person’s ability to affect any sort of meaningful change. Personal feelings aside, knowledge is power, and it is my hope to grant you the means of taking that power. After all, knowledge in the hands of the masses is the one thing The Party in 1984 fears the most. Or, well, it would’ve been had The Party not had complete control over the media and history and so on.
Allow me to provide some context for the story to better illustrate my points. In essence, “The Party” is a shadowy ruling class of elites that controls the authoritarian government of Oceania in the novel. Then, there’s the protagonist, Winston, whose job is to re-write history to match The Party’s current political agenda. He’s pretty sick of it. So, through various means and circumstances, he commits a string of “thoughtcrimes,” in hopes of subverting The Party’s hold on himself, but he ultimately fails and is indoctrinated to love The Party till his death (apologies, spoiler alert). All the while, Winston religiously clings to hope by way of the “proles,” 1984’s rendition of the average and uneducated citizen. Winston’s faith in the proles is a reflection of Orwell’s faith in the average person; a faith that relies entirely on the notion that common sense finds a way to defy tyranny.
Orwell was an ethical socialist in all but name. His faith in the common man, to me, was a tad misplaced. However, I wouldn’t be the first to assert that the common man is most easily swayed and manipulated. I don’t even need to name any particular leader because, in a lot of ways, all leaders do this in some degree. So, allow me to highlight a few takeaways I’ve gotten out of 1984. First, history must be preserved, if only to be scrutinized. We cannot learn from a past that does not exist and, even if it does exist, we must ask ourselves who is telling the story. Context matters, folks. Secondly, seek truth in all things. This one’s more of a lifestyle or philosophy choice rather than just some sage proverb. Seriously, always be questioning your source of information and keep an open mind. To borrow from my friends, the pragmatists (we’re not really friends): Truth must work until it doesn’t. It’s a gross oversimplification but pragmatism holds that we look to the practical consequences of accepting propositions and reject those that are impractical. I think this theory is a decent rule of thumb to begin sussing out the validity of information we are fed. Before I veer too far off track, here’s my last point: Dare to disagree. 1984’s The Party is obsessed with homogeneity in thought and behavior. Conformity is the order of the day every day. All sorts of cultures construct a type of “pro-social” behavior, which often lends itself to avoiding confrontation or disagreement, particularly in the form of coerced silence. Even in recent news, consider those who’ve been silenced because their opinion, experience, and voice would throw a wrench into the dominant social order.
I don’t really care all that much for the labels you’ve chosen for yourself in the hooey that is our modern sociopolitical climate. To me, labels are shortcuts for communicating experience. Democrat, republican, millennial, xyz, it’s all the same to me. You’re a person with opinions (mostly informed I would hope), and, by virtue of being said person, you’re entitled to them. And I’m entitled to disagree. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to arm yourself with knowledge about who you are and what you care for. Then, it really won’t matter if I disagree because you know yourself better than I ever will.