One doesn’t know really what Orwell was thinking about when he wrote 1984, probably he never believed that this great book of his would become a reality in the present day, or did he? There is no doubt that more and more elements of 1984 are visible both in Europe and the USA, and that is truly a worrisome trend that all of us are just sitting passively by and letting it happen and are either too engrossed in the problems of our daily lives, or too busy chasing the chimera of wealth and money, or the next electronic gadget to actually realize what is really happening.
Do all of us who read 1984 remember that language people were taught in the book, “Newspeak”? The language that the ruling regime INGSOC was making people learn as a substitute to the English language, a form of communication specifically designed to make all other mode of thought difficult if not impossible. A language specifically, almost genetically altered purposely to eradicate the complex linguistics of Standard English, so as to neuter the ability of the individual to express complex thoughts. Most of us laughed at that then, and most certainly most of my generation never thought this possible; at least until now.
Was it an Orwellian fantasy? Maybe, but if we look at what is happening to the English language in British and American speech today, at this prevalence of politically correct anesthetized terminology in use more and more in Academic and Government environments, the acronyms used more and more by the younger generations in their everyday interactions, then I would hazard to say maybe not! Let’s take a look at the media outlets today be it in Europe or in the USA and look at the coverage the numerous scandals that have arisen from Weakileaks and how dismissive the whole impact of all this has been on most of us. While if we look back at the media reaction to events such as the Profumo scandal in Britain, or Watergate in the US, then it easy to see how public conscience and perception has changed or has been altered by the “Newspeak” of today.
When in the 60s and the 70s phenomenons like the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement generated passion and debate, and there was political and social consciences dictated by the far more comprehensive and complete education system. A system were as kids we studied classics, read classics, languages, grammar, history, and many other subjects, so that when we reached our teens we had a critical and analytical mindset, and were in the position to judge events and the actions of our rulers and we protested, criticised, marched, and were able to argue on level of parity with older generations; in short we able to rock the boat, and that scared the crap out of INGSOC.
While today a phenomenon like the Guantanamo military facility, were inmates are not classed as “prisoners” but as “detained”, and why? Because our new politically correct “Speakeasy”, our INGSOC has changed the rules of grammar, so that while a prisoner is someone that is held, and the action of holding him in safe custody is ordained by a lawfully constituted authority for having committed a crime, or waiting to be judged by his peers in a trial, where his presumption of innocence is paramount till found guilty or acquitted of that crime. The Detainee is a non-entity, both grammatically, legally and in real terms. In fact none of the men and probably even women that are “detained”, and some since the creation of this monstrosity in 2002, have never been charged with any type of criminal offence and probably never will, as the evidence on which most are detained would be thrown out of court not only in the USA but anywhere where there is a rule of law and codified and clear rights of the individual.
Whatever moral high-ground the original intention had when this whole process started it quickly went out of the window, when it became evident that by undermining the rule of Law, by destroying any form of judicial constraint we have allowed a turning back of the clock to a clear and rampant totalitarian practice, by means of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and the return of the nasty spectre of the concentration camp by espousing methods adopted by Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, and for millions of fathers of my generation fought to end in World War 2.
Symbolically though the significance of Guantanamo, represent the beginning of a totalitarianization not only of American political culture but of Western culture as a whole. The effective attack on certain political positions judged as unpatriotic, or almost acts of treason if going against, or criticising the course of action taken by the leadership in defence of the nation. This is more and visible not only in Congressional debates in the USA but we are seeing it more and more in the various European Parliaments, especially in the UK, France and Germany.
However what is really significant from all this is the societal apathy that is pervasive in our societies, our lack of understanding of what is in effect happening. This state of affairs, I have no doubt both as a University Professor and a Jurist, as been a deliberate policy throughout the West for at least the last 30 years.
The systematic and relentless destruction of our education systems both in the US and in Europe, hasn’t been an accident, it’s been a deliberate policy of successive governments throughout the Western world.
A Guantanamo would have been unthinkable in the 60s or the 70s, we would have revolted and hell would have broken loose. Wikileaks and the information that it provided would have been the object of debates and arguments in intellectual and university circles, articles would have been written, attacks and popular demonstrations would have occurred. But then, our minds as teenagers where far more evolved and critical than our contemporaries today; we had no PCs, Internet, I-PODs or social networking without physical interaction, we talked, fought, argued, loved, and protested. We lived!
When the sad figure of Winston Smith, the main character in Orwell’s 1984 was like all his contemporaries in the novel bombarded by slogans like: “War is peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength”, or dullness and uniformity of his life, the endless lies and falsifications of the Party. How is it possible not see the correlation of where we are heading today, and what we risk to become tomorrow?
For the real enemy of freedom, of culture, isn’t totalitarianism as such, it’s the intellectual and moral apathy that precedes it.
What do you think?