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To try to understand Orwell's relevance today, you have to 'factor in' the way the world HAS changed since he died. what he didn't know.
How does 1984 read through the filter of global warming, and globalisation in general?

Orwell was a proto-green, without any mistake. He just didn't know the science. As very few did then. And his ability to visualise the total destruction of life was limited by his economic and political background. The hardship of life under collective oligarchism never did really happen, after all.

But in spite of these shortcomings, his predictions about the psychological distortions of modern life are generally accurate.

Modern states are giant Lie-Factories. The 'Party members' of corporate consumerism (the 'stakeholders') do have to be able to deny self-evident truths and forget them or remember them on request. (technological truths Vs religious certainty in the Bush adninnystration)
Truth is constantly manipulated as never before. We are drugged and controlled with hero-worship and exhibitions of collective sadism - see any Hollywood film - 'No Orchids for Miss Blandish'?
People are disappearing in the night and being reduced to jibbering wrecks who will confess anything - and believe it.

An interesting case study would be between Orwell's final vision and the early formative texts of al Qutb, founder of modern militant Islam.

The 2 visions of a robotic race, descended into a sub-human state by the machinations of a rapacious, power-mad autocracy are - amusing.
Orwell, though, provides a counter - vision (Lion & The Unicorn and every line he wrote). And whatever label you care to give it, the one thing that is clear from his writings is that it is not simply a matter of ideology, but culture, and must therefore be local in character. Any attempt to impose an incompatible set of cultural values on the British (at least) was doomed to fail.

And the second thing - 2 things, the second of the two things that are clear is that socialism is not the easy option. But given that the consumer capitalism means oblivion, it's likely that Orwell would have been as much of a socialist now as then.

His job was to uncover the Britishness at the core of socialism. To dig that truth out from under the dungheap of two centuries of abomination by the "dividend drawers" and streamlined oligarchs of monopoly capitalism.

Which is why the Right has always tried to hijack him. He is their logical key target. To make us believe that Orwell was a staunch defender of free-market capitalism would be the ultimate act of doublethink.
But then, you have to consider what sort of book lies within 1984, written by someone not suffering from a desperately depressing, debilitating disease.

There are hints of his disease in the book, after all. The 'Golden Country' does come across as someone reliving his childhood in a fever.
Orwell knew he could have written a better book healthy. Would it have been as powerful a message?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------eibeinaka - 07:16pm May 27, 2005 BST (#161 of 164)
"Orwell was a proto-green, without any mistake."
One of the most memorable things he ever wrote was an essay explaining why an inexpensive packet of flower seeds was the most glorious investment he'd ever made.
'An interesting case study would be between Orwell's final vision and the early formative texts of Qutb.'
Orwell knew he could have written a better book healthy. Would it have been as powerful a message?
It's an interesting argument. Would the book have been as grimly dystopian? When one considers how needle sharp his essays of earlier times are, a more biting savage humorous edge might have been achieved, which would have changed the character of the book.
I'll have to look in the collected letters again, but I seem to recall that he describes experimenting a bit with the tone of te book, when he first tells his correspondents the shape of what he's writing.

Little Richardjohn - 07:29pm May 27, 2005 BST (#162 of 164) Delete But maybe he wouldn't have seen the terrible possibilities of global oligarchy. Maybe we needed him to have been depressed.

cappamore - 11:24pm May 27, 2005 BST (#163 of 164)
Orwell was incredibly visionary but equally visionary were Aldous Huxley ("Brave New World") and H.G. Wells ("War of the Worlds.") They all depict a future that is chilling and, I fear, true. Science fiction has gone out of fashion these days. I wonder if that is because publishers are less willing to publish the truth.

Little Richardjohn - 11:44pm May 27, 2005 BST (#164 of 164) Delete

I blame the more metaphysical tendencies of Quantum Mechanics for that.
Something which, inevitably, O'Brien brags about in room 101.
There are many futurologists whose predictions were proved more materially accurate. (I daresay) but I don't know of any who examined the psychology so thoroughly and communicated it so compellingly. Until perhaps Heller, that is.
Catch 22 and doublethink are almost twins. In fact, 'Catch22' is a depiction of a totalitarian state executed by someone with enough leisure and comfort to be able to use humour to make the terror seem worse.
Orwell was never in a position to write a book like that.
Does anyone have any Heller quotes on Orwell?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:21 pm

    It's a tricky one this. But bear with me.

    It just so happens that I've been doing a LOT of live recording to minidisk.

    In case you don't know, when you're done recording to them, each track can be divided up, spliced together, moved around, and deleted until you've got exactly the sequence you want. Instantly. This is because it's a digital medium. Straightforward stuff.

    After a heavy night of this kind of post-production rescrambling, I kept waking up and gong back to sleep every twenty minutes. OR dreamt I kept waking up, and ended up dreaming that when I did finally wake up all I had to do to get a decent night's sleep would be to move all the sleep tracks to one ned of the night, and all the waking tracks to the other.

    My mental processes had been infected by the technology I was exposed to. And I was quite happy with the proposition that I could re-write the history of the night for my own benefit.

    Is this because digital technology is inherently anti-human? Unlike the analogue clockface. And how much easier does it make the job of controlling the way we think? Not just by sheer force, the barrage of digital images etc, but to our sense of reality.


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