Screenshot from film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (youtube)
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With Halloween now in our rearview mirror, I find myself recalling when it used to be such a pleasant and harmless affair, with images of Peanuts characters dressed as witches or paper-bag shrouded scamps or hobgoblins (whatever they are) trudging from door to door, emitting the obligatory “Trick or Treat,” knowing that the tricks were non-existent and treats were plentiful, sometimes even nutritious? Can’t get scarier than that.
You can, of course. Halloween has since degenerated into a witch’s Sabbath of severed heads, bursting entrails, walls dripping blood—in fact, everything sort of oozes blood these days—all in a grotesquerie of horrors featuring vampires, zombies of various persuasions, and assorted monsters whose fright coefficient is greatly augmented by darker imaginations using special effects. Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, some Horrors ‘R Us outfit concocted the most chilling scene of them all: a group of children from the future singing about the miseries of America whose parents made the wrong choice, presumably in the 2012 election:
“We are the children, builders of the future. And we the children swear to thee. Loyal devotion. Fearless devotion. And to die with dignity.”
“And to die with dignity?” What’s this all about? Actually, these lines are extracted from the hiking song in George Orwell’s “1984,” which is another possibility for our future. You can tell the difference between the two versions by the kind of future that liberal superstitions have limned: a landscape of strip mines, oil soaked seas, poisoned air, dead polar bears, endless wars, and, gasp! Big Bird is sacked! That sort of stuff. And the children singing this are straight from a Stephen King novel, mechanical voices emitting sounds against a charcoal-draped background. Chilling. Talk about your October surprise.
But why stop there? Let’s take that future more seriously and look at the rest of it as well, by drawing a few extra dimensions from Orwell’s famous novel, specifically from that book within a book excerpt that O’Brien gave to Winston to read in private. Call this “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Progressivism,” conceived in the present to govern our affairs in the future. In Orwell’s version, the principles of Ingsoc (English Socialism) were laid out and explained. But what about AmSoc (American Socialism)? Like “1984”—Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength—the foundation of AmSoc, under which our children of the future will live, is based on several slogans. Let’s see what they might be.
Lying is Truth. This means that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes part of the public consciousness, and therefore truth. Thus, absent contrary information, which in a totalitarian society is nonexistent, vilifying your enemies, denying your own responsibilities, and frankly lying every time you open your mouth transforms what you say to “truth.” You don’t have to fool all the people all of the time, just enough of them to maintain the oligarchical state and to make elections superfluous. Like the War is Peace slogan in “1984,” Lying—by being continuous—has the same effect as truth.
Love is Hate. Political leaders profess to love their subjects. In fact, they love them so much that they shower upon them goods and services extracted from wealth producers, increasingly fewer in number, to keep subjects anesthetized from economic and political reality. Elections are meaningless, of course—see Lying is Truth, above—but they might affect who holds office even if politicians can’t do anything to change a system based most likely on environmental and healthcare totalitarianism. So leaders hate and have contempt for subjects because they need them to stay in power, but who, like the proles in “1984,” are viewed as nothing more than a collection of mindless supplicants ruled by the omnipotent state: Love is Hate.
Rich is Poor. To be rich once meant that you had more choices in life, more that you could do to affect those around you, to leave to your children, to build your country. But the rich are so often vilified and are restricted by governments in what they are allowed to do that their capabilities to act have been rendered nugatory or obsolete. Sure, they have more creature comforts, but as much as they want to invest in their country—build things, hire people, create wealth—they often find themselves as helpless as the nation’s fabled poor. Thus, Rich is Poor.
Liberty is Tyranny. To enjoy liberty is to pollute the atmosphere, to make one’s own choices for life, health, and families, to be subject to the whims of the market, to be enslaved by the vagaries of “ownthought”—in short, to be under the tyranny of one’s own desires and suffer the consequences of one’s decisions. In AmSoc, there are no consequences for one’s own decisions because they don’t exist anymore; government has stripped them away and replaced them with benefits. Subjects cannot be allowed the liberty to live their own lives, to be at the mercy of the tyrannies of individualism and personal responsibility. Because Liberty is Tyranny.
Undoubtedly, this list is incomplete, because our future children will likely create new verses to this year’s October version. But is this scenario unlikely? Consider developments of the past four years and this year’s most memorable campaign slogan: Forward. We’re going forward, all right. Forward to “1984.”
Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled "The Thirteenth Commandment."
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