[personal profile] wingedbeast
Again, not fully in order, but at least the quotes will be in chronological order and we will finish with this chapter.

And, this final theme of Chapter Five will be "Thinking Without Thinking". And, that leads us to Duckspeak. There are times when I'm surprised that "Duckspeak" isn't a more common phrase in political discussion. Doublethink certainly makes it in there, along with its example phrase "we have always been at war with East Asia". I'd expect to hear a lot more about Duckspeak.

For example of duckspeak in action, let's look at this repetition of that same conversation we've all had to freaking endure.

At the table on his left the man with the strident voice was still talking remorselessly away. A young woman who was perhaps his secretary, and who was sitting with her back to Winston, was listening to him and seemed to be eagerly agreeing with everything that he said. From time to time, Winston caught some such remark as 'I think you're so right. I do so agree with you', uttered in a youthful and rather silly feminine voice. But the other voice never stopped for an instant, even when the girl was speaking. Winston knew the man by sight, though he knew no more about him than that he held some important post in the Fiction Department. He was a man of about thirty, with a muscular throat and a large, mobile mouth. His head was thrown back a little, and because of the angle at which he was sitting, his spectacles caught the light and presented Winston two blank discs instead of eyes. What was slightly horrible was that from the stream of sound that poured out of his mouth, it was almost impossible to distinguish a single word. Just once Winston caught a phrase-'complete and final elimination of Goldsteinism'-jerked out very rapidly and, as it seemed, all in one piece, like a line of type cast solid. For the rest of it was just a noise, a quack-quack-quacking.


Ugh, I've had this conversation with strangers calling into customer support (back when I worked customer service) or strangers in the liquor shop where I now work (apparently, having NPR on the radio is an invitation to conservative strangers to browbeat you and act like they win some competition by openly refusing to have an actual conversation in good faith) or my own father.

Agreement or disagreement, it doesn't matter. What matters is that they keep going on and on and on, repeating talking points with minor variation over and over again. It doesn't matter what they say or for how long, the point is that they're talking, someone else is paying attention and, within a particular cultural context, people are either obligated to agree or obligated to play a scripted role in reinforcing beliefs being expressed.

Again, I sometimes wonder why "Duckspeak" doesn't enter into political discourse so much. Then, I realize that one of the best ways to encourage Duckspeak is to give a cue for more scripted response, more Duckspeak. Take any such accusation, from the general to the specific, and a particular script would almost auto-generate, reinforcing exactly what it needs to reinforce and making meaningful disagreement impossible.

But, it's important to note, yet again (and if only for my own benefit), that we are all guilty of this particular sin. No society is clean of this sin... Or, perhaps its more accurate to say that nobody is absent ways to think without thinking. For example...

As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving rapidly up and down, Winston had the curious feeling that this was not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man's brain that was speaking, it was his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck.


Winston Smith is, even if not openly, contemptuous, angry, oft-times incapable of seeing good in anything. This curious feeling that Winston has... I don't believe that it's best described this way. I do believe that this is the language to which Winston has reached to describe his feeling.

The theory I have of Winston Smith is something that comes from scant knowledge that I have from discussion in the comments section of a Twilight Deconstruction.

[Winston] meditated resentfully on the physical texture of life. Had it always been like this? Had food always tasted like this? He looked around the canteen. A low-ceilinged, crowded room, its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs, placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays, course white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes. Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything being greatly different. In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat, one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always been battered, rickety, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces, bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigaretes insufficient-nothing cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. And though, of course, it grew worse as one's body aged, was it not a sign that this was not the natural order of things, if one's heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one's socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?


I think there are at least two potential answers to that last question, each more likely than an ancestral memory.

One answer is the propaganda of Oceana. It keeps speaking to the improvements that do not match the reality. Everybody is supposed to be well-booted even though, in the previous chapter, we know that half the country goes barefoot. Everybody is supposed to be broad-shouldered men and buxom women, even though we know that most of the country is, well, average humans. This is a reality we live with today, though not due to government propaganda, but due to Hollywood and TV needing to sell movies and shows. They know you watch more when there are more attractive people and fewer that look like... me. (I'm not horrible, but if you're expecting six-pack abs, you're going to be wildly disappointed.)

This answer brings me to a point that I'll likely get more into when we get to Brave New World, that it you don't need the government to do this stuff for you. It can happen on an informal basis.

Let's take the message that one has to be a chosen one or born great in order to achieve anything. That's a pervasive message in our world, which becomes odd when we pair that with a stated belief that "anybody can be great". But, show contradicts tell. That doesn't have to be an intention to sate people with fantasies while, at the same time, encouraging them not to make efforts to accomplish their dreams because they aren't the identified-specials. It just has to be and the results are what they are.

It's not any better to say that it isn't personal or isn't intentional. But, there is that minor difference between Winston's dissatisfaction and inability to do anything about that dissatisfaction and our own.

The other answer is not mutually exclusive to the prior. Winston Smith has some of the attitudes that can be associated with clinical depression. This is the bit where my knowledge comes from conversations with people with more intimate experience than I.

Part of the reason Winston Smith detests everything so much is that he feels bad and he needs a reason. That bad feeling is pervasive, running through his every thought even though he's not in a situation in which he can express that. Even if Oceana would acknowledge the existence of clinical depression, it wouldn't be safe for him to consider the thought, because the only possible expressions would be thought-crime.

In attempting to explain himself to himself, he attributes his attitude and his feelings to the only other thing that is as pervasive, in his life, as his depression, Orthodoxy. His little rebellions, not thinking the right things (even though he hides that), remembering things others don't want remembered (again, still hidden), down to his diary and the big, bold recorded words of "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" are attempts at self-medication.

I should also note that this is the point where, in re-reading, it occurred to me that there is a way of reading 1984 in which the real story is much different than what's on the page. It's not a "it was all a dream" theory, but it is a theory that all that's happening is a layer of delusion and depression over the reality of Winston Smith's experiences as a person, in London, suffering from mental illness.

Under that theory, it's not that anything's better so much that the treatment of Winston Smith has more specified context and more specified accusation of how society treats mental illness. Somebody with better knowledge on the topic than I can help me out with whether or not that's a useful interpretation of the text.

We'll finish off the look at this chapter to note the girl with the dark hair gives Winston Smith some intensely curious glances. That'll be more worthy of discussion in the later payoff.
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