[personal profile] wingedbeast
According to Orwell's thinking, the reason for the totalitarianism that's so much worse than what had come before was because people in power (whoever those people happen to be, it doesn't matter according to his theory) reacted for fear of losing that power in the face of the very real potential for total human equality. Different jobs need be done, but such vastly differing quality of life isn't, and with that loss of the need for such differentiation comes the question of, if the powerful aren't so different, why give them the power?

According to Orwell, there are four ways to lose power.

Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. These causes do not operate singly, and as a rule all four of them are present in some degree. A ruling class which could guard against all of them would remain in power permanently. Ultimately the determining factor is the mental attitude of the ruling class itself.

Again, I'm going to disagree with, at least, Goldstein. At this point I can't be sure as to how fully Goldstein is a mouthpiece for Orwell, himself, or how deliberately Orwell may be playing around with limited perspective.

This, particularly the bit about "allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being" strikes me as being less a reality of power-loss and more a perception. It's very much a common perception, but I wouldn't stake much weight on it being a useful guide.

With the state of things in 1984, we can skip over being taken from outside. The three nations are in a pattern of equilibrium, one that they need in order to maintain internal power. They may day-dream of victory over the other two, but will always sacrifice that in order to maintain power over those within.

The second danger, also, is only a theoretical one. The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never seem to become aware that they are oppressed. The recurrent economic crises of past times were totally unnecessary and are not now permitted to happen, but other and equally large dislocations can and do happen without having political results, because there is no way in which the discontent can become articulate.

Here's where there's a bit of a problem. Those three distinctions immediately become fuzzy. Because you look at what's being said, here, and you think about the common explanation given for activists for black rights in the 50's and 60's, communism. Were they a discontented Middle or were they a subset of The Masses?

It's certainly true that Goldstein articulates a perception, but it isn't true that he articulates a reality. Now, it's not merely because they are oppressed, but that's a part of it. Another part is the view that it's reasonable to believe a redress of that oppression is possible.

What's more, I'll repeat a point from Part 11 of this deconstruction. Language changes without our will. Kids will make their own words. Proles who aren't content with the Pornosec surreptitiously provided by the Party will write their own. The language of oppression will happen as people notice it happening, then confine it to a word so that they can notice more things happening.

I'm willing to give Orwell a fictional world in which, despite the eternal war, neither victory nor defeat are ever possible. I'm not willing to give Orwell this.

From the point of view of our present rulers, therefore, the only genuine dangers are the splitting-off of a new group of able, under-employed, power-hungry people, and the growth of liberalism and scepticism in their own ranks. The problem, that is to say, is educational. It is a problem of continuously moulding the consciousness both of the directing group and of the larger executive group that lies immediately below it. The consciousness of the masses needs only to be influenced in a negative way.

We can skip past the basic pyramid structure of Oceana, which flows from the potentially non-existent Big Brother at the top, as "a focusing point for love, fear and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt toward an individual han toward an organization." Immediately below him are the Inner Party as a brain, through the Outer Party as the "hands", and all over the Proles, for whom it doesn't really matter who's in charge.

In principle, membership of these groups is not hereditary. The child of Inner Party parents is in theory not born into the Inner Party. Admission to either branch of the Party is by examination, taken at the age of sixteen. Nor is their any racial discrimination, or any marked domination of one province by another. Jews, Negroes, South Americans of Pure Indian blood are to be found in the highest ranks of the Party, and the administrators of any area are always drawn from the inhabitants of that area. In no part of Oceana do the inhabitants have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled from a distant capital.

With the exception of the issue of the examination, I like what Orwell's doing here. He's taking the standard shorthands we've traditionally used for oppression (because they've been the standard forms that oppression has taken) and shuffled them aside. What's happening here isn't based on racism, classism, nepotism, etc. That isn't to say that those aren't bad things, but to say that those are beside the point. Even if you eliminate those evils (and the sexism that Orwell didn't list), what's left is still an evil all its own.

What you have is an oligarchy, power passed along and kept in a small group, with nobody having the power to achieve their way in from the outside. It's just left as its own sin.

Oceana has no capital, and its titular head is a person whose whereabouts nobody knows. Except that English is its chief lingua franca and Newspeak its official language, it is not centralised in any way. Its rulers are not held together by blood-ties but by adherence to a common doctrine.

At this point, we might as well have taken a drive through the Phantom Tollbooth. Somewhere, in England, there's a wardrobe that, if you walk through, will become a hidden portal to Oceana. In the real world, this nation broke apart to infighting long ago.

Ingsoc, at this point, isn't the philosophy of a political party. Heck, the Party isn't even a Political Party. Ingsoc is a religion and the Party is... a nondenominational church. And, one thing you can know, most, about nondenominational churches is that they give other nondenominational churches the side-eye.

I get what Orwell's trying to do, here. He's making The Party into a formless entity, so that one can't spot the weakness. That's something to keep in mind. But, speaking as someone who lives some seventy years or so after the publication of 1984, with seventy years of advancing history to study, as well as evolving knowledge of sciences including sociology and linguistics, the weaknesses become readily apparent.


Between the two branches of the Party there is a certain amount of interchange, but only so much as will ensure that weaklings are excluded from the Inner Party and that ambitious members of the Outer Party are made harmless by allowing them to rise.

This goes back to that examination. Allegedly, by testing and otherwise observing a body from birth to sixteen, you can get the understanding of their intellect, competence, ambition, etc. for their entire lives. And, that takes us well and truly into a magical world.

In order for Oceana to work as stated, people cannot be people. I get what he's doing. Eliminate the various flavors of oppression and what you have remaining is just a discussion on oppression itself. That's good as far as it goes. But, it's worth noting how much this discussion relies upon Orwell not having a great understanding of people.

That doesn't eliminate the value of 1984 as a novel or as a source for the language of oppression. It does mean that we should acknowledge that this nation has serious limits. It's political form seems to be distilled evil and, like other fictional forms that happens to take (Queen Bavmorda, Emperor Palpatine, Sauron), the real thing would collapse in on itself.

There are some cases of horrible governance in the world. But, be careful in assigning an attachment to evil for evil's sake.

Now, the rest of the chapter pretty much goes over the basic concepts we've gone over before. While I find no need to go over them again, myself, Orwell has a purpose for his repetition.

Though Winston hasn't learned anything new from this book, he does feel better. He has confirmation that he is not insane. His memories that contradict the constantly gas-lighting Party record? They're real. He is really perceiving real things. And, having been in that situation, I know what he's thinking. "THANK YOU!"

But, of course, he knows how what's being done is being done. He still doesn't know why.
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