[personal profile] wingedbeast
Chapter four, all in one go. So far, it seems like the reason I can get through these chapters so fast is that, technically speaking, not much is happening. There are bits of memory and bits of every-day life that is so every day that it could, literally, be any prior day in Winston Smith's life. That first chapter had specific things happening, things that made that day unique. It's pretty engaging for a chapter in which nothing much happens.

And, it's an amazing advertisement for Winston's job. Seriously, I want this job. I don't want the society in which this is an actual job that one could have, but I want this job.

Before that, I want to talk about the additions Orwell has made to the English Lexicon. So far we've seen phrases that somebody who hasn't read 1984 has still heard and probably understands the meaning, if not the reference. Two Mintues of Hate and Doublethink both apply under the the umbrella-term "Orwellian". The concepts are too pervasive, such that they might be as invisible as water to a fish... that suddenly learns the word "wet".

Let's add to that the Memory Hole.

... within easy reach of Winston's arm, a large obling slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

Orwell has a strength, in 1984. That strength is taking the intangible elements of a culture and putting them in concrete terms. Right here, Orwell has given physical form to the tendency of cultures to forget the inconvenient, particularly that which is inconvenient to the power structure. In The Ministry of Truth, Records Department, the Memory Hole exists to eliminate any potentially inconvenient record of what Winston both does and does not do.

Beyond that, well, it's all too easy to apply that, today, to the frequent charges against Hillary Clinton for storing emails on a private server that could have been hacked. Or, more generally to America, it's incredibly easy to apply that to the inconvenient fact that the Puritans that became Pilgrams already had the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit. It was the freedom from other people who weren't practicing their religion that they didn't have.

These inconvenient bits, the bits that don't match how we view ourselves, are so easily lost, nigh forever as we repeat our preferred narratives, down a Memory Hole... sometimes intentionally.

We get a few examples of Winston's job. But, there are two important pieces to keep in mind. First, the generality of what Winston does.

Winston, via pneumatic tube, receives the instructions. They refer to misprints and errors and mistakes made by prior printings, things that need to be corrected. In reality, they refer to inconvenient bits of history. The prediction that there won't be any reduction in chocolate rations becomes a prediction that it will become necessary. The prediction that one front would be quiet and the other would see action is reversed, so that Big Brother predicted only what would happen. The estimated output of boots is altered to meet the on-record output.

(Again, my conversations with Creationists spring to mind, as it was only a while after geological strata were discovered that layers in the dirt became a prediction of flood goelogy... One that doesn't even fit the available science of how such a flood geology would work.)

It says something about Oceana that they find it easier to go back and alter the prediction of boots to more closely match a lower (though still probably fictitious) number of boots than to simply choose the better-matching lie, in the first place, about the number of boots.

But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty's figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely teh substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connection with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version.

The function of Winston's job is as follows. He receives, through those pneumatic tubes, word of a "mistake" or "error" to be corrected. (If he was properly doublethinking, he would believe that, too. Instead, he's well aware that he's fabricating a more convenient past, in which the Party has never erred and Big Brother always knows the truth.) Winston takes the correction, reviews the appropriate magazine article or novel or comic book or what-have-you (anything which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance), and figures out the appropriate replacement.

The second thing you have to understand is that Winston likes his job... and I don't blame him. It has clear instructions, sometimes can involve the annoying tedious work, but gives him, every so often, the opportunity to be creative. He lives in a world where there are fiction-writing machines and songs written by kaleidoscope contraptions. So, that opportunity isn't very big. Considering the rest of Winston's life (no wife, no children, no real attachments at all and an Oceana that doesn't want him to have attachments stronger than an attachment to The Party), that's no surprise.

But, what I find surprising is that I might find his job enjoyable, myself. Yes, there's the boring parts, but those are parts with clear understanding of what to do and then there's the other part, the part that has creativity and invisible competition.

He unrolled the message that he had set aside earlier. It ran:

times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling

In Oldspeak (or Standard English) this might have been rendered:

The reporting of Big Brother's order for the Day in the Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to non-existent persons. Re-write it in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing.

Winston read through the offending article. Big Brother's Order for the Day, it seemed, had been chiefly devoted to praising the work of an organisation known as FFCC, which supplied cigarettes and other comforts to the sailors in the Floating Fortresses. A certain Comrade Withers, a prominent member of the Inner Party, had been singled out for special mention and awarded a decoration, the Order of Conspicuous Merit, Second Class.

Three months later FFCC had suddenly been dissolved with no reasons given.

Only supposition on the various reasons why they would, as an organization, be, as the book puts it, vaporized. Corruption, incompetence, too popular for leadership comfort, or just because, for whatever reason, it's more convenient for The Party, that they never existed in the first place. Heck, the Party doesn't even have to have competent reasoning... or reasoning at all. This isn't mentioned in the book, but it's entirely possible that the entire reason for disappearing the organization was as one more show of power, one more reminder of what the state can do to the individual. (That certainly makes sense considering what we learn of the state's ultimate motivations toward the end.)

This is an important assignment, rewriting such a high-profile piece. Winston supposes that it was given to several persons, just like himself. It couldn't be trusted to a single hand. But, to assign it to committee would mean that people would have to agree, amongst each other to some degree, that they were fabricating something. There's no way to know who his competitors would be, though he suspects a neighboring desk-jockee (my words, not the book's), Tillotson.

At the same time, he gets to be creative, takes pleasure and satisfaction in that creativity and accomplishment. Because, well... he can.

He might turn the speech into the usual denunciation of traitors and thought-criminals, but that was a little too obvious; while to invent a victory at the front or some triumph of over-production in the Ninth Three-Year Plan, might complicate the records too much. What was needed was a piece of pure fantasy. Suddenly there sprang into his mind, ready made as it were, the image of a certain Comrade Ogilvy, who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstnaces. There were occasions when Big Brother devoted his Order for the Day to commemorating some humble, rank-and-file Party member whose life and death he held up as an example worthy to be followed. Today he should commemorate Comrade Ogilvy. It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Ogilvy, but a few lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence.

I realize I've taken on a task of being harsh with Winston Smith, and pointing out that, despite his own opinion on the topic, he's not better than anybody else. For all Winston Smith's contempt for women, children, his peers (we'll get into that), he's a big part of the evils of the very orthodoxy that he disdains them for believing. Here he is not only doing the job, but taking pride and pleasure in doing the job well.


But, come on, it's a good job! Yes, yes, yes, it's a job in service to a great evil. But, it seems to have a relaxed pace, clear instructions, allowing him to express himself creatively. For some of us, aside from all that service-to-an-evil-regime bit, this is a dream-job.

Oh, by the way, there's something mentioned in this chapter that I have to explore more, because it deserves some thought (probably far more thought than Orwell gave it). I intend to write a small Part 9.5 on the concept of Pornosec... because I find myself fascinated by the concept of state-created porn in such a world.
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