Last time we talked about the Proles and I got... emotional in my reaction to Winston's judgment on their priorities. I don't want to be too dismissive, however, because the masses do have power and using that power is important. Just take a look at history of when people have had to use that power before.

The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. Before the Revolution they had been hideously oppressed by capitalists, they had been starved and flogged, women had been forced to work in the coal mines (women still did work in the coal mines, as a matter of fact), children had been sold into the factories at the age of six.

Now, this is told to us as lies of The Party of Oceana. But, it should be worth noting how this isn't all that far off. The Industrial Revolution, in both the US and England, wasn't the smooth sailing into worker's rights. That took unions and Democracy and, in America, a New Deal and trust-busting. I'm not so up on UK history of the time, but I can feel safe in saying that what didn't happen was an unfettered free-market economy just, on its own, making things better.
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We're into Chapter Seven, now. It's a small chapter, but it's dense, so we're taking it in parts again. It starts off with as much of an announcement of theme as we can get.

If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles

Proles are the non-Party members of Oceana. They don't work in any of the four ministries. They don't have political power. They don't make any of the big decisions. They are the bulk that any society needs in order to survive and, simultaneously, the people that history often forgets.

There's an old saying that I first encountered in the Discworld novel Thud. By approximation, it goes "It takes ten people with their feet on the ground to support one man with his head in the clouds."
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Chapter six is a, thankfully in light of the content, very short chapter. If you're reading along, gird your loins... or otherwise protect them. If you like any kind of emotion attached to your sex (love, lust, compulsive need, or even such emotional satisfaction as using masturbation as a means of wasting a few seconds), this chapter is not going to appeal to you. This will not be a pleasant experience.

That's not to say that you shouldn't read this chapter. Absolutely you should. It is a necessary discomfort for reading this book, for understanding Oceana, and for examining how a society can use sex (or something with similar emotional need for most people), against its own members. I'm just noting, ahead of time, that your reaction to this chapter will be a great deal of discomfort.
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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.
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I'm going a bit back-and-forth with this chapter, for reasons of theme. Last time, the theme was survival strategies for Oceana (and, in general for those of us who are just trying to get along). Now, let's talk about Newspeak, one of the rarely referenced elements of 1984. Doublethink gets referenced often... and often... and often... and, in this political climate, not without good reason.

Duckspeak gets mentioned a bit (again, not entirely without good reason). And, we all love to talk about Room 101... or room 102 (That reference will be funny when we get to that part of the book, really.)

Let's talk about the basic concepts and intent of Newspeak, as understood by Syme.

Syme notes that Winston doesn't really appreciate Newspeak. That's understandable. Winston's in his middle ages, so it'd take him some effort to adapt. Put in the High School analogy, he's not one of the cool kids and isn't able to internalize the language of the cool kids. It's also because Winston Smith, the rebel who's only cause is his own mind, resists the intention of Newspeak.

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

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Chapter 5, I've been looking forward to this one. In the previous chapters, we mainly have characterization for Winston Smith and for Oceana in general. Yes, we have Mrs. Parsons, but she's less a character and more just an example of the put-upon-ness of parents in Oceana. The narrator had far more interest in her husband than in she, herself.

In this chapter, my view of Winston Smith as something of a burnout-kid only gets more credible (at least in my mind, feel free to argue). But, here's where I get to express my view that Winston Smith isn't so much a whole person as he is a survival method in Oceana.

Winston Smith tries to maintain something of himself, his own mind, some means of retaining some measure of control over his own existence. It's only in these small ways, at least so far. He's no rebel. He's just like a lot of us become in our teens, becoming cynical about things we can only barely comprehend. That cynicism is... not always wrong.

But, let's meat Syme, who represents another survival method in Oceana.
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While considering my thoughts on Pornosec, I realized that Comrade Ogilvy, Winston's fictional hero in place of praise for the FFCC, is ripe for analysis as well.

So, let's look at the dead person that Winston conjured out of thin air, faked photographs, and Oceana's core values.
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There was even a whole subsection-Pornosec, it was called in newspeak-engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.

I regret not having read this earlier. As I stated before, I thought that 1984 was something that people read in order to reference. It is certainly valuable for that. It's also an engaging read. Right here, with the notions of Pornosec, I regret, even more, not having read 1984 earlier. Had I read this a couple decades ago and caught this one line... I might have done my Senior College Thesis on the question of just what is Pornosec and what constitutes "the lowest kind of pornography."
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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.
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Chapter Three will go in one post. Part of the reason is that this entire chapter is all focused on Winston Smith. Nobody else really does anything. I'm not even complaining. This is a well done chapter, a compelling read where the only thing that happens is Winston Smith dreams, wakes up, exercises, and remembers things. Replace "exercise" with any kind of regular ritual and everybody does that until they don't wake up anymore.

Make that a compelling read and I, as someone who likes to imagine himself a writer and someone who likes to read, am impressed. I'm impressed.

We start with a dream that might be indicated by memory or might not be. Winston Smith, by his memory, was ten or eleven when his mother disappeared. That's the word used, "disappeared". Considering the context, it's entirely likely that he doesn't know why his mother or his sister disappeared, only that nobody spoke of either after that point.

In the dream..
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I've been hard on Winston Smith, so far. And, I will continue to be so. In part, I'm arguing against the notion that Winston Smith is, in any way, more whole a person than anybody else in the text. A more important part is that Winston Smith is already a victim of Oceana, or at least of similar thought-control techniques to those used by Oceana.

We approach Winston's perspective and his flaws from three decades after the time in which the book is set, which is still approximately three and a half decades after it was published. Winston Smith comes at his world with a heavy amount of isolation. Even in that time of "freedom" he barely remembers from his childhood, much of a person's identity was chosen for them, far ahead of time.

Which isn't to say that 1950s London was just as unfree as Oceana, of course. But, he's not exactly coming at this from a place where anybody's helped him view other people outside of the life-scripts to which they had been taught, from early age, to adhere. And, that's in a society that genuinely wanted him to form connections to other people.

Oceana doesn't. He's left with only his imagination and an imperfect memory.
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It took us five parts, but we got out of Chapter 1 and now we're into Chapter 2, where Winston Smith gets to meet people and interact with them in a manner not entirely bound up in his own mind.

A knock on the door, plus panic, plus a desire not to smudge wet ink in his diary equals accidentally leaving the book open to the words "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" repeatedly written and in full display. Luckily, it's not the thought-police or anybody interested in entering his apartment, but his neighbor.

It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs' was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party-you were supposed to call everyone 'comrade'-but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face.

Meet Mrs. Parsons. Not having read all the way through, yet (at least not since my first read), I don't recall if she gets much mention beyond this. Tom Parsons, her husband, will. But, she won't get much, if anything, beyond this scene. (Note: I may be wrong, so this is me putting, in writing, something for you to look back and mock me over if my memory was faulty here. I promise not to go back and edit it away... But, I could go back and... you know what? We get to that part when we get to it.)
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Okay, let's see if we can finish off the first Chapter, here. (This is why these deconstructions take so long.)

We're at the end of those Two Minutes of Hate, which seems to be both an obligation and a manipulation that's nigh-impossible to resist. And, while I said the Two Minutes of Hate represents something to be found in all cultures, it's never there just for its own end.

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine-gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seat. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio'd, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitols:


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Trigger Warning for those who read the book: There's two sentences of a fantasy and those two sentences are stomach-churning. I won't be repeating them, but I will acknowledge them.

That said, even the rest of this is going to get disturbing. It's about hate, the influence of the two minutes of hate, and about how even those of us who imagine ourselves to be above it all, like Winston Smith, are easily swept up. It is a Dystopian novel and those are supposed to be disturbing. So, well done, George Orwell, well done.
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The Two Minutes of Hate

There's a lot to unpack with The Two Minutes of Hate. Let's start with the general concept. Two minutes, every day, in which every citizen of Oceana is to spend targeting the enemies of Oceana, symbolized by one person, with their hatred. This specific hatred of this specific figure and all the figure represents is an integral part of patriotism to Oceana.

The parallels come easily. Communists and their sympathizers. Terrorists and their sympathizers. The gays. The devil. And, as I think Orwell was well aware, antisemitism.

1984 is about methods of control that you might not notice if you didn't have the language for it. And, Two Minutes of Hate is a good language to use. Hatred galvanizes, distracts, and tests. Because, within the culture, there's always a test to make sure that you have enough hate for the hatred. And, we might not notice because we put it freaking everywhere so that it's practically invisible.
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We could go into more characterization of the society Winston Smith lives in (and we will), but I think we get the point enough that we don't have to focus directly. The story seems to want to use Winston Smith as a means of characterizing Oceana and this world, but let's let that be secondary for a moment.

We get a bit more characterization on the world, itself. The "Victory Gin" and "Victory Cigarettes" (labeling things "victory" was a common thing during WWII, if you grew your own vegetables in order to do with less for rationing to provide food for soldiers, you were growing a "Victory Garden") are of low quality, but Winston uses them in order to build courage for his, to date, greatest act of rebellion against an oppressive system.

He opens a diary. "This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death or at least twenty-five years in a forced labor camp."

This is a very small thing. It's a very small thing to risk such a big punishment. But, it's also a very small, very calculated risk. One taken only because of a set of unusual circumstances provided him with a telescreen that had a blind spot. He'd had the actual book for a while prior but hadn't worked up the courage to even grab that "Victory Gin" to work up courage until just recently.
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Dystopias are on my mind for various reasons, not just political. Whether in fiction or in political, we reference ideas of various dystopias. The three books that make, I argue, the biggest impact on our discourse and our entertainment are 1984, Brave New World, and The Handmaid's Tale. So, I intend to go through a deconstruction of each of these in turn.

I'd read Brave New World first. I was in High School and I found it and I started reading and... well... I enjoyed it. It spoke to me for reasons that I'll get into when I get to Brave New World next. I first tried to read The Handmaid's Tale in college, for a class. It wasn't until much later, having saved my copy, that I gave it a full read. I've never been on the right, but I will say that, for someone as privileged as I was, I needed to take in a bit of education before I could see any truth to what The Handaid's Tale had to say.

For a long while, I thought of 1984 as a book people read just so they could make the references. To be clear, if only that, that's still valid. It's good to have a convenient set of references to make for linguistic short-hand. And, upon reading, I can say that it's a good read, but still valuable as a textbook of terms and language in story-form, one that gets its value from being a good example of storytelling.

I'm using the Nook version, in case anybody wants to read along (and is actually going to follow this).
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