Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This isn’t actually a book review, more a reaction to a book. You probably won't want to read it if haven’t read the book, it'll most likely spoil it for you if you ever plan to read it (and you should!).
I’ll layout the plot first – Winston Smith is a civil servant, working for the totalitarian government of Oceania. There are 3 states or countries in the world now, which are in a constant state of war – Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia. Oceania is ruled by Big Brother, an omnipotent figure that is to be loved without question.
After finishing this book I didn’t look back on it with a fond memory and I didn’t enjoy the read as such, though it wasn't labourious. After reflecting on it (I still am and probably always will) I can see that it’s changed my view on the world.
The concept of doublethink is interesting, let me quote Wikipedia (which quoted Goldstein’s book actually):
The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
– Part II, chapter IX - chapter I of Goldstein's book
I find this interesting as the other day I was thinking about Grace Bros. the department store. Myer in NSW used to go buy that name (as we all probably remember), but it’s slipped out of my everyday conscience as the brand of Myer has been drilled in. What if Myer the company decided to destroy all documented evidence of Grace Bros, the only evidence know is that of your memory. What is in our memory is our history, if I tell a story from when I was 15 years old to an audience now, but I can’t quite remember the details (and I know I cant) but I tell it anyway – I make it a little more colourful. The audience has heard that and now believe it. It is now part of my history in their eyes, it’s not a lie. This is how fickle the truth is and it doesn’t even matter?
Another theme is Freedom. I grew to appreciate my freedom as I have it now much, much more. Winston doesn’t even have the freedom to write a diary without severe stress. I can write a diary and even publish a blog with two idiots if I please, to say life is good is an understatement.
I’ll cut it here, thoughts?