Is George Orwell’s 1984 too optimistic?

This isn’t the first article I’ve posted that’s made up entirely of someone else ideas. Some people might not appreciate my philosophy on originality (which I appropriately procured from someone else). Most of the content of this post comes from George Orwell’s 1984. I’m not in the habit of letting other people ghostwrite my blog but hey, it is my blog, and I like to post things that impact my life and help me learn. Maybe you can pick up a little something too. If you’ve ever read George Orwell’s 1984, you should. If you decide not to, that’s ok. But you at least better read this excerpt. Your future, and even your life, depends on your understanding it.

I’m not going to comment on the excerpt below; I’ll just let you process it for yourself and let it produce in you whatever it produces. The only thing I’ll do is set up the scene: O’Brien, the antagonist, is a Party member who has “detained” Winston, the protagonist, and is about to work him over.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this: The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”

“We are the priests of power,’ he said. ‘God is power. But at present power is only a word so far as you are concerned. It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery”. Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone — free — the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter — external reality, as you would call it — is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.”

“There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.”

– O’Brien to Winston Smith
George Orwell’s 1984, Part 3, Chapter 3 (abridged)

Do you think George Orwell’s 1984 too optimistic or am I too cynical?

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