Welcome to Part Twenty-Three of the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time: it's George Orwell's classic novel of a world in which the citizenry are under 24/7 surveillance. Imagine that.
In tonight's episode of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith reads Julia further highlights from Emmanuel Goldstein's political tract The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Since we too are increasingly ruled by "oligarchical collectivism", it's no surprise that many of Mr Goldstein's insights right familiar:
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.
Much of life in the twenty-first century involves disbelieving the obvious - that, say, your little girl is wasting her time training for the 400 meters because 6'2" Irving has decided to transition. Getting someone to disbelieve the obvious used to require some effort, but in our time millions have become accustomed to it, to the point where in America's cities they cheerfully re-elect the party that has reduced those municipalities to economic ruin and a lot of literal rubble.
Meanwhile, we blame it on the iniquities of the past, whether Confederate generals or (to the airbrushers of the San Francisco School Board) Dianne Feinstein. That's straight out of Orwell, too:
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.
The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison... This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.
The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version IS the past, and no different past can ever have existed... It is also necessary to REMEMBER that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to rearrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to FORGET that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, 'reality control'. In Newspeak it is called DOUBLETHINK.
If you've only joined our club in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, H G Wells' The Time Machine, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, plus Kipling, Dickens, Gogol, Kafka, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, John Buchan, L M Montgomery, Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo and more), you can find them all here in an easily accessible Netflix-style tile format.
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