A very special post today…
Nineteen Eighty-Four (for Josh), 2012
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s sixth novel. It was published in 1949 and is the dystopian novel. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it is set on Airstrip One (roughly, the UK), and follows the travails of Winston Smith in a country tyrannised by The Party, an omnipresent and, thanks to their use of surveillance techniques, near-omniscient government. Through various means (the destruction of free expression, the deliberate impoverishment of language, all the usual propaganda devices such as television programmes, and brutal police intervention) The Party seeks to control the minds of the country’s populace. Many of the novel’s key concepts have entered everyday parlance, such as Big Brother, double-think, and thought-crime. And unfortunately a number of recent rulers seem to have seen the book not as a work of fiction, but as a handbook for effective government.
One of the aspects of the book that interests me most is Orwell’s invented language Newspeak used by The Party for its totalitarian ends. (Follow the link to a full description on Wikipedia.) The gist is: “to prevent any alternative thinking — “thoughtcrime — by destroying any vocabulary that expresses such concepts as freedom, free enquiry, individualism, resistance to the authority of the state and so on.” While, in the UK, we are not suffering anything on the scale of Newspeak, it’s interesting to see the way language is used to control the way we think (Michael Moorcock famously said that in the eighties alternative points of view were becoming increasingly difficult to put across because with the coming of Margaret Thatcher, the rhetoric had changed so radically). The photograph above is a sign which was erected on The Strand in London prior to the opening of the Olympic Games. While it doesn’t say much, it speaks volumes. Two words. No please, no thank you, no reason. This sign says, “I’m threatening you, and I’m not prepared to treat you as an adult. Do as you are told”. There’s no answer to the question, “What will happen if I don’t avoid this area?” And because of this ambiguity, should anything go wrong, the sign also leaves plenty of room for the owner of the sign to shift liability to the individual – “We did warn you.” Of course, I may just be reading too much into this…
A little while back, J.E. Lattimer from Arcane Arrangements , Mysteries of the Wasteland, and Fictional Machines got in touch to say he had an image he wanted to post should I blog about Nineteen Eighty-Four. As it turned out he had two. I am honoured to be the one to post these. Thank you so much, Josh – an incredible contribution (and a pleasure to collaborate with you). They capture the essence and meaning of the book far more clearly than my tangential effort. Enjoy…
1984-2 by J.E. Lattimer
* * *
For the next few days I will be naming my posts and photographs after Science Fiction novels.
As always thanks to John Pindar and Deanne who set this whole titling thing in motion. And to my collaborator and all-round cool dude, Richard over at CK Ponderings, who is naming his photographs after Dr. Who serials – with some great results.
I also highly recommend you visit Theodora Brack’s blog, People, Places and Bling, because it’s fantastic!! (and for her suggestion that we start a book club based on these posts). And you have to see Cheryl Moore’s Unbound Boxes Limping Gods for no other reason than it is unique and brilliant (and in some ways fits in with the current SF theme on here). Also, don’t miss out on Stevie Gill’s Killing Time With A Camera.