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Well, well Orwell: Is T&T drifting towards “1984”?

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” – 1984, George Orwell

I was probably 15 years old when I first read George Orwell’s 1984.

At the time I had only conceived of Winston Smith’s dilemma as doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. He knew what was right and what was wrong. He knew of the manipulation and he could expose it. After all, this was fiction and the hero could escape the most intricately contrived conundrum. When I finished the book, I wrote off Orwell as a cynic.

It wasn’t until 2001 after 9/11, when allies became enemies, that I read the book again and begun to have a much clearer understanding of the reality of situation into which Orwell had placed Winston.

Photo: Quote from George Orwell's 1984.
Photo: Quote from George Orwell’s 1984.

The control exacted by the Brotherhood was not simply through manipulating institutions, it was in fact through the manipulation and control of ideas. The Brotherhood was an idea. It was an idea which seemed indestructible because it was left to those who were born in this idea to conceive of a way to escape from it.

By 2001 I had also started to take a much more serious interest in national politics and the description of the Brotherhood forced me to reconsider my previous dismissal of Orwell.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from 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 around 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 you begin to understand me.”

Photo: Quote from George Orwell's 1984.
Photo: Quote from George Orwell’s 1984.

A couple months ago I was looking for a copy of another text and my eyes became fixated once again on 1984. I removed the book from the shelf and thought I’d read it again to see what new truths could be found from Orwell’s opus. I had been grappling at the time with some internal conflicts about the realities of behaviour change and whether or not individuals really can make a difference or if in the absence of the collective our efforts are futile.

Fanon writes that “Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him. As long as he has not been effectively recognized by the other, that other will remain the theme of his actions.”

I have always felt that this “humanness” to which he refers is the struggle for equity. The struggle to have one’s self-consciousness acknowledged by others. And more so that in societies which are built on inequality, the desire to have one’s self-consciousness accepted is a continuous struggle – “the theme of his actions”.

And then there is Orwell.

“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.”

Photo: Quote from George Orwell's 1984.
Photo: Quote from George Orwell’s 1984.

Like Mona Lisa’s eyes that follow you, so too has Orwell followed my own intellectualisation of the spaces which I have occupied. As I approached the end of the book my understanding of the division between this fiction and the real world would be challenged on such a scale that I would have to concede to the existence of mystical forces.

As the room 201 fiasco unfolded and the Minster denied that he was in the video the following is the quote from page 216, which I had read only two days before, as Winston is interrogated by O’ Brien and tries to avoid being sent to Room 101:

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”

“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”


Editor’s Note: Please read this and other blogs from Akins Vidale at his own website, http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

About Akins Vidale

Akins Vidale
Akins Vidale lectures at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies and is a UWI graduate with a B.A. in History. He has served as the president of the Trinidad Youth Council and is the General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN). Read his blog: http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

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  1. And don;’t forget the Orwellian classic – Animal Farm!

  2. “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.”
    “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

    If there were ever two books that sum up T&T’s politics they must be 1984 and Fahrenheit 451

  3. We’re supposed to just accept it, right!

  4. Why is this reading like the “covert” PP manifesto???

  5. dammmmn good shot boy Akins Vidale

  6. And if Kamla is consistently inconsistent in her decision then it is deliberate. Nothing in politics is accidental..

  7. Thanks for the support Lasana Liburd

  8. Lol. Sometime it is hard to tell whether it is accident or design according to how much credit you want to give them.
    But Kamla seems to be happy to decide morality as whatever she decides on any given day. No consistency whatsoever.

  9. Drifting…….or on a set course????

  10. 1984 blew my mind. But I was somewhere between 13 and 16 when I read it. So I need to take another crack at it.

  11. I caught on to 1984 the first time I read it. Animal Farm was along the same lines. We have both in varying degrees of separation.

  12. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on 1984 again. Think I need a new copy actually.

  13. Oh God No!…. I will always hope not.. however, these catch words “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power’ is the reality of Real Politik….so is “no one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it!.. that’s another reality….. Orwell is a Realist, a Pessimist, he speaks what he sees….. I am very concerned at where we are right now, as a state, in my opinion, we have a counterfeit governance structure that one might suggest we’re heading towards a possible Failed state!… Will we recover from the blow by blows we have gotten from the PP gov’t since May 2010?.,.. these so-called honourable ministers and PM have bold-facedly looked at us and told us, “our eyes have lied to us”, “our ears have lied to us”… so giving up power is not feasible… instead “we shall do whatever it takes to retain such power”, by any means necessary…

  14. We’ve been Orwellian for a while…..

  15. Except in 1984, the government is extremely competent in what it does.

  16. For a second I thought perhaps it was “Animal Farm”, because for sure there some animals trying to run (and ruin) T&T.

  17. This is why literature and language is pregnant with possibility through satire and sarcasm.

  18. Job Reborn, I can think of more than a few pigs walking on their hind legs now. But I’m too much of a gentleman to single out Anil, Cadiz and the AG. 🙂

  19. It is a piece I really enjoyed from Akins Vidale. Thanks for sharing it with Wired868.

  20. Been saying this for years….Animal Farm too…

  21. Brill piece Lasana. Was deeply impressed.