A New U.L.S. member, and a post on 1984 by George Orwell

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Underground Library Society

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle for her post on 1984 by George Orwell. With this entry, Robbie has joined the U. L. s., the Underground Library Society, dedicated to opposing book censorship and book banning. Please visit her blog Robbie’s inspiration .

If a society similar to that depicted in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury were to somehow come into existence and all books were banned, I would want to be part of any group involved in preserving books. If that meant learning a book off by heart, I would be prepared to do that. The big question for me would be what book to choose.

Out of all the wonderful and amazing books out there, my choice is 1984 by George Orwell. My over view of this book and my reasons as to why I believe it is still relevant to us are as follows:

1984 is a dystopian novel that was written years ago to portray a possible future for mankind as envisaged by the author in 1949. Why would anyone want to read this book now? 1984 passed more than thirty years ago so why would this book still be a worthwhile read today? The answer is that the content and ideas presented in this book are still relevant and it portrays a future that is still a possible outcome for humanity if the threats to our existing lifestyles and our planet are not resolved and harsh totalitarian measures need to be introduced as a last desperate measure to save our world. The threat of world destruction using nuclear weapons is much less likely now than in 1949, but modern people merely face new threats and obstacles which are also of our own   creation.

1984 is set in a world where the inhabited landmasses are divided into three significant superpowers, all of which are ruled by political parties where the systems of government are centralized and dictatorial and require complete subservience to the state by their citizens. The three superpowers are continuously at war and their populations live in a state of perpetual deprivation and fear of being bombed. The reason for this state of affairs becomes clear to the reader at a later stage in the book.

Winston Smith, the hero of the story, is a member of the Party and this requires him to believe in their political mandate completely and entirely. No questioning of Party doctrine is tolerated in any form and the party has methods of policing every aspect of their members’ lives including their thoughts and dreams. Every party member has an invasive screen, in the manner of a modern television, which the party can access to spy on the activities of its members. Party members are encouraged to suppress any sexual feelings other than the need to reproduce and children belong to clubs and groups where they are effectively turned against their parents and encouraged to spy on them for the state. In this way, the Party has broken down all the natural human bonds and relationships and turned people into lonely individuals with no way of forming into dissenting groups.

Winston is a thoughtful man with a high intellect whose job involves changing previously printed news articles and books to recreate the past in the manner dictated by the current wants of the Party. Nothing is safe from intervention by the Party, which is represented by a giant picture of “Big Brother”. Even the dictionary is continuously being re-written to delete unnecessary words and party members are encourage to use a reduced version of language know as New Speak.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
― George Orwell, 1984

He questions the society he lives in with its continuous deprivation and lack of emotions and relationships. He thinks that things must have been better in the past. Winston believes that there is a brotherhood of dissenters who are working to overthrow the party. He believes one of its member’s is an inner party member whom he has interacted with by the name of O’Brien.

Winston decides to start recording his thoughts and ideas in a blank book, an action that is against Party rules, in case he ever gets the opportunity to share them with O’Brien and join the brotherhood.

Winston meets a young woman called, Julia, who is also a dissenter in her own young and uncomplicated way. Julia does not share Winston’s belief that the Party could be overthrown and a better life for people re-created. Julia’s approach is to breach Party rules and take the freedoms she desires in a non-confrontational way. Despite their significant differences in age and attitudes, Julia and Winston become physically involved and fall in love. This is against Party doctrine where the marriage of couples has to be approved and would not be if the couple were strongly attracted to each other.

Winston and Julia both know that they are risking their lives with their affair and other behaviours and, despite knowing the harsh consequences, are prepared to take the chance.

 

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

― George Orwell, 1984

The reason I believe this book is still so relevant is because we are living in a world on the brink of massive climate crisis and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Drastic action by the governments of the world will be required in the foreseeable future to remedy these massive issues. How will governments do this without taking decisive steps to control population growth and consumerism? If you think about these problems, the world of Winston Smith doesn’t seem so impossible.

To take this thought process one step further, we may already been on the slippery slope towards a totalitarian government. Our current environment of increasing nationalism, nativism and opposition to immigration, indicate that many people of moving away from the inclusive new world order that world leaderships worked towards in the aftermath of World War II. Have we forgotten the horrors of this war and the devastation and inhuman activities that took place? I think this book may be more valid now than ever before.

“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, 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.”

George Orwell, 1984

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Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

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It Can Happen Here: Revisited

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Given the horrors of the mass shootings over the weekend, clearly inspired by bigotry, white nationalism, and racism, I decided to use this post again.

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In 1935, Sinclair Lewis, in It Can’t Happen Here, spoke to the idea that many Americans held that fascism could not occur in the United States of America. His book is satirical, frightening, and, unfortunately, still applicable.

1984 by George Orwell details the action of dictatorship set  in a dystopian future. Unfortunately, the lies of politicians as they deny their support for fascists and white power fanatics, illustrates Orwell’s understanding of how dictatorships can work.

Erik Larson’s nonfiction history book In The Garden of Beasts, 2011, detailed the experience of Ambassador Dodd in Berlin in the 1930s, during the rise and solidification of Hitler’s power, and it is a terrifying read.

We must always remember that it can happen here, that bigotry and hatred can lead to terrible results. That white nationalists and neo-nazis brought their horror and bigotry to Charlottesville, VA resulting in violence and death should make all Americans, regardless of political party, Democrat, Republican, or Independent, aware of what can happen. Since then other attacks on innocent people, both in the United States and around the world, continue to occur. The horror of the brutalities in New Zealand affects all of us. And now, we have experienced new horrors with the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. These new obscenities should continue to remind us of the dangers of racism and hatred.

We should all be frightened of the possibilities of such hatred. We should also speak to the singular lack of condemnation by President Trump of the neo-nazis and white power groups. As President, he should not have said that there were good people “on many sides” in Charlottesville, VA, and he has claimed that white nationalists are not a big problem in the world.

This problem is, however, enormous and terrifying. This is an issue of hatred, brought by those who worship hatred and the defeated, in World War II, obscenities of Hitler. The President should have, without equivocation, stated his condemnation of their actions and beliefs. And we must be aware that the fascist beliefs are regrowing in our world.

We must always remember that fascism, bigotry, hatred, and dictatorship can occur here as it can anywhere. As Americans, whose freedom was paid for in blood, by those who fought in World War Two, we must speak out against such injustice and horror. As members of the world community, we must condemn such actions and support the victims of this horror.

There should be no place for neo-nazis, white nationialists, and bigotry in the United States of America nor in the world. If we do not speak out, then we are condoning this horror. We must remember that silence is complicity in evil.

Quotations on Tyrants

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“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.”

                                                                  Mahatma Gandhi

 

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“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!”

J.K. Rowling Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

 

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“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

                                                                           John F. Kennedy

Quotations on Thinking

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“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

                                                                     Plutarch

 

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“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

                                                                   Christopher Hitchens

 

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“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

                                                                   Voltaire

 

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“A population that asks questions and analyzes deeply is the mark of an educated and free society; a citizenry that accepts blindly and embraces willful ignorance is the material for a dictatorship.”

                                                                 Charles F. French

Quotations on Freedom

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“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

                                                                        Benjamin Franklin

 

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“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”

                                                                       Abraham Lincoln

 

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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

                                                                       Nelson Mandela

Did He Really Say That?

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Once again, I find that I have to address a political situation in this blog, something I have not wanted to do. But this is so extraordinary that I cannot sit by and ignore it. Once again, Americans and the world need to speak out.

In a White House Lawn interview today, President Trump said something incredible, something  I never thought any President of the United States of America would ever say, in any context: “He [Kim Jong Un] speaks and people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

He later claimed that he was being sarcastic, but there is no place for that kind of dictatorial speech by an American leader. Has he forgotten that he was elected and not born into his position that the North Korean Dictator was? And to compliment one of the worst dictators in our world is unconscionable. The North Korean Dictator oppresses, starves, tortures, and kills the people of North Korea. How can the President show any kind of admiration for such a tyrant? How dare he show envy for the North Korean dictator?

There is no place in a democracy for any hint of a dictatorship. How dare he say this? Does he have no compassion? Does he have no decency?

The United States, along with its allies, fought World War Two to defeat dictators. Millions of people died in that war, and their memories must be honored by never–never–having a leader speak like a dictator.  Let us remember that we live in a democracy; in order for it to survive, our leaders and our people must honor that democracy.

And President Trump needs to understand that he serves the American People. The American People are not his people.

Later claiming sarcasm does not excuse this horrific statement. There is no excuse for this statement.

Americans must be aware of the risk of dictatorship.

How dare any President speak like a dictator?

Quotations on Freedom of the Press

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“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose”

                                                                 George Orwell

 

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“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

                                                                Thomas Jefferson

 

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“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

                                                                Benjamin Franklin

 

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“Let us never forget that those who oppress freedom by attacking the freedom of the press are neither patriots nor lovers of democracy.”

                                                                Charles F. French