In Orwell’s novel Winston Smith, the protagonist, finds himself living in an inhuman world he cannot recognize as normal or natural. Aware of life in London before the Revolution and now experiencing the chilling new world of Big Brother and the Party in Oceania, Winston feels alienated, enslaved, and dehumanized. He has vague fond memories of the past he recalls from his childhood, but his current life as a government employee in the Ministry of Truth bears no resemblance to his earlier life. The threat of Thought Crime and Thought Police has deprived him of basic freedoms and human rights like freedom of speech and the right to marry. A new world order has revolutionized old traditions and dramatically changed the status of human life: “He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster.” The Cultural Revolution in 1984 has transformed society through three major assaults: the attack on the family by the manipulation of marriage, the destruction of the past by propaganda, and the disintegration of truth by verbal engineering. Political, cultural, and sexual revolutions—both then in 1984 and now in 2014—all utilize the techniques that operate in Winston’s world.
Winston lives unmarried, enjoys no family life, has no clear recollection of a mother or father, and cannot pursue courtship or romance. His mother and father mysteriously disappeared “in one of the first great purges of the fifties.” The Party through its Junior Anti-Sex League discourages marriage and family for its members to cultivate loyalty to the Party as a person’s primary allegiance. Winston’s secretive affair with Julia requires elaborate deception and cunning to conceal their forbidden romance from the spy networks and the Telescreen. For the inner circles of the elite ruling class and its civil servants for whom nothing in the past is venerable or esteemed, marriage has lost its cultural status and sacred nature, and only the lowbrow Proles who represent the ignorant masses perform the lowly functions of bearing children. Human beings have been reduced to creatures of the state rather than fathers and mothers and members of a family. To deconstruct the human family, then, makes room for the idea of government as the new family or church. As one of the speeches at the Democratic Convention in 2012 stated, “Government is the only thing we all belong to.” To subvert the family is to elevate the state.
Winston works at the Ministry of Truth that proclaims the three ruling ideas of the Party: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH—slogans repeated everywhere and throughout all the media. The Ministry of Truth destroys all historical records and fabricates its own version of the past. Whereas the Party publicizes that Oceania had never formed an alliance with Eurasia, Winston’s own memory recalls beyond a doubt that the two nations were in unity only four years ago. When the Party boasts that it invented airplanes, “He remembered airplanes since his earliest childhood. But you could prove nothing. There was never any evidence.” He explains the process of the deconstruction of history that contradicts even the living memory of witnesses who participated in the events: “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.” Winston identifies the psychological techniques of ideology revising and reinventing history to fit the political theory and agenda of the Party—a method known as “Reality control” or “doublethink” that alters the past to control the future and then manipulates the present to recreate the past. Human memory, concrete experience, and the testimony of eyewitnesses lose credibility before the official records published at the Ministry of Truth posing as sources of authority: “All history was a palimpsest scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.”
Winston also lives in a world that defies truth and violates reality by the manipulation of language, the technique known as verbal engineering that belongs to the specialty of Newspeak. The political purges of the Party to extinguish its enemies or critics by cruel deaths are named “vaporization”. People never die or are killed but change into “unpersons”. The words virtue and vice, moral and immoral, good and evil, and right and wrong disappear and assume designations like “ungood”, “plusgood” and “doublegood.” The entire range of meanings, nuances, and distinctions that communicate moral reality is leveled and impoverished by its meager vocabulary. If there is no word in Newspeak to convey horrific evils expressed in graphic phrases like “the ugliness of sin”, then the facts of ugliness and sin slowly disappear from human consciousness. As Syme explains this aspect of indoctrination to Winston, “Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.” Fewer words mean a loss of awareness, a failure to perceive all of reality, and a deadening of emotions. The agenda of Newspeak is to numb the mind and desensitize the feelings to blunt man’s understanding of the enormity of evil perpetrated in the name of Big Brother and “equality”. Newspeak utilizes the word “orthodoxy” to mean a blind adherence to the Party’s slogans, a version of today’s “political correctness”: “Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
These psychological techniques and methods of indoctrination persist in the ideologies that wage battle in the culture wars of 2014. The war against the normative meanings of the family and marriage ignores the past as if it did not exist or has no truth–the perennial wisdom of tradition, the unchanging teaching of the Church, and what Edmund Burke called “the collected reason of ages” and the moral knowledge found in the treasury “of the general bank and capital of all nations, and of ages.” Courts act as if words do not signify things–real things that correspond to unchanging facts–and call the Defense of Marriage Act “unconstitutional”, and they dismiss the majority votes in referenda about the legal meaning of marriage as of no weight in their deference to the state and subservience to ideology. Lawmakers that fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood ignore all the physical, mental, and economic problems these policies unleash with their anti-life and anti-family agendas. Deft verbal engineering redefines perversion as “gay”, killing as “termination of pregnancy” or “selective reduction”, disordered relationships as “same-sex marriages”, cohabitation as “living together” and lethal injections as “euthanasia”.
In all these examples a Big Brother, a Party, and an ideology with a will to power subvert the past, attack the family, and resort to the euphemism of tepid language to distort the horror of the evils perpetrated in the name of government with a Ministry of Truth and a Ministry of Love. A novel entitled 2014 would show the same pattern—a federal government utilizing courts, schools, and media to torture language, logic, and law to commit its own purges—all the victims of surgical abortions, abortifacients, euthanasia, disease, divorce, judicial tyranny and ideological politics, victims whose lives have become as dehumanized, brutalized, and alienated as Winston’s in 1984. His protest on behalf of his sanity and humanity resounds for all human beings in all ages whose dignity remains violable: 2+2=4, water is wet, and rocks are hard: “The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change.”