Shortly after the U.S. presidential inauguration I watched the movie “1984.” I last had watched it in, uh, 1984. Imagine that.
I normally only watch movies once because, well, there are just too many movies out there that I want to see, so I don’t consider it a good use of time to watch a movie multiple times.
In this case, though, I thought it might be appropriate to watch it again.
Even though I was 29 in 1984, I didn’t think much of “1984” other than as a science fiction dystopian novel. I never really thought that it might come about in my lifetime, but I think it’s here. Now.
I noticed that at the same time I was watching the movie, the book was zooming to the top of best seller lists everywhere, including Amazon and USA Today because of Kellyanne Conway’s famous quote about “alternative facts.”
While Winston Smith (John Hurt) is being tortured by O’Brien (Richard Burton), this dialogue takes place:
O’Brien (Richard Burton): How does one man assert power over another?
Winston Smith (John Hurt): By making him suffer.
O’Brien: Exactly. Obedience is not enough. Power is inflicting pain and humiliation. Otherwise you cannot be sure. Power is tearing human minds apart and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Power is not a means. It is an end. In our world there will only be triumph. Everything else we shall destroy. The past is forbidden. Why? Because when we can cut man from his own past, then we can cut him from his family, his children. There is no loyalty except loyalty to the party. There is no love except love of Big Brother. All competing pleasures we will destroy.
In another scene from the movie, O’Brien says that the purpose of war is not to win, but to continue.
I wanted to read some in-depth analyses of “1984” so I went searching and found this:
In 1984 the government of Oceania produces enough supplies to fuel itself. Winston says himself there is always a shortage of something, razor blades, bootlaces, etc. Yet Oceania ALWAYS has enough supplies and could, if the Party wished it, supply everyone and make everyone happy and comfortable. However they don’t, this is because war is used as a means to destroy the surplus. Think of it like they making a ton of shoes for their country. They give a certain number to their country but the rest they throw into the furnace. And then they continue to make more shoes, and repeat this over. War is no longer a means of victory, it is a means to control the population, through propaganda (by giving them something to cheer for, to campaign for) and to keep the world self-sustaining and self-destructing, to keep the world stable. That’s all 1984 is about, freezing the world at a certain point of time in history, essentially. What better way to ensure your government never fails than by “stopping time” and not allowing advancement.
I really do believe, and fear, that the current president is doing all he can to go to war with many other countries, including some of the longest and strongest allies of the United States.
This might be the only time in my lifetime where I seriously hope the United States fails.