Homage to George Orwell

22 04 2008

Forget about Muhammad, Abraham, Jesus or Nostradamus: none of them was nearly as good a prophet as George Orwell (1903-1950). Don’t believe me? Let us take a look at what he said in his novel “1984” (written in 1949):

“These three superstates are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century… This is not to say that either the conduct of the war, or the prevailing attitude toward it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners that extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal…

The primary aim of modern warfare… is to use up the products of the machine without raising the standard of living… From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations…

But it was also clear that an all-around increase in wealth threatened the destruction-indeed in some cases was the destruction-of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motorcar or even an airplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction… Such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance…

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking into the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent…

In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favored groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another… The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty.  And at the same time the consequences of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival…

War, it will be seen, not only accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labor of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society…

War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair… waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.” 


Let us now examine how his words relate to what the world has become in the years after his death. Take a look at the first paragraph: the superstates are permanently at war... Orwell witnessed the first four years of the Cold War, which would last another forty years. However, despite being very long, the Cold War was not permanent, which seems to indicate that our prophet George was mistaken after all. But was he? Well, only partially, since the Cold War has now been replaced by our current and fake War on Terror, which is also meant to last almost indefinitely (seven years already…). Moreover, both these wars were, or are, not as “desperate and annihilating” as the wars in the early decades of the twentieth century, yet war hysteria is indeed continuous and almost universal.

So the first paragraph was remarkably prescient. What about the following ones? It is hardly disputable that war shatters into pieces, sends to the depths of the sea or pours into the stratosphere the products of human labor. But is that actually the aim of those who encourage war? I think it is. As I said in my previous post, war is extremely profitable for our elite rulers. For them, it is the perfect tool to perpetuate themselves in power, to weaken us while they become even more influential. Not surprisingly, then, these war-mongers do everything in their hands (including using the mass media they own to brainwash us and sponsoring acts of terrorism like 9/11) in order to frighten and outrage us to the point where we are ready to do anything in order to fight our perceived enemy. At this juncture, our alienation is readily used by our puppeteers to drive us into war and into our own destruction. The whole process keeps us permanently on the brink of poverty, which in turn guarantees that we don’t become too intelligent and therefore we do not rebel. As Orwell puts it: a hierarchical society is only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. And, as the old Romans knew: Divide et Impera. 

Finally, the chronic state of paranoia in which we live makes us believe that the wars we fight are in our best interest, which provides, in Orwell’s words, the emotional basis for a hierarchical society: Not only are we enslaved, but we are happy about it… And we are likewise happy about handing over all our power to a small caste, which seems the natural, unavoidable condition of survival… (I hope I don’t need to remind you of the Patriot Act, the “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a.k.a. legalized torture, for the Guantanamo prisoners, who, by the way, have not been proven guilty of any wrongdoing, or the disregard for Habeas Corpus, all of which have been marketed to the U.S. public as a necessary sacrifice to guarantee their personal safety). So it is hardly deniable that, as Orwell predicted (surely because the pattern was already visible in his time and even before), our current rulers and their public relations staff are successfully manipulating us into wanting to do those very things they want us to do, even when, as is usually the case, these things are completely against our own interests.

In summary, George Orwell, in 1949, already knew much of what was going to happen to us. How come, then, that everything has caught us so much by surprise? As the saying goes, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Let us therefore learn our lessons now so that we don’t have to relive some of the most infamous episodes of human history…





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