“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing”
How is it, that we stand by and allow the unwinding of our social mores and norms in our society by those who disregard the most human principles of mankind? We observe the slow degradation of our humanity as our thoughts, emotions and actions are modified over a period of time with a campaign of indoctrination through fear segregation and the alteration of facts to alternative facts, which supports new thoughts and ideas and finally grants power.
“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’s book Nineteen Eighty Four brings to life a futuristic world where he creates a post-apocalyptic totalitarian society controlled by the Party. The Party rules by fear and terror by manipulating the past, in turn, altering the minds of the individuals so that no one questions their authority.
“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth” (…) “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”
In creating a focus of conspiracy theories by certain individuals against the Party and the ‘People’, such as Goldstein, now an enemy of the state, Orwell has managed to portray a collective reaction and response from people, during a compulsory ‘Two Minute Hate’ demonstrating the hatred that is embedded within this society.
“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in”
During the demonstration, there is no obligation to participate, however, people find it impossible to avoid throwing away human decency and acting in a way that is lower than basic humanity. The name of the demonstration, the ‘Two Minute Hate’, is testimony to the ideology that the Party is wishing to instil in the people’s minds. It has been designed to reduce all human emotion to a single feeling of anger and hate – rather than have the hate being aimed at the Party, they have falsified a revolution to facilitate the public to direct the distaste and hostility towards any intrinsic ideas that follow in Goldstein’s legacy. The Two Minute Hate enables the Party to recognise anyone whose humanity has not been modified, and anyone who manages to uphold their morality. Winston, the protagonist, although has ‘participated’ in all his duties to the Party, has not succumbed to the Party’s influence and remains an outlier. This is apparent when;
“In front of him was an enemy who was trying to kill him: in front of him, also, was a human creature, in pain and perhaps with a broken bone. Already he had instinctively started forward to help her.”
This totalitarian system has been able to dehumanize all to a state where people are not only afraid of every other human being, they are even afraid of their own children. The Party is not only attempting to alter opinions but rather, through manipulation of the past, they cause the mind to have self-doubt on the indisputable facts of the universe as it was, ensuring that individuals accept the new reality presented to them. This constant degradation of the mind and what it believes allows an environment for people to throw away their civility and reason, diminishing society which in time dehumanize them;
“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command”
Evidence of the dehumanization of a people is portrayed as Winston passes a woman in the street. The woman is no longer able to attempt a pleasant yet meaningless greeting because she no longer sees Winston as a human, but rather another animal to be wary of. This characterizes the primal instincts of the woman who has now been reduced to the instinctive behaviour influenced by the party.
“The women studied him in hostile silence as he went past. But it was not hostility, exactly; merely a kind of wariness, a momentary stiffening, as at the passing of some unfamiliar animal”
The frightening aspect about the shift in our perception on reality and the move away from our basic human principles as a result of the insidious manipulation of reality in an environment of fear, for the gain of power, is not unique to us throughout history. We have seen this in reality during the second world war with the Nazi’s, the rise of communism in Russia and now Donald Trump in America, all in the pursuit of power, yet we still seem to be incapable of preventing its virulent nature. As George Orwell has quoted once before in his book Animal Farm, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (John Dalberg-Acton 1887)