I tried to read George Orwell’s 1984 once before, and I couldn’t get into it. I don’t know why I picked it back up a few days ago, but it called to me. I’m enjoying it much more this time around, and the concepts in it are really making my brain work.
I’m only about 75 pages in, but I’m going to discuss concepts from the book, so if you’re not familiar with it or don’t want me to ruin it, stop reading now.
Still with me? Good. Today I was reading the part where Syme excitedly discusses with Winston (the narrator) about the destruction of words. NewSpeak, the official language of Oceana, is all about decreasing the number of words. After all, Syme explains, if you have fewer words, it’s harder to commit ThoughtCrime. If you have fewer words to work with, it’s harder to think for yourself. Why have words like terrible, awful, rotten, evil, or bad, when you can just say ungood? Why have wonderful, amazing, beautiful, astounding or lovely when you can just say good, plusgood, or double plusgood? After all, isn’t it more precise to use those words than other ones that have shades of meaning instead of just one?
What a terrifying concept! Words naturally evolve, and certain words go out of fashion, seldom used. Betwixt has outgrown its usefulness, as has fortnight and mayhap. But the words aren’t banned; they still exist. I can use them if I want to. I can look them up, write them down. I’ve read those words in old speeches and historical romance novels.
In Oceana, the act of writing something on paper is subversive. Having thoughts of your own is subversive. I can write in my journal everyday, or not at all. I can blog about anything. Phil Robertson can say what he wants about religion and gay people, and no one will arrest him. People will argue about it on Facebook and Twitter, in person and by posting memes. Some support him, some are against him, and others don’t care. But every person arguing a point has the right to do so. No one will arrest anyone on any side of the argument.
The bleakness of Oceana is it’s least terrifying feature. The poverty and hopelessness are nowhere near as depressing as Big Brother controlling speech and thereby trying to control thought. Syme further talks about taking the classics and changing them into something acceptable, and once they’re changed, they won’t be anything like the original. His thought process is perfectly logical, presented reasonably, and utterly maddening to me.
I am anti-censorship. I support the right of people to present vulgarity as art or entertainment, because who am I to judge? Freedom means freedom; not just freedom for what I approve of. The only censorship I believe in is the right for parents to censor what their children watch/ read, and my right to choose, turn off the channel, ignore. Yes, there are things I dislike, but once censorship starts, where does it stop? People should be informed about what they read and watch, but then have the right to choose what they like and what they don’t. I don’t have cable. I don’t want to pay for Jersey Shore and Desperate Housewives, Honey Boo Boo, or Toddlers and Tiaras. So I don’t. I have Netflix, not cable. That’s my choice, and if you want to watch any of those shows, that’s yours. We both have rights.
I’ll take the right to think and speak and produce art in any form I choose over any type of outside censorship. If I don’t want to be controlled, then I don’t have the right to control others.
What’s wonderful about all this is that you have the right to agree or disagree with anything (or everything) I’ve said. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.