Trump, Orwell and the carnage of lies

220px-ingsoc_logo_from_1984-svgLast year I read 1984 after we’d gotten back to Germany, in February. I was sick and feverish, and finished it in two nights. In the preface it said Orwell had lived through two world wars (he died shortly after the book was published, in 1950) and had been treated for psychological problems from the violence he’d been subjected to. There are rumors about why he chose the title of the book (was it a dark mirror to the year in which he wrote much of it, 1948?) but it doesn’t matter, it could be any year.

I was resolved to read more. I made a list of books, mainly classics. In a few months, I’d read Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and Orwell’s: and of course they all have the similar theme of dystopia, a word like Orwell’s book that’s found renewed interest in recent times.

The thing about myself I don’t like when I’m lazy about reading, and what I sense in those I know who don’t read, is it feels like it limits your world. Reading reminds you of all the ideas there are to be had (and our potential to create them), that’s limitless. I think those who don’t read kind of close themselves off, and their world is more simple, by their own design.

Orwell’s book is short, and painfully to the point. It really offers no hope in the way Hollywood sanitizes things, or pats us on the back at the end, with convenient resolutions.

Instead, it has a dreamlike quality but ends like a nightmare would, where you wake up realizing you died and then wonder if you should call in sick, and stay inside. It feels like a prophesy (Fahrenheit 451 does, too), and the best books are like that: which may be why dictators fear art and want to control it, they know it can change people’s thinking with its truths.

I did some reading about German history before we moved there a couple years ago. There was a very thick book called The German Genius written by a Brit, a love letter to German heritage, its premise that so much of German history and the great things they did got swallowed by the disproportionate attention to those awful years, the first half of the 20th century. The fact that Hitler put a mandate on art, and criteria about what topics could be covered in paintings, that it should be more for celebrating the nation’s heritage than dabbling in ambiguity. And how much they stole and destroyed.

The book made me proud though when it talked about the end of the war, and our former president Dwight Eisenhower, his reaction to touring the concentration camps: the fact he made his commanding officers do the same, though some questioned why. Eisenhower knew the power of the truth, a real carnage of lies, in what the Nazis left behind.

In Orwell’s book the state has gone beyond Fascism to complete control and succeeds by dehumanizing people, breaking their natural connections with one another, and does so on a platform of lies. Books make you think, I believe. If you haven’t yet, go read 1984 and think about our new president.

Categories: musings

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41 replies

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about reading and how our minds are being trained to take information in so differently than in the past. And what that means for history and politics and the ability to make connections between past and present – and how important it is that we are able to see those connections. This is a meaty post that sends my brain off on a dozen different tangents. A real jump start to the morning, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terrific! You are such a mighty thinker my friend so I’m happy you saw this. You’re one of those chess pieces that can move pretty much across the whole board. So go plan your move! And your morning. Bill


  2. Our situation truly is double-plus ungood. I know folks are doing a lot of comparison to 1984, but I encourage you to read Politics and the English Language. Helps explain A LOT of why Orwell wrote that book the way he did, especially the linguistic component. I only read the title of this, so I’ll come back and chat you up a bit more when I’ve actually read it.

    Rule, Oceania! Who are we at war with again?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sure I read 1984 way back when … maybe in high school or early on in college. But I haven’t since then. Maybe it’s time to read it again. Another book you may want to consider is It Can’t Happen Here … although I have to admit I wasn’t able to finish it.

    As for the value of reading, I’m not sure what to say, except that I’ve been a reader my whole life. I’m a much happier person with a book or a magazine in hand. I read fiction and non-fiction. Fiction for the stories and the imagination. Non-fiction to learn about things. Reading, to me, is the best way to educate and inform and also to entertain.


  4. My eleventh grade English teacher required we read the same book by Orwell–in 1984. While I don’t remember every detail, I was excited by the idea of living in a time that a writer had projected a story around. The idea of a Room 101 holding all the inner most horror stuck with me whenever I faced a basic 101 college course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah right, that room. Yes that was chilling and terribly real and multi-layered. Good on the teachers and schools that teach it. It’s been banned before and you can see why. Hard to swallow, the truth!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and 1984 were some of my favorite books growing up. I believed that these books in particular should be mandatory reading for all Americans (as well as watching the movie “Demolition Man” -because of its society). I felt that they served as well crafted warnings. Now they just feel prophetic.

    I tried to order a couple extra copies on Amazon yesterday for people I know, but the book was out of stock. It seems in light of the current political climate, an interest in 1984 has swept across the nation, but I wonder if the message of the book is coming too late.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah coming too late, good point…like global warming. Funny, I think they are reporting the book, cool of you to think to order it for friends, that’s good! I haven’t seen Demolition Man but it sounds interesting. Wonder if the song by the Police is related.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m going to read it tonight!


  7. Remember when Amazon removed 1984 from peoples’ Kindles? That sent a shudder up my spine. Turned out it was a copyright thing and not a censorship thing, but still.

    In Orwellian tradition, I’m calling the “alternative facts” that are popping up all over the place “phacts” now. At least they can be ID’d as suspect that way. People are welcome to add to them on Twitter under #phacts.


  8. My daughter’s HS English class just read 1983. She struggled with it. We want to watch the movie together but haven’t been in the mood yet. Bleak. The movie is the only thing I remember, though it was many years ago and I read the book prior to watching. For Fahrenheit 451, I listened to it on cd while exercising in our basement. Listening isn’t reading but it was an enjoyable experience. Any other classics recommendations?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your point about people not reading and shutting themselves off strikes me as so similar to Twain’s sentiments about people not traveling and remaining ignorant to the way others live. I understand that finances can restrict travel, especially around the world, but transcontinental travel should be, at leas to a degree, do-able. I totally agree and have been feeling guilt over the last two years (Garrett turns two in March) over my total lack of book reading.

    Censorship of the media and trying to turn facts into something one can debate, versus a shared reality, absolutely hits at the heart of 1984. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to rat cages on our heads, but stranger things have happened.

    A million times I endorse William’s recommendation to read 1984; slightly less than that, spend 20 minutes reading “Politics and the English Language.” Actually, I think I said that earlier, but am not going to delete that comment.

    Rough roads ahead, stormy seas, potholes and icebergs and the periodic denial of factbergs, too. Health and happiness to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m reading Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, which he calls a novel but is actually a memoir of his grandfather, or something in between. Alternative facts etc. It time hops incessantly, but the anchor is World War II and its impact on the grandfather and his emotionally scarred wife. In other words, familiar themes, and yet it feels fresh. Endless ideas, infinite experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I like your poetic, stream of consciousness style, and I also like when you take a step back to analyze, like you do in this one. Good points about reading, and laziness, lazy reading and thinking. Some very subtle points subtly stated. And that INGSOC graphic reminds me of The Wall’s marching hammers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey you’re right it does look Floyd-like! Thanks dudes for the feedback and glad you called out the subtleties. It was NOT subtle in the notes I took before, so happy it came out more staid.


  12. I’ve been meaning to go back and (re)read some of those classic dystopian novels – for obvious reasons. Did _Brave New World_ last year, but that’s as far as I got. I should put 1984 higher on my to-read pile.


  13. Indeed the Two Minute Hate is palpable.


  14. I read it in H.S. after to the states moving from PR …but I will read it again. Although it will not mend my broken heart, staying vigilant of what’s to come is essential.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Okay, confession time. I’ve not read 1984, nor anything by Orwell. (Please don’t throw me out of this blogspace! Please!)
    I wonder how much postmodernism, with its belief that truths (and facts?) are subjective, is to blame for today’s, “alternative facts.” (Not that I think Trump is intellectually adept enough to be postmodern in any shape, form, or fashion. Rather, I think he is likely just a whisper’s breadth from solipsism.)
    So.. I’ll add 1984 to my growing list of Gotta-Reads.
    I reckon a book report is expected, soon?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ed, no worries on that. There’s so many great books I haven’t read and probably won’t. The postmodern notion is interesting you raise, there. I think for me postmodern was more digging up reality and underlying truths than alternative ones, but I’m no academic in that area, or any area, for that matter. I was lucky to read 1984 I think though, so recently, as it’s so fortuitous now. Thank you for checking out my blog and I’ll do the same with yours, and your interview. I try to take my time with things (rarely succeed) but I will be there soon. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m late in responding here. But 1984 is one of my favorite books, and I recently finished re-reading it in light of all of the political wranglings going on today. It felt somehow reassuring to come back to this classic voice. It felt grounding. Orwell’s message is timeless, and more relevant now than ever. He was clearly tuned in to something that he knew would continue to affect the world after his time. It makes me wonder if he know just how accurate his vision of the future would be. It also makes me wonder about a world without Orwell and if we would have the framework to fully understand what’s going on now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey no worries on being late to respond, always love hearing from readers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts my friend. I read it late in life, just last year while living in Germany and during a fever, so it was especially bizarre. In fact I think I had a nightmare inspired by the book, last night. That’s good writing! Or something.,,curious if you wouldn’t mind sharing, how did you stumble on my blog? Do you recall? Best, Bill



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