1984.1 (Surveillance) January 8, 2012Posted by FCM in authors picks, books!, pop culture, radical concepts.
Tags: george orwell
i had the opportunity to read orwell’s “1984″ recently. i dont remember if i ever read it before, having blocked out most of my junior high school years, but i can say for certain that this time was my first time reading it through a radical feminist lens. as everyone probably knows, 1984 is about a “dystopian depiction of totalitarian society” and is supposed to be SCAWY! disturbing! cautionary! tale! my response: meh. welcome to my world, dood. and, mary daly tells it better.
as everyone probably knows already…this classic tale is told from the perspective of some dood who fancies himself a part of the resistance to an oppressive totalitarian regime that places extreme controls on its citizens in both public and private. this, even as he works every day creating propaganda including destroying the past, and rewriting history to serve the interests of the state. literally rewriting it, as in changing facts, and destroying all existing evidence that things didnt really happen the way the state says it did. once the proof of the actual history was destroyed, like first person accounts for example, where the witnesses were exterminated and the story rewritten, it was impossible to prove or even credibly maintain that it happened the way it really happened, *or* that there was any fraud afoot. prove it! and you cant. (more on “the memory hole” to follow in part 2. mary daly does *that* better too).
in the beginning, its our doodly protagonist’s *thoughts* that are allegedly revolutionary, and he very slowly and timidly moves to action which includes, apparently, taking an oath of willingness to do “anything” for the resistance, including perpetrating extreme violence without asking any questions about it (but without ever actually doing anything at all — srsly, absolutely nothing happened in this book); and having PIV.
wait, its revolutionary to have PIV? when literally EVERYONE is already doing it under the current regime and they always have? oh, okay! and its especially revolutionary when the woman’s *thoughts* about it are positive. talk about thought police. are women ever going to stop falling for that one? i hope so.
anyway, the surveillance aspect of orwell’s frightening totalitarian regime made me laff and laff. as *women* are being surveilled constantly by men, and we live under a frightening totalitarian regime run by men, understanding that this story was intended to be fiction, and a uniquely cautionary tale that was nearly inconceivable to everyone until orwell put it to music struck me as funny mkay? hello! women cannot get away from men. many women sleep with men, men are there all the time, all the time (even in orwell’s world, you were safe from scrutiny in the dark, as long as you were quiet. not in womens world! or, not in het womens world anyway).
when orwell wrote about the “telescreens” that were present in every single room, even the bathroom, he may as well have been talking about womens reality of being watched, scrutinized and thought-policed by men and patriarchal institutions 24/7. in the case of the telescreens, it was very scawy that there was no way of knowing when you were being watched and when you werent, (meaning, whether an actual person was reviewing the video or not) so you had to assume you were being watched at all times and act accordingly. so, in the interest of self-preservation, policing yourself became second nature. how terrible would that be? wow. how dehumanizing. how demoralizing.
in the presence of orwells telescreen, it was advisable to wear a pleasant facial expression at all times. this was to quell suspicion that one was engaging in “thoughtcrime”. ok that sounds familiar. pictures of the loathsome “big brother” on every wall, in every home and workplace and public space (hmm, like artwork? framed pics of boards of directors? portraits of governors, justices, or the president?) there were no laws, no written ones anyway, but everyone knew that certain activities and behaviors (and facial expressions!) were reasonably likely to result in negative outcomes. wow, that sounds really terrible, doesnt it? it frequently takes a brilliantly tortured male artist’s mind to come up with such implausible extremes that have never come to pass and hopefully never will.
the bad guys also infiltrated, baited, lied, and utilized networks of spies to surveil the oppressed class under orwells unthinkable totalitarian regime thats never happened, thank god. and what the oppressed class was *thinking* was what the oppressors wanted to know. not what they were doing, or planning to do, but what they were thinking, in their own private spaces and within their own hearts and minds. now thats good totalitarian oppression.
interestingly, in orwell’s universe of over-the-top fearmongering, oppressive controls in both public and private, and harsh consequences for
any deviance thoughtcrime, our doodly protagonist eventually figures out that capitulation doesnt work: once he had engaged in thoughtcrime, he was doomed and he knew it. so, he just continued merrily down that road, come what may. of course, having engaged in thoughtcrime and therefore branding himself a deadman, the proper thing to have done wouldve been to commit suicide before they came for him. thats for anyone interested in being a good citizen under an oppressive totalitarian regime that surveils you, violates your obliterates the concept of privacy, and monitors not just your actions but your thoughts too.
of course, in orwells world, upon recognizing oneself as a deadman, it seems that its “human nature” to suddenly become interested in staying alive for as long as possible.
SO. was orwell right about that? and are women human?
stay tuned for part 2.