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Introduction to Orwell’s 1984 Revisted

Revisiting an introduction to George Orwell’s 1984. It has been less than a year since Donald Trump took office. Now it is becoming clear that his actions are leading to the subversion of American institutions. All of the government agencies seem to exist for the sole purpose of restructuring themselves. DOJ is far from embracing the notion of justice for all. Supreme Court is in the process of defending the federal government instead of the people. The progress of the Civil Rights Movement has been set back and all minority rights are being trampled upon! So has Orwell’s 1984 being update for our generations?

The Trump campaign, his subsequent election, and his follow through, has many people re-reading this science fiction novel. It is my belief that this has much to do with his flipping the purpose of American institutions, such as the EPA and the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is now under a person that fought against the Civil Rights movement. And the Environmental Protection Agency plans to deregulate most controls on the protection of the environment. So looking at an introduction to 1984 might be useful in evaluating the present situation.

Ricardo Montoya Ochoa

Introduction
George Orwell‘s 1984, like many works of literature, unmistakably carries with it literary traditions reaching back to the earliest of storytellers. Among the literary traditions that Orwell uses is the concept of utopia, which he distorts effectively for his own purposes. Utopia, or Nowhere Land, is an ideal place or society in which human beings realize a perfect existence, a place without suffering or human malady. Orwell did not originate this genre. In fact, the word utopia is taken from Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, written in 1516. The word is now used to describe any place considered to be perfect.
In 1984, Orwell creates a technologically advanced world in which fear is used as a tool for manipulating and controlling individuals who do not conform to the prevailing political orthodoxy. In his attempt to educate the reader about the consequences of certain political philosophies and the defects of human nature, Orwell manipulates and usurps the utopian tradition and creates a dystopia, a fictional setting in which life is extremely bad from deprivation, oppression, or terror. Orwell’s dystopia is a place where humans have no control over their own lives, where nearly every positive feeling is squelched, and where people live in misery, fear, and repression.
The dystopian tradition in literature is a relatively modern one and is usually a criticism of the time in which the author lives. These novels are often political statements, as was Orwell’s other dystopian novel, Animal Farm, published in 1945. By using a dystopian setting for 1984, Orwell suggests the possibility of a utopia, and then makes very clear, with each horror that takes place, the price humankind pays for “perfect” societies.
Historical Background
Orwell wrote 1984 just after World War II ended, wanting it to serve as a warning to his readers. He wanted to be certain that the kind of future presented in the novel should never come to pass, even though the practices that contribute to the development of such a state were abundantly present in Orwell’s time.
Orwell lived during a time in which tyranny was a reality in Spain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and other countries, where government kept an iron fist (or curtain) around its citizens, where there was little, if any freedom, and where hunger, forced labor, and mass execution were common.
Orwell espoused democratic socialism. In his essay, “Why I Write,” published in 1947, two years before the publication of 1984, Orwell stated that he writes, among other reasons, from the “[d]esire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.” Orwell used his writing to express his powerful political feelings, and that fact is readily apparent in the society he creates in 1984.
The society in 1984, although fictional, mirrors the political weather of the societies that existed all around him. Orwell’s Oceania is a terrifying society reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union — complete repression of the human spirit, absolute governmental control of daily life, constant hunger, and the systematic “vaporization” of individuals who do not, or will not, comply with the government’s values.
Orwell despised the politics of the leaders he saw rise to power in the countries around him, and he despised what the politicians did to the people of those countries. Big Brother is certainly a fusing of both Stalin and Hitler, both real and terrifying leaders, though both on opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum. By combining traits from both the Soviet Union’s and Germany’s totalitarian states, Orwell makes clear that he is staunchly against any form of governmental totalitarianism, either from the left or the right of the political spectrum.
By making Big Brother so easily recognizable (he is physically similar to both Hitler and Stalin, all three having heavy black mustaches and charismatic speaking styles), Orwell makes sure that the reader of 1984 does not mistake his intention — to show clearly how totalitarianism negatively affects the human spirit and how it is impossible to remain freethinking under such circumstances.
The Role of the Media
Orwell spent time in Spain during the time of Franco’s Fascist military rebellion. Although he was initially pleased with what he considered to be the realization of socialism in Barcelona, he quickly saw that dream change; such a political climate could not maintain that kind of “ideal” political life. The group with which Orwell was associated was accused of being a pro-Fascist organization, a falsehood that was readily believed by many, including the left-wing press in England. As a reflection on this experience, in 1984, Orwell creates a media service that is nothing more than a propaganda machine, mirroring what Orwell, as a writer, experienced during his time in Spain.
Orwell worked with the BBC during World War II when certain kinds of restrictions limiting what news could be disseminated were common, and he became disturbed by what he perceived to be the falseness of his work. It is noteworthy that Winston Smith, the main character in 1984, works in the media and is responsible for creating what is, essentially, deceptive propaganda. In fact, it is Winston’s position in the media that gives the reader the most insight into the duplicity of the society in which he lives and therefore, the society that Orwell most condemns.
The Setting
The setting of 1984 is Oceania, a giant country comprised of the Americas; the Atlantic Islands, including the British Isles; Australia; and the southern portion of Africa. Oceania’s mainland is called Air Strip One, formerly England. The story itself takes place in London in the year 1984, a terrifying place and time where the human spirit and freedom are all but crushed. In the novel, war is constant. The main character, Winston Smith, born before the World War II, grew up knowing only hunger and political instability, and many of the things that he experiences are hyperboles of real activities in wartime Germany and the Soviet Union.
It is important to remember that Orwell based 1984 on the facts as he knew them; hunger, shortages, and repression actually happened as a result of the extreme governmental policies of these countries. The war hysteria, the destruction of the family unit, the persecution of “free thinkers” or those who were “different” or not easily assimilated into the party doctrine, the changing of history to suit the party’s agenda, were all too real. Orwell’s speculation of the future is actually a creative extension of how the masses were treated under Franco, Hitler, and Stalin.
By setting 1984 in London, Orwell is able to invoke the atmosphere of a real war-torn community, where people live in “wooden dwellings like chicken houses” in bombed-out clearings. His intent clearly was to capitalize on a memory that every reader, especially a British reader, was likely to have. London in 1984, then, becomes not just a make-believe place where bad things happen to unknown people, but a very real geographical spot that still holds some connection for the modern reader.
In 1984, the world is sliced into three political realms — the super states of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. Orwell drew these lines fairly consistent with the political distribution of the Cold War era beginning after World War II. Each of these three states is run by a totalitarian government that is constantly warring on multiple fronts. By creating an entire world at war, Orwell not only creates a terrifying place, but he also eliminates the possibility of escape for Winston, who is forced to live within his present circumstances, horrible and unremitting as they are.
Oceania’s political structure is divided into three segments: the Inner Party, the ultimate ruling class, consisting of less than 2 percent of the population; the Outer Party, the educated workers, numbering around 18 to 19 percent of the population; and the Proles, or the proletariat, the working class. Although the Party (Inner and Outer) does not see these divisions as true “classes,” it is clear that Orwell wants the reader to see the class distinctions. For a socialist such as Orwell, class distinctions mean the existence of conflict and class struggle. In Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, for example, the few people who comprised the ruling class had a much higher standard of living than the masses, but in these nations, as in 1984, revolt was all but impossible.
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Everybody’s’ leaving town. Seems they’re moving to L.A.

Back in time El Paso, Texas was isolated from most of the United States. Hardly anybody ever left. This was in the forties an fifties. But then started the trickle in my family. Los Angeles and the rest of California were the main places. It was almost a religious thing,  the pilgrimage to L.A. and back. They inadvertently came back to El Paso. Then one uncle, Frank Ochoa on my mom’s side of the family, and then another on my Dad’s side, Jose Montoya left. They would come back to visit but they were gone, never to come back accept for a brief visit. These were the first ones to leave our parochial town.
I never thought that I would leave. I loved the city,  the thought of leaving never entered my mind. I stayed put. There were not many jobs to be found, those that existed did not pay much. But, I figured that with enough schooling I would be able to find work. Got married not long after high school graduation, and then the kids came. I had kept on going to school, went to night school at Burge High School and El Paso Tech. I was interested in My interested electronics and did well in classes related to that. There were few jobs in electronics in town. I had to get whatever jobs that I could to support my young and growing family. Worked food service at first and just managed. The only way to get a decent job was if you knew someone that could open doors for you. I thought I could make it on my own, and so I struggled.
After trying to find work and finding only food service jobs paying low wages I finally got smart. Deciding to ask for help, I found it in a couple of uncles that worked for one of the biggest employers in town, Farah Manufacturing. My uncle Joe Farah got me into the garment factory. Later Uncle Eddie Ochoa got me into their research and development shop. More tales to tell later on the eleven or so years that I spent at Farah. It was a great learning experience, leaning to work with people, knowing how to go up the corporate structure, but best of all applying my basic electrons classes. In the end, I had to leave. Problems within Farah family over control of the company and attempts to unionize created an unstable environment. And so I left Farah.
I am skipping over a lot of history but that will be the next step in telling the story related to my leaving El Paso for better pastures. My oldest boy had a good job in town working for an electronics company. The second son only found work in food service. My older brother had lived in Dallas for some time, so I suggested to my second eldest that he look for work in Dallas. It did not take him long to decide to go there where he found jobs easily. The electronics company my eldest worked with started one of many restructuring steps. Eventually, he too left for the Dallas area.  The story is still incomplete but let me just stop here to say that I too followed in seeking work in Dallas.

 

via Thanksgiving Letter to the Family

Thanksgiving Letter to the Family

by Helen Philpot

Dear Family,

As we gather again for another Thanksgiving, I’d like to set up some house rules. I know I’m not the head cook anymore, but I’m still the head of the household so listen up:

No cell phones at the dinner table.

No feet (big or tiny) on my furniture.

No jello-salad.

Parenting is a full-time job. You don’t get the holiday off. Watch your kids and make sure there is some food on their plate that has color. Carrots. Green beans. Yams. Something more than just mashed potatoes. They might not eat any, but it’s never too soon to introduce them to each other. It would be easier if I was still the cook and everything had a little bacon grease to help it go down, but in this age of vegavegan-gluttenfree-halffat-lesssodium-nosugaradded, I can’t be responsible for how the food tastes anymore. Gone are the days of the three master spices: salt, pepper and bacon grease.

No jello-salad. I’m serious about this. The only thing that jiggles at my house this Thanksgiving will be your Aunt Trudy after a few glasses of wine.

I’ve lived a long life and along the way, I’ve collected a few nice things. I don’t put them away for company and I don’t put them away for family. Eventually your child needs to learn the meaning of the word No. Let’s make that happen today. We watch football in the family room on TV. We throw footballs outside on the lawn. And when you do go outside, shut the door behind you. I don’t need to air condition the whole neighborhood. And if Mr. Briggers next door tells you to stay off his lawn, tell him to stay off my last nerve. I swear, that man is the one bad bulb that ruins the whole string of lights.

If you want to talk politics sit next to me, but if you own a MAGA hat be warned. Your President is an asshat and I’m old enough to speak my mind regardless of your precious feelings. If I were you, I’d practice don’t ask, don’t tell because even when I mind my Ps and Qs, I can still spell bullshit.

No jello-salad.

If your child still wears diapers, you will leave with the same number of them as you had when you arrived. Bag them up and take them with you. The trash man doesn’t come again until next Tuesday and the last thing I need is a trash can full of baby poop. No exceptions to this rule. You’re dealing with a woman who washed cloth diapers so this would be an argument you will lose.

You know I love you. And I am indeed thankful for my family. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke. Follow the rules and we’ll all get along just fine.

No jello-salad. I mean it. Really.

With love,

Aunt Helen/Mom/Grandma

A 101-year-old historian makes a desperate plea: The amateur in the Oval Office has to go — and soon

HISTORY NEWS NETWORK – COMMENTARY
04 NOV 2018 AT 08:52 ET

 

By now, many of you are familiar with the outcries of Ashland, Oregon’s elderly scholar. Living on (now past 101), he can’t help noticing what’s happening to the Executive Branch of the government of the United States. He’s not happy! Nothing at Emory, Georgia, or Stanford, apparently, prepared him for today’s spectacle of government by guesswork. So here he is again, this time close to fulminating….

So it has come to this: Our free press is subject to ridicule; actually, it is undergoing threat. Presidential antagonism is approaching entirely too close to action.

Not too long ago, political opposition to “the press” was quietly endured as “well meaning, but wrong.” Now, the expression “lock her up” has spread from a candidate’s lips to an office-holder’s lips. It has become a slogan. Worse, Donald J. Trump’s favorite outcry “Fake News” is no longer exotic; it is commonplace, or close enough. It is regarded in some places as a normal way to refer to America’s daily news headlines.

Political rallies have long occupied partisans as election day approached. Now, it does seem, instead of governing, the White House occupant campaigns around the calendar—instead of concentrating on Congress or the passing scene.

At one time, high office holders in D. C. took an assigned position and went to work for “the duration.” Now, many top officials simply quit in mid-stream, and proceed to walk out. Maybe they are told to go, and “hurry up about it.” (Goodness knows what kind of instructions our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has gotten from his “boss.”)

In this administration, reputations fade, so much so that individuals have to leave. It is “one jump ahead of the sheriff,” so to speak. Or, “Go while the going’s good.”

Let’s say there is an Event. Our president misrepresents it. We cannot trust our president to tell the truth about it. Well, the truth is something you are not going to hear from today’s occupant of Air Force One.

In life it has long been a truism that there are “the good guys” and there are the “bad guys.” In statecraft, however, it is no longer easy to tell our allies from our enemies. Once, we made permanent friends of nations far away and tied them to us with alliances. Today, you can’t tell any ally without checking first with the White House to make sure which nation is a friend and which an enemy. Indeed, they may well have switched overnight.

This is serious stuff. The ship of state has no helmsman, it seems; or maybe he just doesn’t think it important for us to know the difference between a true friend and a dangerous enemy.

All of these things that are happening to us from within our American government in 2018 are important. But the travails of the press are damaging to the point they simply cannot be laughed off, ridiculed, treated as “no more than a joke, really.” We have to enjoy a free press. That’s A FREE PRESS. We must have it.

There is indeed a field of endeavor called “journalism.” It has standards, and concepts, and principles. All are taught in college classrooms. Our present political leader ridicules any such idea and barges ahead—to the point where his expression “lock ‘em up” or whatever it is, sounds suspiciously like a proclamation of jail time back in Nazi or Fascist days.

What I want at this point is an end to high school games that masquerade in the guise of proper conduct for leaders. In government the stakes are much too high to “play around” with them. I must have a return to sense and sensibility to be happy at rest every day.

I really want, if the truth be known, the removal of Donald J. Trump from the presidential office. If I can’t have that, I want powerful individuals in named offices (Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.) who will keep that one man from running things until his term has limped to its end.

I feel, overall, as though my country has been borrowed away from me. Totally without my permission, mind you. And somebody owes me for time spent playing at the fair grounds.

Now and then I feel like washing my hands. I want to Do Something Dramatic. Maybe yell a little. Read another book with a title likeFury, or maybe Fire, or Unhinged—and coast for a few hours or a day or so until the revelations and the prose in the new book’s pages wears off. What I am saying, I guess, is that I don’t want to be alone in my antagonism against this amateur (that’s right: amateur) in the Oval Office.

How to end this, well, has it really become a diatribe? Promise me this madman with the simple habits and all that spare money will go away. Soonest. Bring in somebody who has read in-depth of the lifetime of Herbert Hoover’s dedication; the comprehensive love of Life of Theodore Roosevelt; Lincoln’s use of language to elevate national spirits; Jefferson’s ability to raise my comprehension of self-government by framing a document that’s good for me.

For Hell’s sake: I’m sick to death of mediocrity, of posturing, of pretense, of lies told with a straight face. What did I do to deserve THIS? The corridors outside the Oval Office need new inhabitants. Trump relatives are handsome and/or pretty, but I have to say they don’t fill me with confidence in their experience or abilities. And I believe the truth to be that they haven’t really earned those high and powerful positions by earlier hard work.

Bring in somebody as president who can shame Congress into doing what is right. Figure out some way this TV star can’t pick somebody else to fill a Supreme Court vacancy with all that is bound to entail. Most of all, please:

Bring dignity back to my White House. Don’t let this fellow salute one more time; it gives me the willies to think of a general or admiral kowtowing to this guy, even if he does, probably, get a kick out of the winks and nudges at home later on.

I want my country back. Is it too much to ask?

***

Vaughn Davis Bornet’s Ph.D. is from Stanford University (1951), the B.A. and M.A. (1939, 1940) are from Emory University, the year 1941 was at University of Georgia. Author of over a dozen books and scores of articles and essays, he has been writing articles frequently in recent years on the internet’s History News Network. He holds “Distinguished” awards from American Heart Association and Freedoms Foundation. He taught at University of Miami, 1946-48, and Southern Oregon College, 1963-80. He was a staff member at The RAND Corporation in the 1960s. A Commander in the Naval Reserves, his active duty was 1941 to 1946. His 2016 books Lovers in Wartime, 1944 to 1945 and another, Happy Travel Diaries, 1925 to 1933 (both Amazon) are recent. His latest is Seeking New Knowledge: A Research Historian’s Rewarding Career (Bornet Books). He lives, apparently only semi-retired, in Ashland, Oregon.

The Great American Taco War

Let me start defining the American taco. This starts with a lightly fried corn tortilla shell. It’s  filling consist of browned ground beef, chopped lettuce and tomato. Imitation beef made of soy will not cut it. I think it was Burger King that tried to pass this on to us. No way Jose!

Found the best American tacos at Taco Bell. Yeah, I know the Chihuahua is gone. R.I.P. But the have the Best American Tacos in town, at least in Del Rio, TX.

My wife and I live deep in Mexico and appreciate their kind of tacos. But when in the States, give me a Taco Bell taco anytime!

The End

The End

Hope soon for an ideal world or at least one that is semi-ideal so that Gary can come back to blog some more. He will be missed.

Fifteen years, two months and twenty one days ago I wrote my first blog post. Today, I write the last. It’s been fun – mostly – but these days I seem to blog largely for the sake of blogging. And too much of it involves typing angrily into the internet with little real purpose. I wrote that first post as an optimistic 30 year old, about to embark on a backpacking trip of a lifetime through Mexico, full of wonder at the world surrounding me. I write today as a slightly jaded 45 year old, rather fed up with the amount of ignorance and prejudice that has come to the fore, and unconvinced that the planet is heading in the right direction. Fifteen years is quite a long time. The world has changed greatly. As have I. I am sure you have too.

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Emotive Subjects

Emotive Subjects

I badly for Gary and for Britain as they struggle through these times of change. It is somewhat parallel to what we are seeing in the US. That the desire of those in power to go it on their own without help from longtime partners.

Whenever someone utters the word ’emotive subject’, you can safely wager that what they really mean to say is ‘everyone just calm down, please’. Or ‘this topic is probably best avoided’. The subject will often be about money, religion or politics. Or a rage inducing mix of all three. Brexit is an emotive subject. Exceedlingly so. Partly because of the money angle – we’re going to be poorer. And almost everyone, on both sides of the debate, now agrees on that point. But Brexit is emotive beyond the financial implications it will have upon our lives.

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Ten Years

Ten Years

My Brit buddy Gary and his wife, Mrs. P, celebrating ten years of matrimony. Congratulations to them!

The older one gets, the more one’s calendar seems to fill up with memorable dates. But today’s is special. Ten years ago today, on the 08/08/08, the Beijing Olympics opened with a lavish ceremony. Oh, and Mrs P and I got hitched. A less lavish ceremony in Milwaukee. But just as fabulous. And I bet we’re in better shape than a lot of that Olympic infrastructure. Congratulations to us. And here’s to another decade of happiness. And another after that. And so on.

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Cream Tea Tacvba

Cream Tea Tacvba

Just a pleasant thing to read. But then I live in Mexico so I am kind of partial to them.

We enjoyed a cultural weeked away, did Mrs P and I. There was something very Mexican and something very English in it for both of us. First stop, Shepherds Bush Empire to watch one of Mrs P’s favourite Mexican bands, Cafe Tacuba. Shepherds Bush is a part of west London that has yet to be gentrified, although the flashy new Westfield shopping mall is perhaps a first step in that direction. I quite like Shepherds Bush. It’s like a lot of the London I remember from my childhood. Edgy, alive and full of character.

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