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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.

 

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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Donald Trump and the Ministry of Truth

In “1984,” the Ministry of Truth is dedicated to teaching citizens to accept sinister nonsense, like 2+2=5 and War is Peace. The test of a loyal party member is “a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

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Donald Trump and the Ministry of Truth

By John Avlon

Updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2018

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Editor’s Note: (John Avlon is a CNN political analyst and anchor. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinionarticles on CNN.)

(CNN)Nine hours on Tuesday provided a useful snapshot of America’s headlong rush into moral relativism.

At noon, President Trump spoke to a VFW convention in Kansas City and told the crowd: “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Even for a president who tweeted “any negative polls are fake news,” three weeks into his administration, this flat-out appeal for people to ignore what they see with their own eyes was jarring. Observers quickly pointed out that the American president’s syntax was uncomfortably close to an infamous line from George Orwell’s “1984:” “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

In “1984,” the Ministry of Truth is dedicated to teaching citizens to accept sinister nonsense, like 2+2=5 and War is Peace. The test of a loyal party member is “a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

I was targeted during Nixon's administration. Trump shouldn't make an enemies list, too

I was targeted during Nixon’s administration. Trump shouldn’t make an enemies list, too

In other words, the test of loyalty is not only to lie for the regime but to convince oneself to believe the lies, or at least to dismiss any meaningful difference between truth and lies. And that’s where the real danger with the hyper-partisan defense of Trump is emerging.

Increasingly, you hear a normalization of the idea that President Trump’s lies are merely matters of style and not substance. This is accompanied by the exhausted excuse that Americans shouldn’t worry about what Trump says but instead watch what he (or his administration) does. This requires buying into the moral relativism at the heart of Trump’s deny, distract, deflect and divide rhetorical strategy. The last and laziest defense is a shot of whatabout-ism accompanied with the chaser that says a fact-based debate is itself is divisive.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that Donald Trump is not really into reading books and so I would never suggest that he was consciously borrowing from Orwell’s script. But the unconscious parallels are undeniable; in the dystopia of “1984,” the Ministry of Truth devoted itself ruthlessly to revising the historical record to back up Big Brother’s pronouncements.

Which is a reasonable segue to Trump’s adjacent attempt at reality distortion on Tuesday, when he tweeted, “Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

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This tweet, of course, contradicts everything we know about Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election on Donald Trump’s behalf and runs counter to virtually all of Trump’s previous statements (or lack thereof) about Russia. But it does muddy the otherwise clear facts of this ongoing national security threat. If, like the President, you’re disinclined to take the US intelligence community’s word, then you might actually have been persuaded by Vladimir Putin’s answer at the Helsinki press conference, when the Russian president was asked, “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” Putin’s response? “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.”

But you would not know that infamous exchange occurred if you were looking for it on the official White House transcript — because it was literally absent from the record and the accompanying video. As of Wednesday morning, the White House still had not corrected or explained the omission.

A few hours after Trump’s about-face on Twitter, his administration compounded this impulse to erase or obscure inconvenient facts. CNN reported that the White House has suspended the practice of publishing “readouts,” public summaries of President Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders. This move brings “an end to a common exercise from Republican and Democratic administrations” of providing what in some cases is the only public record of conversations between the President and other leaders.

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This move is not just another hit by the Trump administration to bipartisan presidential norms that aim to ensure transparency, like regularly publishing White House visitor logs or releasing the President’s tax returns. Because tone comes from the top, we’ve seen a similar approach taken by administration agencies, from the EPA’s attempt to ban employees use of the phrase “climate change” to efforts to hide former EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s meeting with industry lobbyists to the Interior Department’s issuing a factually false report about the economic impact of national monuments.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the Trump administration doubled down Tuesday on its abandonment of free trade in favor of trade war tariffs to enact subsidies for suffering farmers to offset political pain. Some usually compliant conservative senators cried foul, with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson sputtering, “This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits.”

When conservatives accuse a Republican president of pushing policies that create a “Soviet type of economy” you know we’re through the looking glass.

Trump sounds normal in private. It's all an act.

Trump sounds normal in private. It’s all an act.

But Tuesday’s litany of lies and obfuscation reached a new peak with the release on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” of a 2016 tape between Trump and his consigliere Michael Cohen, discussing a $150,000, possibly “cash” payment to the owner of the National Enquirer to quiet Karen McDougal, who’d alleged an affair with Trump. The Trump campaign and later the White House had outright denied this affair and the alleged payoff. Perhaps President Trump’s earlier admonition for his VFW crowd was meant as anticipatory defense: “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

This desperate search for an alternate reality is not a hallmark of democracy or past Republican presidents. But it is evident in another news story that quietly dropped Tuesday night: The President has banned the viewing of any cable news station on Air Force One other than Fox News, after he allegedly caught the First Lady watching CNN.

These actions, a snapshot of less than 24 hours in the Trump presidency, and the increasingly absurd defense of the indefensible, leads someplace far more dangerous. It ends up endorsing the idea that truth doesn’t matter and that a president’s litany of lies should not be over-indexed or seen as destructive to our democracy. In sum, “get over it — our guy won.” In this world view, power and nationalism provide their own imperatives — an idea more commonly advanced by the Chinese government, which also on Tuesday imposed their final deadline on US airlines to change the name of Taiwan on their maps and websites — a move which the Trump administration had previously (and accurately) described as “Orwellian nonsense.”

Reality Check: Truth does matter. History shows that the honesty of the president matters. Clear-eyed confrontation of any attempt by a modern day “ministry of truth” to blur the distinction between fact and fiction is a core responsibility of citizens and journalists alike. Democracy depends on facts made available to citizens in a self-governing society. That’s the gospel of truth at the heart of what Abraham Lincoln once called our “political religion.”

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