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

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.

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.


#TBT The Missing Mignons

#TBT The Missing Mignons

Phileas Fogg Chips Snacks. Great stories on every bag. Great blog to follow. Thanks, Gary.

I recently stumbled across a trio of old photos, which has me sorted for three weeks worth of Throw Back Thursday material. This is the oldest one, taken in the early 90s. Can I provide a more precise date? Well, that sofa belonged in the family home in London before my parents upped sticks and moved to the south coast in late 1993, so the shot was taken before that point. The sofa didn’t go with them because the rather adorable German

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Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment
In the sixties, Farah Mfg., where I worked, held sensitivity classes for middle managers and below. Not including top managers. The factory floor  work was like that in high school. That is, the guys would flirt with the girls. At times it would go beyond that with inappropriate touching! But that was dismissed as just boys being boys. I think that that helped improve the work environment. The program was as the result of a directive from the US Labor department. Most El Paso companies held the same sensitivity training.

A few years later I found myself working as a quality control inspector at a Dallas electronic component assembly facility. I had built up good experience in quality control. My job was making sure that assembly operator did their jobs according to specifications. One young ladies word did not meet the requirements. So I had to reject her work. Not long after that I confront by my boss. She had the idea that I might be harassing the girl. She had been asked by her boss to look into the matter. Later, I found out that her boss was somewhat of a leech, and the operator was one of his “sweeties”! I wonder if that ever went on my work record under harassment of a female?

Is Trump a racist? Op Ed New Time

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

Op-Ed Columnist

When it comes to President Trump and race, there is a predictable cycle. He makes a remark that seems racist, and people engage in an extended debate about whether he is personally racist. His critics say he is. His defenders argue for an interpretation in which race plays a secondary role (such as: Haiti really is a worse place to live than Norway).

It’s time to end this cycle.

No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people.

And that makes him a racist.

Is it possible to defend some of his racially charged statements by pointing out that something other than race might explain them? Sure. Is it possible that he doesn’t think of himself as a racist who views white people as superior to nonwhite people? Yes.

But the definition of a racist — the textbook definition, as Paul Ryan might say — is someone who treats some people better than others because of their race. Trump fits that definition many times over:

• Trump’s real-estate company was sued twice by the federal government in the 1970s for discouraging the renting of apartments to African-Americans and preferring white tenants, such as “Jews and executives.”

• In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he continued to argue that they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.

• He spent years claiming that the nation’s first black president was born not in the United States but in Africa, an outright lie that Trump still has not acknowledged as such.

• He began his 2016 presidential campaign by disparaging Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”

• He has retweeted white nationalists without apology.

• He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.

• He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville last August “very fine people.”

• He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about it (such as a claim about growing crime from “radical Islamic terror” in Britain). He is very slow to decry hate crimes committed against dark-skinned people (such as the murder of an Indian man in Kansas last year).

• At the White House yesterday, Trump vulgarly called for less immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.

If you think this list is incomplete, email me at Leonhardt@nytimes.com.

For more on this topic, read my colleague Nick Kristof wrestling with the topic during the 2016 campaign: “Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities,” he wrote. “While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.”

And Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: “It’s impossible to know what’s in his heart. But what Trump feels is less important than what he does.”

North of the Border

The reference to north of border is geographical. That being because I  have been living south of it for around fifteen years. Seeing what has taken  place, I have few regrets. I only wish that I could see my kids growing up in a safer more inclusive society.

If people up north can see how divided the US has become, it is still not to get back to being a more loving, caring country. It is worth the effort no matter what it takes.

Ricardo Montoya

The Last Post

The Last Post

Say it isn’t so, Gary! I have so enjoyed your political blogs, especially those about Brexit. And about life on the other side of the pond. Would it hurt to just write a short blog once in a while? I think not. Hope to see a great blog from you shortly. Otherwise, I realize that heigh ho it is off to earn a living that you must go. Probably a bit late in the evening. You are already into the new year. But Happy New Year to you and Mrs. P,
Rich Montoya

It’s the last day of the year. The day before the first day of next year. It’s time for some resolutions to be set. I’ll try and be realistic. I’ll pay off what’s left on my credit card. It’s 0% interest and there’s not a lot on it, and no urgency to settle it, but I’d like to end the year completely debt free. Apart from the mortgage, of course. That’ll take a little bit longer. I’d also like to save up my overtime payments and have a new boiler put in. Or at least have the cash ready when the current one packs up. It’s

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God Bless Us All, Homies.

I love the way this guy writes. It’s like we were born kindred spirits. This article brings back some many memories of El Paso, Texas, where I grew up and of the people around me at back then. We considered ourselves ultra cool vatos locos!

Thanks, Agustin for bringing back those times fraught with risk as they may have been.

Agustin Ramirez

I believe that it is important that those of us who have chosen to stake our life far from our aboriginal land we call home to make a concerted effort to return and experience the nostalgic moments of our upbringing. It gives us the opportunity to make connections between different time periods and events that have shaped our lives and those of the ones we left behind.

During our childhood years we accumulate numerous experiences that may be discarded or archived in our memory bank. Feet on the ground visits to our hometown often spark moments of reminiscing that would not be reveled otherwise. It is for that reason that I make it a point to return to my beloved El Paso as often as I can. Not only do I anxiously look forward to seeing my siblings but I also need to douse myself in the culture, language, and culinary delights that depict my heritage. The whole experience of my visits are often like time travel, chaotically swirling in my mind and attempting to chronologically sort itself to create a epic story of my days gone by.

When the day of such visit arrives, all is packed, arrangements made, siblings notified, and transportation set. The blue, yellow, and red bird of man’s creation lifts with great and graceful force, soaring through azure hued skies, dotted with pristine white clouds that look like flowing soft cotton as we rise. Mindless chatter is heard as if from a vast distance, some prefer to read, and still others close their eyes and digress to a sound sleep. On flies the bird, mile after mile ever changing the landscape below. From the green of forest to the blue of glistening lakes and rivers, on to streaks of brown, purple, orange and sights of mountains reaching up to touch the sky. We are closer to home and my heart starts beating livelier in anticipation of our arrival. The bird finally starts a gradual descent magnifying the welcoming ground below. We roll on the huge black welcome carpet and cruise to our final destination-home.

Our son is waiting and ready to take us and our luggage as we start the first episode of a long awaited visit. His smile and hugs tell it all, he has missed us. The transformation of visitor and traveler to citizen has begun. “¿Que paso, mijo, como has estado? Muy bien. Let’s go. We will go drop off the luggage and go get something to eat. How about some Chico’s Tacos? Mijo, do you have to ask? Let me call your Uncle T so he can join us.” “Hello. Ese, carnal. Que paso, bro? Nada, we’re in town and going to Chico’s, meet us there. “Orale.” He replied. The nostalgic visit suddenly submits to the vernacular of those days of old.

“Ese, Kaluli (my brother’s barrio nickname) have you run in to any of the homies? Some, ese. I saw Gaby, Tony, el Devil, and FaFa at the funeral for el Reyes. Have you seen Shorty or Viru? I think Viru retired from the Post Office and Shorty is still in prison. Que aguite, that’s too bad, carnal.” Just then I hear from behind,” ese Gus.” I see this white haired old man with a beard that I didn’t recognize and I just replied, “que paso, homes?” As he left I asked my brother who the guy is. He chucked and said,”you don’t remember el Sevollon? He retired from the Secret Service. He and Pelon were in the Secret Service, both retired. Pallin is an engineer and his sister Yoya is a medical doctor. Que loco, ese. One never knows how things will work out.” The rest of the week went along the same lines while visiting friends and family. The food was to die for and beer flowed freely. There is no place like El Chuco, to grow up or visit. You can take the Vato out of the barrio but you can’t take the barrio out of the vato.

Going back to the future leaves a small void in your heart but clearly, it has to be so. We board the blue, yellow, and red bird again. The bird ascends, contrails plotting the departure in the sun drenched sky. As we proceed the terrain turns from desert to lush grounds of green trees and rivers. The guys are all scattered now. Memories are the only things that keep us bound. Some have realized a better life than the others. We all had the same opportunities, some were blessed more than others. One thing for certain, all were loved by God, not one over another. It is inevitable that one day we will celebrate our reunion in the presence of our creator. It is sad to acknowledge that some are already waiting for us. The trip back to the world is quite a bit longer than usual and this barrio kid feels a lump in his throat and a cleansing small stream of moisture dancing down his cheek. God bless us all, homies.


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Living Out of a Closet

Before the turn of the century I read of guys in New York City renting closet space as living quarters. I’ve often thought that I could live out of a closet myself. I may get a chance to prove that out.

My daughter dreams of tiny houses. But our downsizing is not anything close to that. It is more like a temporary relocation form our Mansion de Patzcuaro to downsized living quarters in Zihuatanejo. It will be to be away from the extremely cold winter we have in January and February.

To be sure, it will be a short term experiment if we can survive it. The thing that I dislike the most now is having to write this blog on a tiny tablet the size of an ereader. I plan to fix that when I get back by bringing back my ancient laptop. More on this adventure as it develops.