A friend of mine postulated last week that what he saw happening in our nation today was described years ago by George Orwell in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Though this was a futuristic novel, he felt that it described what happened to a citizenry when government – Big Brother – took away fundamental freedoms.
He felt that the present political correctness movement was Orwellian in nature, and that it was inconsistent with what has been enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Section 2, the right to freedom of conscience and expression.
It started me thinking. Most of us who were in university during the time of this book’s release had it for required reading. The novel told the story about Winston Smith, a functionary at the Ministry of Truth. His work consisted mostly of editing the historical record to fit government policies and create new realities.
One of the ways that occurred was through what came to be known as Newspeak. New words were created to replace old words in order to change the way people thought or expressed themselves. This is occurring today: for example, a baby has slowly been popularized as a fetus which has dulled our conscience against abortion. Aborting a fetus has somehow become less problematic to people’s thinking than aborting a baby.
Orwell saw a society ruled by Thought Police. They were the agents of an all-knowing government who used their pervasive powers of surveillance to uncover and charge citizens with thought crimes. Their agenda was to control information so as to subjugate an entire nation into thinking like the state desired them to think, and silencing differing opinions.
Sound familiar? The sounds of silence permeate our cultural landscape. Try speaking your mind freely about abortion, same-sex marriage, or homosexuality? Believe me, the Thought Police arrive in droves.
In the novel, their ultimate aim was to get a citizenry to buy into what Orwell called, Doublethink. Doublethink was “the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one ever believed the contrary” (Wikipedia). In other words, forget your conscience, forget your personal moral grid, and stop kicking against social change.
To get citizens to yield to this, there had to be a radical adjustment of their understanding of the past. History had to be rewritten and re-believed. The slogan was “whoever controlled the past controlled the future, and whoever controlled the present, controlled the past.”
In university I studied ancient civilizations. I saw this trait. Many only recorded their victories. The Bible manuscript stood as a uniquely different ancient document in that it exposed the sins of its kings, the defeat of its armies, and its national failures. The intent was to get a people to remember.
However, I see Orwellian warnings growing every day. Our memory of the past is weakening. Few Canadians know Canada’s beginning, and the further removed we are as a society from a knowledge of our moral roots and spiritual heritage the less aware we will be of what made us who we are.
It seems to me that somebody got into the national store and changed the price tags on everything. Those things that are valuable are selling for cheap, things like life, honor, responsibility, character, sex, friendship, or marriage. Other things that are less valuable are selling for outrageous prices.
The prophet Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Have we crossed that line? Have we lost touch with our nation’s original moral DNA? Have we redefined sin so well that we are no longer able to identify wrong and error? Have we said “yes” to everything so long that we are incapable of saying “no” to anything? Has everything become permissible? Have we bought the company lie?
Orwell would have been fascinated with movements like the Holocaust denial. Yes, we have mountains of evidence to the contrary, but eyewitnesses are becoming less and less. There is little left to prick the conscience of a younger generation whose knowledge of history has been somewhat cleansed.
We forget our past at a huge personal and corporate cost. History is critical to our overall sense of identity as a nation. We need to be brought into remembrance of who we are, what we were born to be, and speak out when a generation is defrauded of their right to destiny by buying into error, however politically correct it may be.