Tuesday, July 31, 2007


"'If there is hope,' wrote Winston, 'it lies in the proles.'"

Winston Smith observed the shoddier quarters of Oceania. Amongst the screaming children and poor women, he saw hope. But he failed to see it in reverse.

There was no hope. Change was not forthcoming. The government remained in power without any sign of an emerging opposition. The proles continued their lives unceremoniously, without any serious complaint. They hadn't a need for change. Indirectly, they contributed to its existence.

The novel depicts a sharp divide in the two classes, between 15% of the population, and the remaining poorer people called 'the proles'. To effectively convince the reader of the possibilities power has in abolishing individual thinking, Orwell portrayed a totalitarian government that used extreme physical force on the the 15%, the outer party. The author implies that starvation and torture can conquer one's mind.

The book goes into imaginative detail. Targeted party members were subject to an organized lifestyle of scrutiny and risk punishment. There are endless examples of gag-me-with-a-kerchief methods employed by the government which gave Oceania's constituents no opportunity to revolt. Telescreens. Big Brother. Hate Week. Ministry of Love. Thought Police. Antisex League. Poverty, hunger, vaporization. That wretched Victory Gin, you could forever feel its vile aftertaste. The flavor of helplessness.

Yet 85% of the population required little to no supervision at all. The proles didn't present a risk to the leadership. All that was needed to keep them marching to the country's beat was the withholding of a little education and eliminating the concept of a better life.

Effective mind control is as simple as that.

There was something familiar, even personal, with the proless in the yard behind Mr. Charrington's shop tending her washbin. As she went to and fro her clothesline, stuffing her mouth with pins, she broke into constant chimes of song. She seemed truly content, or as Winston put it, she was beautiful. She had no desire for a change. Her ignorance was her bliss. Her bliss was the government's bliss, its ability to survive while unjust.

Indoctrination can come in far more comfortable teaspoonfuls than Victory Gin. I am skeptical with regards to the real-life possibilities of O'Brein's radical methods. But I know the woman behind the yard, and SHE's not guilty of crimethink; of independent thought. Neither does she have reason to. As long as all she knows is her
soapy water and the pitter-patter of her children's feet running around the pavement, she'll be content with her less-than perfect life. The party will continue to reign.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pride & Prejudice

The Book: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Guest review by "Skeleton".

“Oh, tempores! Oh, mores!”

“Oh, how we miss the salted fish of Egypt…”

Oh, am I sounding like my grandmother…

What redeems Jane Austen’s narrow field of vision is the life she imbues her heroines with. Although her characters are hopelessly entrapped and imbibed with the social mores and strictures of their lives, her Emma and Elizabeth are not merely pretty-women-as-decorative-objects. They think. They’re strong. They know their value as equals to their men in a society that trades in fortune and family like a “top” BMG “boy” barters for “naden” and “yichus”.

Interesting is the treatment of Lydia. Young, reckless, and impulsive, she runs off with the shady, yet oh so charming, Wickham. She landed the wrong guy, no doubt, a fish not worth catching, yet she can hardly be blamed for her poor judgment in light of her ‘chinuch’. Lydia gets no credit for her passion, her attachment, her youthful infatuation with what she sees as her beloved forever and ever. Austen, apparently lacking peripheral vision, dooms those unions to be unhappy and ultimately unfulfilling while exalting those socially sanctioned as being mature and everlasting. It would be an interesting turning of the tables indeed if a broader look at a ‘shidduch system’ that encouraged mercenary marriages and frigid women could be taken.

Pride and Prejudice is fiction. A romantic novel in which the heroine (and hero) do not live happily ever after would be a poor seller indeed. But living in a society that reflects the social mores of a century or two ago, we not only read the book and understand it, but in some ways live it. This can give us the unique ability to see what Jane Austen couldn’t see; how true love can endure even as social mores change and marriage ceases being a business proposal. The marriage of Mr. And Mrs. Bennett is more than a comedic portrayal of The Odd Couple to us; it’s the reflection in the carnival mirror of many a marriage close to our hearts. We see that love purchased with connections and finances can be just as foolish and unfulfilling as stolen love. And worst of all, that the extremes of repression and refinement can lead to the formation of ice queens such as Miss Mary Bennett.