nostradamus or chicken little?

two words: depressing as

1984

1984 is the chilling de-fabled sequel to Animal Farm.

The swine, obsessed with power, manufacture wars to dispose of the excess they will not share as deprivation facilitates their extreme political hold on the proletariat. They evolve into Big Brother, a fascistic menace embodied in an intrusive trick eye, a Stalin-esque mo, and severe and sinister slogans:

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

Big Brother starves and oppresses the proles, vapourizes identity or ‘ownlife’ among party members, callously shreds the family unit, promotes the deterioration of language from Oldspeak to Newspeak to Duckspeak, and uses insidious propaganda to sour and divert the sex impulse into blind political zeal. He routinely violates logic, “The heresy of heresies is common sense” p.106,  and worse yet, at will alters the past with an obliterating memory hole buried deep within the bowels of the Ministry of Truth. Facts are no longer incontrovertible: two and two make five and ‘sanity is statistical’, p.361. Doublespeak is on the money,

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

literally too.

“The object of power is power,” p.344, and Big Brother wants it all, including singular devotion. So an elaborate trap is set for the last two lovers, Winston and Julia, left in London.

winston, julia and the horror of being caught, in the 1984, 1984 film directed by michael radford

After a vicious series of mind-altering torture sessions, the last two beating hearts resemble the entry to the Ministry of Love, “entangled in a maze of barbed-wires, steel doors and hidden machine-gun nests,” p.11 .

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
There lie they and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree

They ultimately betray each other. There is no corner of the mind or heart sacred, no hope left, just ever-widening degrees of despair. Winston, the protagonist, is reduced to the pedantry of whither the comma goes, and even he proves unworthy of our sympathy after revealing his ‘big brother’ moment, p.212. He is only mildly redeemed by his nagging hesitation and unrelenting Victory Gin dependency in the end, if that.

orwell's optimism

While 1984 is a fine cautionary tale for aspiring politicos and media folk, and Orwell’s language is genius, as an innocent reader I feel verbally shanked. Orwell’s vision of the future is too bleak; he goes too far. He envisions himself ‘a minority of one’, a fundamental flaw in his reckoning of human nature, when in fact, most of us are not passive or dim or lacking in imagination and courage… Right? It’s why I can’t dig this book.

About the soundtrack, it’s a spontaneous backlash of 1980’s music in the face of Orwell’s morbid pessimism.

soundtrack
you dropped a bomb on me (baby)-the gap band

 

1984

Here’s what I know about 1984: Absolutely nothing!

How is this possible? It boggles the mind.

I know so many memes derived from the text; Animal Farm is an old favourite; I read front and back flaps…  So, how? I don’t listen to enough metal; it’s sci-fi dystopian and I haven’t been properly initiated; I mistook the title for randomness; mind control?

Whatever it is, this is one gap I’m eager to fill.

george v. jonah

two words: blistering commentary

I’ve just finished Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, by George Orwell, 1946. What a powerful little classic. I’ve read it before as a teenager and will be encouraging The Mix-Master and Rocket to read it when they’re older, it really is a must-read.

Orwell spent much time using the biblical Jonah to demonstrate the peril of passivity and extrapolates this idea in his novels: In Animal Farm, the animals, like Jonah, allow themselves to be swallowed whole by the whale that is Napoleon’s avarice. Their lack of resistance is complicity in the demise of Animal Farm/nation. Boxer positively exceeds Jonah’s obedience – he requests permission of Napolean/Idi Amin or any other despot, the culprit who’d sicced his private army of dogs on him in the first place, to fight back. If the heart and soul of the nation is so witless, so unwilling to think for themselves, they are destined to perish.

Apathy and pessimism are equally dangerous. One can’t wait til one’s friend is consigned to the knackers like Benjamin, who was more than capable of teaching the others. One must speak up at first strike. One must protest. Protest is a vital sign of Nation.

There are other biblical allusions, one in particular I call the Apostles’ Greed. The pigs, like Moses and later the disciples, extrapolate old Major’s prophecy, condensing them into the ‘unalterable’ laws of Animalism, which they immediately pervert by stealing the milk, in much the same way Peter kills Ananias and Saffira. Both prophets’ ideals were meant for good, not theft and murder.

The laws/commandments continue to be systematically corrupted. Consider –Thou shalt not kill/No animal shall kill another animal-, yet the Purge and the Inquisition happened in the name of Animalism/Christianity. The question begs, would Jesus raze the church that Peter and Paul built if he saw it today, as it continues to amass wealth and cover-up crimes while so many followers live in squalour hoping for better conditions in Sugarcandy Mountain? Old Major would, which is why his skull is buried.

Snowball, the only one willing to see Major’s prophecy through, is the vilified Judas. The threat of rule under Jones/Lucifer is the eternal pit-fire of Hell. And there is the reverse Golden Rule: the 7 commandments/laws are denigrated into one harrowing maxim,

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

It is no surprise then that all vestige of Nation, the flag, the anthem, the hard fought name Animal Farm (Myanmar, anyone) is discarded, along with the bodies of ‘traitors’ and tales of heroes, to be replaced by a system that sates the greed of one fat pig.

Christianity is one of the oldest forms of totalitarianism. The Age

In support of this crooked order, small minds are ruled by fear, and lies are vigilantly maintained by the media, a.k.a Squealer and Minimus, in the same way Fox News does its work. The mindless sheep repeat the spin and drown out the truth, yanking mics off anyone in dissent. Protest is the hard choice.

In the time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

soundtrack
warbob marley
killing in the namerage against the machine
babylon system-bob marley

titles…

Though still a work in progress, here are the novels that I’ll be reading in 2011.

Struck through titles have been completed.
Bold titles are presently being read.
* indicates reread.

  1. 1984-1948-George Orwell
  2. The Adventures of Augie March-1953-Saul Bellow
  3. All The King’s Men-1946-Robert Penn Warren
  4. American Pastoral-1997-Philip Roth
  5. An American Tragedy-1925-Theodore Dreiser
  6. Animal Farm-1946-George Orwell*
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret-1970-Judy Blume
  8. At Swim-Two-Birds-1938-Flann O’Brien
  9. Atonement-2002-Ian McEwan
  10. Beloved-1987-Toni Morrison*
  11. The Big Sleep-1939-Raymond Chandler
  12. The Blind Assassin-2000-Margaret Atwood
  13. Blood Meridian-1986-Cormac McCarthy
  14. Catch-22-1961-Joseph Heller
  15. The Catcher in the Rye-1951-J.D. Salinger*
  16. A Clockwork Orange-1963-Anthony Burgess
  17. The Corrections-2001-Jonathan Franzen
  18. The Death of the Heart-1958-Elizabeth Bowen
  19. The French Lieutenant’s Woman-1969-John Fowles
  20. Go Tell it on the Mountain-1953-James Baldwin
  21. The Grapes of Wrath-1939-John Steinbeck
  22. The Great Gatsby-1925-F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. A Handful of Dust-1934-Evelyn Waugh
  24. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter-1940-Carson McCullers
  25. The Heart of the Matter-1948-Graham Greene
  26. Herzog-1964-Saul Bellow
  27. Housekeeping-1981-Marilynne Robinson
  28. I, Claudius-1934-Robert Graves
  29. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe-1950-C. S. Lewis
  30. Lolita-1955-Vladimir Nabokov*
  31. Lord of the Flies-1955-William Golding
  32. Lucky Jim-1954-Kingsley Amis
  33. The Man Who Loved Children-1940-Christina Stead
  34. Midnight’s Children-1981-Salman Rushdie
  35. Mrs. Dalloway-1925-Virginia Woolf
  36. Naked Lunch-1959-William Burroughs
  37. Never Let Me Go-2005-Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-1962-Ken Kesey
  39. The Painted Bird-1965-Jerzy Kosinski
  40. A Passage to India-1924-E. M. Forster
  41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie-1961-Muriel Sparks
  42. Snow Crash-1992-Neal Stephenson
  43. The Sound and the Fury-1929-William Faulkner
  44. The Sun Also Rises-1926-Ernest Hemingway
  45. Super Sad True Love Story-2010-Gary Shteyngart
  46. Things Fall Apart-1959-Chinua Achebe*
  47. To the Lighthouse-1927-Virginia Woolf
  48. Ubik-1969-Phillip Dick
  49. Ulysses-1922-James Joyce
  50. Under The Net-1954-Iris Murdoch
  51. Under The Volcano-1947-Malcolm Lowry
  52. Watchmen-1986-Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons*
  53. White Teeth-2000-Zadie Smith*
  54. Wide Sargasso Sea-1966-Jean Rhys*