October 29, 2009

Why No "Celebration" of 1984's 60th Anniversary?

Hatched by Dave Ross

Calendar 2009 is the 25th anniversary of the year immortalized by George Orwell as 1984 and the 60th anniversary of the publication of the book Nineteen Eighty Four in Britain and America.

You would think that the Main Stream Media (MSM), which marks 25th anniversaries of almost every breakthrough, tragedy, and historical event -- 2009 is the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh computer, the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and of the computer game Tetris -- would outdo itself reflecting on the accuracy of Orwell’s warning of a coming totalitarianism state in Britain and America. Millions of American school children have read the classic, which introduced such universal terms as “Big Brother,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime,” and “Newspeak” into the vernacular. Yet no such retrospective has appeared.

You can bet that if “W” were still president and the sinister Dick Cheney still in the White House basement -- whittling away at the Constitution in between waterboarding innocent Moslem bystanders and chortling to Luke Skywalker, “I am your father!” -- that the anniversary would be front-page news. Charlie Gibson and Keith Olbermann would be asking, “Is George Bush Big Brother?” (In fact, in 2004, a quasi-documentary titled Orwell Rolls in His Grave, directed by Robert Pappas and peopled with celebrities of the Left such as Michael Moore, made that very point.)

But on the book’s 60th anniversary, with a liberal president, the MSM would rather not dwell on whether nine tenths of Nineteen Eighty Four’s “predictions” have come true, or that many occurred under liberal presidents such as Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton (yeah, they happened under the other guys too!) Such is the opinion of futurist and neuroscientist Dr. David Goodman, a Southern California resident who has devoted much of his career to the study of "George Orwell," the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair.

Goodman has collected 137 “predictions” culled from Orwell’s masterpiece. Here’s one: “Forced metrification. The chap at the local pub chatting with Winston Smith complains that he is unable to get his pint. As his lament continues, it appears that the government declared for the metric system without consideration for the people and their wishes. Certainly Orwell writing in 1947 foresaw the continental system imposed on the Brits before calendar 1984,” says Goodman.

Or this: “Speakwrite machine. Perhaps Orwell's most original prediction; Winston Smith in his cubicle at the Ministry of Truth pulls the microphone towards him and dictates his memoranda. The machine translates his spoken words into a typed message. Every time I enter my local computer store and see software converting words into type, I think of Orwell and his invention of speakwrite to eliminate secretaries who became aware through memos of black and white propaganda,” says Goodman.

There are the obvious ones: two-way television; face-recognition software; never-ending wars (such as the “war” on drugs, or the current unpleasantness formerly known as the War on Terror); and the Patriot Act, which authorized inquiries into the reading habits of library patrons. [Nb. Not everyone at Big Lizards agrees with the implication of nefariousness in this element of that act! -- DaH]

Plus citizens being under constant surveillance (think of traffic cameras in the U.S. and the U.K. and face-recognition software in casinos); technology for wireless lie-detectors; or government authorities using cell phones to track our every move.

Intriguingly, documents have surfaced in recent years -- a letter written by Orwell to Sidney Sheldon in 1949, and a poem called “End of the Century, 1984” by Orwell's first wife Eileen, written years before Nineteen Eighty Four -- that bolster the argument that it was written as a satire on the socialist Fabian Society; the book is set one-hundred years to the day after the founding of the Fabian Society in London in 1884... that is, the "end of the (Fabian) century."

For 30 years Dr. Goodman has written and been interviewed about Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four predictions. When the famous date approached, Goodman calculated that 100 of 137 predictions had come true. More have come true since then, he says.

Recently he found proof that Orwell’s book was a biting satire on political and literary figures of the day, such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells, Fabians all. Most literary analyses of Nineteen Eighty Four and the publisher’s advertisement’s for the book emphasized that it was a satire on the Communist Russia of Stalin, but Goodman disputes that.

“Big Brother was supposedly Stalin and Goldstein, enemy of the people, was Trotsky and it was telling you what Russia would be thirty-five years ahead,” says Goodman. “That got me a little confused because Orwell had written Animal Farm, an obvious satire on Communist Russia -- then he got the idea for his next book. Why write two satires on Stalin?”

For many years the accepted interpretation was that Orwell was a Fabian socialist. The 1966 book Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism by Rose Martin lists Orwell as one of the conspirators of Fabian socialism in Britain. “I’ve read that citation all over the place, but I’ve also read several dozens of books about Orwell and found descriptions of terrible run-ins he had with influential Fabians, such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb.” Goodman believes that Goldstein in the book is fashioned after Sidney Webb. “The four ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty, and Truth, parody Fabian slogans of the 1920s. The book begins on April 4, 1984, the same date [plus a century] of the first pamphlet by the Fabian Society. When Orwell worked at the BBC during WWII he could look out his window at University College, where British Fabianism was at its strongest.”

Goodman isn’t the first to posit this type of connection. Walter Cronkite in his preface to the Signet Gold edition of Nineteen Eighty Four hypothesized that the book, “was a novelistic essay on power, how it is acquired and maintained, how those who seek it or seek to keep it tend to sacrifice anything and everything in its name.” That comment set Goodman off on his own 25 year search for the truth.

Since Fabian Freeway was published, documents have surfaced that support Goodman. One is the poem by Eileen Blair, a fierce Fabian Socialist who died in 1945. Goodman thinks it probable that references Martin found were of Orwell’s wife and not Orwell himself.

There is also a letter by author Sidney Sheldon, who wrote to Orwell shortly before the latter's death asking permission to do a play based on the book, and clarification on whether it was intended as an attack on Soviet Russia, as Sheldon had been told to stage it, or a prediction of what might happen if British socialism, which had come to power in 1945 under Clement Attlee’s Labor Party, were to continue on for another 35 years -- as Sheldon had originally proposed.

Orwell wrote him back: “Dear Mr. Sheldon, many thanks for your letter of August 9, I think your interpretation of the book’s political tendency is very close to what I meant… I was trying to chiefly imagine what communism would be like if it were firmly rooted in the English speaking countries and was no longer a mere extension of the Russian foreign office.”

Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, was 39 in the book. That would have been about the age of Orwell’s adopted son, Richard (then aged 2), in 1984, along with an entire generation who would have grown up in a Socialist Britain.

Knowing that Orwell intended Nineteen Eighty Four as a warning against what might happen in a democracy if socialism is pursued to its ultimate goals should serve as a clear warning to the present generation in both the U.K. and the United States -- If only someone was listening to the warning!

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, October 29, 2009, at the time of 4:17 PM

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