It's not uncommon for pundits and journalists to call something "Orwellian," but I have to wonder how much of today's generation really knows what that means. How many young people today have taken the time to read George Orwell's prescient novel called "1984."
We're well past 1984 now, but it really doesn't matter. It's a book for all time. Some passages strike me particularly forcefully, especially today. Here's a clip where Winston Smith, jailed in the "Ministry of Love" for thoughtcrime, is being tortured and lectured by O'Brien, a powerful member of the "Inner Party."
'As you lie there,' said O'Brien, 'you have often wondered - you have even asked me - why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you." ... 'Do you remember writing in your diary, "I understand ~how~: I do not understand ~why~"? It was when you thought about "why" that you doubted your own sanity...'
'You understand well enough ~how~ the party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,' he added as Winston remained silent.
Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. 'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly. 'You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore -He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O'Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.
'That was stupid, Winston, stupid!' he said. 'You should know better than to say a thing like that.'
He pulled the lever back and continued:
'Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.
Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?'
Perhaps this generation of Americans -- and a good chunk of middle aged to elderly folks -- need to think about things a little while, and then look around.
You might not like what you see.