Shakespeare and the 30th Anniversary of Orwell’s 1984

 “…learn, good soul, To think our former state a happy dream; From which awaked, the truth of what we are Shows us but this”“…learn, good soul,
To think our former state a happy dream;
From which awaked, the truth of what we are
Shows us but this

King Richard II, act 5, sc.1)

2014 is the thirtieth anniversary of the virtual, and properly Orwellian year 1984. Virtual in the sense that when the original book was written (1948), the year 1984 belonged to a time almost beyond imagination.

Many, if not most of us, rarely realize that the present could be anything but eternal. Or rather, we know it isn’t, but prefer to follow a complacent imagination, so as to avoid a fall into a well of gloom.

What indeed is gloomier than reflecting that “…what is pomp, reign, rule, but earth and dust – And, live we as we may, yet die we must” ? (King Henry VI, part 3)

Returning to Orwell’s 1984, as a milestone of sociology, politics and general philosophy, we may compare today’s records with those of the imagined 1984.

Clearly, even in his gloomy account of the ninetyeightyfourthian future, Orwell was optimistic. On surveillance, the present far surpasses Orwell’s imagination. In the book, it was possible, however difficult, to elude for a while the mechanism designed to control the minds of all and everyone. Not today when, as we know, government knows where we are (GPS), what we do (cameras), what we say (NSA dragnet), and by extension what we think.

This is the ultimate goal of mental slavery. A 2014 re-born Blaise Pascal would redact his conclusion to read, “I think, therefore I belong to the government”.

Most Americans couldn’t care less, and in this they perfectly mirror the populace of Orwell’s 1984. Besides, among the flood of useless and irrelevant information supplied by the Ministry of Truth, what is crucial remains unsaid.

For example, do you remember the courageous self-sponsored eco-friendly youth organizations? Those boys and girls who chained themselves to old growth trees to prevent their felling and the ultimate destruction of the miniscule remnants of original forest?

Those groups have all but disappeared. At first they were infiltrated by FBI informants, then with the new implementations of the NSA, they are essentially prevented from communicating with each other – or if they did, they would be immediately arrested and charged with “conspiracy”. Gone are then the chances of action, the revolt of reason, the last defenses of the planet. But for the corporate media, the matter is irrelevant, or perhaps, “mum is the word”.

I wonder what would Thomas Jefferson say on the current state of affairs. It was he who wrote that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” But in 2014 blood or manure are blocked at the edge of thought. Slaves – take the example of Nat Turner in 1831 – could attempt to rebel. Today it would be impossible.

It is sadly amusing to observe how meaningless the term “constitutional” has become. It is an adjective which derives its aura not from any particular or transcendental significance, but from its multi-syllabic structure and popularity of (mis)use. What is constitutional or isn’t does not depend on any reasoning directed at the “greater good”, but it depends on the whims of this or that particular judge. Indeed…

… the (very) justice, (who)
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. (As You Like It)

As obvious as it may be, it is not casual that the paraphernalia of justice, including cape, gable, flags, benches etc. are required to infuse “shock and awe” into the minds of the uninformed. It is the same formula (“shock and awe”), used by the official representatives of the land-of-the-free and home-of-the-brave, for erasing from the face of the earth sundry people in far-away countries, attending weddings or similar. Of course, to protect our now-truly-Orwellian freedom and democracy.

In recent days, a judge ruled the NSA’s universal annihilation of privacy “unconstitutional”, whereas another ruled it “constitutional”. Preparing us for a proximal pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the matter. Which, no doubt, will be expressed in tens of thousands of words, showing in the end that “….a great cause of the night is lack of the sun.” (As You Like It). As if it were not self-evident that the uninterrupted knowledge of where everybody is, and the uninterrupted control of what he does and think were not in themselves an abominable aberration, and the conclusive triumph of the forces of evil.

That is, common sense  should direct any pronouncement on this issue without the obfuscating addition of thousands of words.

Nor does it take a miracle of intuition or genius to remember that the task of a judge – especially in matters of principle – is to pronounce in favor of the forces that appointed him. And that the apparent exceptions are all but confirmations of the rule.

History shows that every government is perpetually degenerating towards corruption, from which it must be rescued, at certain periods, by the resuscitation of its first principles and the re-establishment of its original constitution – in the instance the 1787 version, or (better), the original Articles of Confederation.

Perhaps the only platonic form of “upheaval” possible would be a massive or total abstention from elections. But should the trend become popular, the political establishment would find ingenious ways to persuade or coerce reluctant voters to comply.

After all, for example, the espionage act, so freely used by the current administration to jail whistle-blowers, was a brilliant invention of 1917. When, to infuse hatred towards the Germans (terrorists who never terrorized anyone and least of all America), it became a crime to advocate in writing the abstention of the US from World War I. In the instance, advocating abstention from voting would become a crime.

Besides, “the blunt monster with uncounted heads” prefers to ignore its own slaughter, even if slaughter is where it is led to. Just like the sheep in the lines of Dante’s Purgatory, that Longfellow translated as follows,

As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold
By ones and twos and threes, and the others stand
Timidly, holding down their eyes and nostrils,

And what the foremost does the others do,
Huddling themselves against her, if she stop,
Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not.

In the play. Richard II, deposed from the throne, addresses his wife.

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