When 1984 came out it was not very well received. George Orwell was considered an eccentric having dangerously leftist views and had fought in the Spanish civil war.
He was gravely ill and sheltered in a virtual shack frantically completing his dystopian novel. It was later on that 1984 became a classic and much later it assumed a cult status. The terms coined in the novel became the ultimate expression and interpretation of authoritarian rule.
The most relevant to this work was the term doublethink implying the act of holding, simultaneously, two opposite, individually exclusive ideas or opinions and believing in both simultaneously and absolutely. Interestingly, doublethink requires using logic against logic or suspending disbelief in the contradiction.
With the passage of time 1984 has stamped its authority on the freaky nature of evolution of the political world after the Second World War.
The relevance of 1984 has steadily grown as the partisanship of the political and social
arenas has become skewed.
It is well-recognised that dystopia denotes very powerful weaving of symbolic narratives that mirrors the darker side of human existence. The idea expresses the incessant struggle between meaningful existence and intensely-guided life controlled by others. George Orwell was not alone in binging to fore the conceptual dilemma faced by people living in contradictory situations and getting trapped by the incongruity in their lives.
The unevenness of life patterns so vividly portrayed by Orwell in 1984 underlines the crucial point that the continuity of the control of the power apparatus of a totalitarian regime essentially depends on the individual’s willed surrender.
The notion amply highlights the voluntary submission of the individual through the imposition of tightly-knit regulatory structure aimed at total control.
1984 was part of the succession of similar works in this genre and in this connection it is similar to Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ printed in 1932 and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” that was an earlier piece penned in 1879.
These classic though do not employ the unique terms devised by Orwell but their strain of thought runs parallel to what Orwell had in mind. Aldous Huxley also coined ironical terms in his dystopian novel Brave New World that gained wide currency such as ‘Controlled by addiction, divided by caste: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon’.
Huxley’s novel explores a futuristic vision that thrives on the loss of the individual. When it was printed this novel was widely acclaimed and was rated as one of the most popular novels of the time as it portrayed the growing urge of the control-freak Fascist regimes that had either emerged or were on the verge of emergence.
As became the case with 1984, Huxley’s novel addresses all generations.
The terminology used in 1984 has become standard expression of contradictory situations in controlled societies that is implemented in the name of glory and unity.
The ideas portrayed by Orwell are now well-recognised to be an alternative description of human existence that is certainly not palatable and is a cause worth resisting. The control mechanism in place to reorder human priorities is now clearly witnessed in many closed societies whose controllers are unwilling to restrict their grip on human perceptions and insist that their priorities are required to be observed.
A large segment of intellectual world is convinced about the validity of Orwell’s descriptions.
Very aptly, 1984 reflects the state’s ever-growing control over individuals is primarily maintained through language, in both thought and speech, due to the ruling party’s invention and use of newspeak.
It has since become obvious that the principles of newspeak are essentially the tools for ensuring self-surveillance and they are parallel to the effects of correlative algorithms, data manipulation and metadata in contemporary digital culture. While addressing the means of maintaining power over control of thought, memory, and behaviour, 1984 shows how the state gains ultimate power over the individual not by imposing its principles but by preparing the individual to commit to those principles as if they are one’s own.
In linguistic terms doublethink means combining paradoxical thoughts in one expression appealing to the common people.
1984 describes this process as deliberate indoctrination aimed at enabling an individual to accept seemingly contradictory notions as normal description of a situation.
This process is carried out in contravention to the general memory of an individual and its usage is so repetitive that the words lose their meanings and become highly ambiguous. Doublethink clearly and deliberately defies reality and is devised to keep the attention of an individual towards what he has been linguistically fed.
It is often observed that the term is aligned to hypocrisy but does not fall strictly in this category as it is designed as a voluntary acceptance of the alternative truth.
Doublethink is designed in a way that it becomes the second nature of an individual who ceases to question its viability and follows it blindly.
The ultimate aim of this technique is to completely brainwash an individual so that he becomes a willing part of the totalitarian structure of the country he lives in.
Orwell was well aware of the propaganda techniques designed by totalitarian regimes that later became a well-recognised method employed by such regimes and still appears to be in practice in such states. It is used as the primary instrument of state control by arbitrary ruling structures who venture to assume control of their state through suspending the disbelief of their citizens.
Such citizens ultimately transform into machines ever ready to agree with anything the state apparatus tells them to do. They become robots willing to follow the dictates of the controlling authority.
Such citizens are made to believe that they are for withering away of the state yet at the same time they are made to believe that they stand for the strengthening of the dictatorship representing the most powerful and mighty of all forms of the state which have existed up to the present day.
The contention is completely contradictory but this contradiction is a living thing and wholly reflects the idea behind doublethink. The methodology designed to implement is psychological in nature as it corresponds to the notions of peer pressure and play a decisive role in making an individual to start believing in something that is totally contradictory.
In fact for someone to even recognize or even mention any contradiction within the context of the given understanding is akin to a crime of highest order and a serious breach of faith. The consequences of such a breach are phenomenal as the dissenting individual is declared an outcast by the mainstream of the citizenry.
It gives the lesson that the ideology perpetrated by the controlling apparatus is supreme and brooks no dissent as it is against the very spirit of the life led by the inhabitants of such a state.
Doublethink is taken to be the final and eternal truth and it regulates the lives of people who are constrained to think and behave alike irrespective of their individual thought process.