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Dystopia Forever

Can the government of Orwell's 1984 maintain power indefinitely? Includes comparisons with other political works.

Dystopia Forever

The world has seen many types of societies and governments throughout history, from the experimental Utopias started in the United States to the long succession of dynasties in China. There have been empires created, empires destroyed; new ways of thinking, believing, living have come and gone like the tide. In fact the only thing that has remained the same through all this turmoil is change itself. In George Orwell?s 1984, however, the author talks of a society with no change. A permanent government will rule supreme, uncontested and uncontestable. A society such as this can only exist in the world that Orwell proposes, one in which stability is the ultimate goal, fear the dominate emotion, and Newspeak the only way of communication.
Any government, be it of the dystopia or a utopia, that wishes to endure forever must seek stability. Stability means the absence of anything that would disturb the rule of those in power, meaning that these would rule forever. Only when this stability is achieved can the leaders of a society be unassailable. The reason for this is explained in the book of the Brotherhood. Throughout history, three classes of men have struggled with each other for control: the high, the middle, and the low. The high and the middle want power over everyone else, while the low only want equality. The insurgent spirit of the middle class caused many revolutions and rebellions, resulting at times in the elimination of the high. This is viewed as a lack of stability since the high was overthrown and their power broken. The Inner Party of Oceania, the high of 1984, needs to stop all such revolt in the Outer Party, the middle. It needs to ?arrest progress and freeze history at a chosen moment? (166), the moment when the Inner Party is the ruler, so that it will never be overthrown like the older governments. Once this is achieved, the Inner Party will have perfect stability and will therefore remain in power for as long as they please because there will be none to destroy them.
The need of a governing class for constancy is also acknowledged in the utopia of Aldous Huxley?s Brave New World. The ruling caste, the Alphas and Betas, control every aspect of life. Nothing is left to chance. Stability is the most essential element in Huxley?s society and is seen as the ?primal and ultimate need? (49). In fact, stability is held in such awe that anything from a change in the playing habits of children to population depletion from natural phenomenon like earthquakes is taken care of immediately with technology. The chance of any rebellion by the lower classes is also eliminated because the Hatcheries ?predestine and condition. [They] decant [their] babies as socialized human beings? (14). Thus, though the worlds of Huxley and Orwell are different, one being a utopia and the other a dystopia, yet the methods of the government to stay in power is similar: to achieve such a degree of stability that they could never be overthrown.
Stability alone cannot bolster a society forever; the power that the ruling class wields must also be used to induce fear and hatred. If the Party used its power to improve lives, soon everyone would be happy and there would be no more crime or disease. There would also, however, be no more need of the Party itself, since everyone is now equal both physically as well as intellectually. Therefore, if it wants to retain its supremacy, the Party must put the power it has into making people suffer. ?Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing? (220). Thus, the Party must always torture, abuse, and oppress the people. Fear and hatred are also useful to insure the dedication of everyone to the Party. There can be no love between individuals, no companionship, nothing except suspicion and distrust. There cannot be, if the Party is to survive, ?There will be no loyalty?There will be no love?There will be no laughter? (220) except loyalty to, love for, and laughter permitted by the Party. This way, the Party can insure that the allegiance of its members is concentrated sole on itself.
Political philosophers other than Orwell have foreseen the need for a government to exploit and use fear and hate. In Machiavelli?s The Prince, for example, the author explains this manipulation as part of a smoothly functioning government. Machiavelli explains that since men are on the whole ungrateful and worthless, anyone who wishes to retain power should realize that ?it is much safer to be feared than loved? (90). The reasoning behind this is quite simple: that if one is loved, than one is also easily betrayed, since no one fears much retribution from a gentle nature, whereas if one is feared, one is less easily betrayed because of that fear. The same is true in 1984, where the Party keeps most of its members in line by the terror inspired by the Thought Police and the Ministry of Love. The Party has in fact gone one step beyond the standard given by Machiavelli, who believed that ?it is difficult for the two [love and fear] to go together? (90). The Party wins the love of the majority of its citizens, and those that do not fall immediately in line are taught their mistake at the Ministry of Love. Machiavelli also teaches that those in power should avoid the hatred of their subjects. In Oceania, the Party has also taken this step by giving the citizens another object of hate: Goldstein and the Brotherhood. ?Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon? (221). There must be someone on which the people can turn their hate, so that the hate does not rebound on the Party. Thus, the Party has followed one of the chief pieces of advice given by Machiavelli to those in power, that while one should be feared, it is desirable that one should not be hated.
The last ingredient needed for a dystopia to exist, outside of power and fear, is a system that restricts an individual?s thinking; Newspeak is the perfect tool for such restrictions. By shortening and eliminating most of the English vocabulary, Newspeak will have narrowed the human mind so much that it will have made ?thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it? (46). Consequently, when Newspeak takes over and transplants Oldspeak, the chance of opposition to the Party will have been greatly reduced. While it might still be possible to say something against the Party, there would be no way of justifying such a statement for lack of words. Actions like crimestop will no longer be necessary because the very cause of having to use them will have been abolished. Citizens will be orthodox without thinking about it because they literally cannot think. Even if someone were in a vague way to feel apprehensive about the Party, he would have no means to spread his discontentment. Newspeak will be the last step in securing the Party members as the rulers of Oceania since there will be no means to overthrow them.
There are other methods restrict the thinking of the masses. In Ayn Rand?s Anthem, for example, the world has been transformed into one giant collectivist community where the word ?I? has disappeared, to be replaced in all instances by ?we.? The citizens of this world does not know of ?I,? but they suspect, and when they were close to grasping this word, they ?knew that the breath of a miracle had touched [them], and fled, and left [them] groping vainly? (99). By thus limiting the people?s minds to being unable to express their individuality, the society has nothing to fear from anyone. The very idea of the individual is made odious and the idea of the collective body made holy and infallible. This is much like Newspeak, in that both are denying their citizens the right to freedom of speech, and so to freedom of protest, without actually having to go through the formality and nuisance of saying so.
In conclusion, a dystopia like Oceania can exist and endure. If managed correctly, the citizens will never rebel and the ruling classes can go on ruling forever. As long as the Party concentrates on obtaining stability, spreading fear and hate, and limiting the mass? ways of communication, it can build the dystopia that it dreams, where the ultimate symbol would be of ?a boot stamping on a human face?forever? (220).

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