Oceania vs Eurasia

Anglophone newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic did not pay much attention to the EU-US summit. Most commentators were more inspired by the centenary of the birth of George Orwell, perhaps the most influential author of the 20th century. Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) is, no doubt, a relevant figure today, given the showing of programs titled «Big Brother» and the use of surveillance cameras throughout the world. As he wrote in his now classic essay «Politics and the English Language,» «Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.» A characteristic example of Orwellian «doublethink» are the enemy’s «weapons of mass destruction» – known as «weapons of mass protection» when in our hands. As Graham Taylor wrote to the Guardian recently (Letters, June 18), Orwell’s «1984» «is about how it is possible to make people believe in things that are not true in a world permanently geared for conflict. The message is thus applicable to both totalitarian regimes and parliamentary democracies.» For Orwell, the maintenance of a condition of warlike frenzy is necessary to create a «reduced state of consciousness» which was «favorable to political conformity.» Paradoxically, what no one drew attention to is Orwell’s ominous prediction about a global conflict. In «1984» the world is racked by the constant antagonism between Oceania, an English-speaking naval empire that includes the USA and Britain, and the vast continental Eurasia – while Eastasia, the joker in the pack, keeps changing sides. All this, of course, seem remote from contemporary problems that were discussed at the White House yesterday. To be sure, the British author made another timely remark. «To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.»