i finished reading “1984” by george orwell this weekend. it was an amazing book. if you haven’t read it yet, i would highly recommend checking it out. it’s all about big brother and one man’s fight against him. while orwell portrays an extreme government, i found some interesting similarities to people in power today, particularly concerning “doublethink.”
doublethink “is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs” (wikipedia).
according to the novel…
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them . . . . To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
i didn’t immediately make connections to my reality when i read that paragraph. however, the more i turned it over in my mind, the more i understood the macrocosm that orwell was describing. we see evidence of doublethink all the time. not only in governments who refuse to admit they were wrong, but in the corporate world where management (a form of government…or is government a form of corporation? another post all together!) demonstrates this type of behavior. lying not only to people around you (whether you “intend” to or not), but most importantly lying to one’s self.
i find it fascinating that this line of thinking actually exists at some level. but it’s not entirely surprising. i’ve grown up around many people who have been lied to and continue to lie to themselves. few search for the truth. the search is difficult, as orwell demonstrated with the main character, winston. there is much questioning, not only in which facts are truthful but also in which people are being truthful.
so what to do with this knowledge of doublethink? if you embark on the search for truth, ultimately, you have denied yourself doublethinking. you can’t do it. you either search, engage in doublethink, or simply claim ignorance. as for me, i’ve chosen to search. it’s not easy, and often times, it’s lonely. most people don’t understand, and those that do are not only rare, but are often at a different point in their journey.
in the book, winston is told that big brother says that 2+2=5. in a demonstration to see if he has accepted doublethink, he is asked what 2+2 is. while 4 is the right answer, it is also the wrong answer. this is the essence of his struggle against big brother…against lying to himself…in an effort to maintain truth.
2+2=4 no matter what they say. they’ll never break me.