“The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all the others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all the records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.”
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Ah, memory. What a wonderful thing. I wonder if we, the human race, will remember the end of December, 2006?
Probably not. The mid-term election went to the Democrats and there’s a cry to find a way to end the war, but how loud is it being heard in the corridors of power, let alone the boardrooms? War, after all, is good for business. Again there’s talk of increasing troop strength — Bush wants 30,000 more — and the Army is bulging, but sending out baseball hats and DVDs to anyone willing to hear their pitch. Who knows, there may eventually even be a draft.
The point is it doesn’t even matter what the people want, because these things — these enormous, bloated, wasteful, mad, and yet ever so necessary wars are a key component of the modern American economy. That’s what Eisenhower meant when on the way out of the Oval Office in the late 1950s he said, “oh, and by the way, there’s this thing growing in the belly of the beast and the heart of the empire…I’ll call it the military-industrial complex…you’ll call it business as usual.”
Vietnam was already in the works even then. A quagmire, they called it. Ten years. From troop ramp-up in the mid-60s to the fall of Saigon in 1975…
How quickly we forget that these things stretch across time, a tragic tapestry coloring day-to-day lives. The conflict in Iraq goes back to the early 90s, but was stewing before then. It will be 2007 in a little over a week. Slowly the drums of war roll towards new horizons — Iran, North Korea.
Maybe it’s because it’s the shortest day of the year (and, perhaps not coincidentally, Joseph Stalin’s birthday) and I’m a little moody and reaching for idols and idealism, but I dream of living in a world that doesn’t feel, sometimes, so hauntingly like a satirical totalitarian state. It’s as if we’re all like Boxer in Animal Farm. I look forward to not hearing vague promises about solutions and strategies and working groups while people keep dying at the hands of a strange shambling mass of excessive firepower.
In other words, I hope for Peace-on-Earth this holiday. Or the closest we sad, sorry moderns can get in this never-endingly-war-torn-world.
It’s frustrating that we can’t get out of this distopian cycle.
If you could see me now, I’d be frowning about it…