Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Internal Contradictions of Ingsoc

(see CBI's comment on the post below)

- There aren't any.

Ingsoc is a theory designed to secure total power for people who want, who know they want, and who forget that they want, total power. Total power includes, specifically, the power to destroy and remake human beings. Such naked evil, though of course we do it all the time, whenever we are able, sustains itself because it is having fun. It is spreading its wings and enjoying its creative potential on the bodies and minds of people. As O Brien acutely remarks, there is no reason why a civilisation founded on hate should be less vital than one founded on love.

The only possible internal contradiction is that, as O Brien points out, the human face "will be there forever". Namely, although the Party desires the existence of the heretic to maintain its power - ie it depends on the heretic, in a wholly predictable and foreseen way (this is part of the fun - watching the cowed Outer Party members try to make themselves believe we have always been at war with Eastasia, and that Goldstein is the enemy); but more than that, it means that the human, as Winston understands it, the "spirit of man", will always exist - the Party will never actually crush that spirit, even as it denies its existence, because if it did, the Party would cease to have any purpose, and would have nothing to act upon. The Party would die.

Other than that, it is a totalitarianism that commands beings in and out of existence, without those beings needing to be in any way physical entities. Comrade Ogilvy was a hero, but he never existed: Syme was an orthodox goodthinker, who was lifted out of time. He is the subject of O Brien's first visible piss-take of Winston ("His name has slipped my memory for a moment").

Power is a drug and the Inner Party are a group of men and women able to destroy the entire world for their fix.

No contradiction there. But we have a habit of seeing contradictions in things we think are evil, as a way of convincing ourselves they cannot work.

This is no criticism of CBI or of his comment: it just got me thinking.


Crushed said...

I think it was really saying that all tyranny, especially one founded on basically denying objective reality, ultimately fails, because it cannot meet long term challenges, in the end it cannot sustain the precarious balance needed for its own survival.

The effort needed to keep a system like INGSOC stable ultimately means, it collapses, as the Soviet Union proved. It wasn't the system so much as the huge effort in tyranny needed.

Ultimately, its a poor use of resources, because contrary to the image of a united system, it isn't. People aren't pulling together, they're struggling.

Ultimately, the harder they struggle- and INGSOC's own dynmics reflect this, essentially the tightening of the wasteof energy, the grinding of the face on the foot mean that ultimately, the grinder himself gets worn down by the grinding.

The Tin Drummer said...

Yes. It's the resource thing that is really interesting. For example, Inner Party members have really good quality sugar, coffee, chocolate. So these things are being made. But where? And by whom? And meanwhile the resources of Oceania (ie the people) are engaged, largely, in wholly unproductive activities (the proles) or activities designed specifically to waste resources (Minitrue). It's an interesting point.

But having said that, i disagree inasmuch as the Inner Party are energised by the effort of keeping the boot on the face: it is the exercise of pure power, which is the point of the whole "Party" scam, or enterprise. They love it. But surely they'll need a productive economy sooner or later to supply their goods, to supply their source of power (ie a ready supply of reasonably well fed and educated people).

Incidentally, throughout my PGCE course I was told repeatedly that reality does not exist except inside our heads and this was "just how things are".