Sunday, December 13, 2009
The Oppressive Governments in Orwell’s Novel, 1984, and Burgess’ Film, A Clockwork Orange, and the Parallel to Modern Society
George Orwell’s novel, 1984, has become a symbolic piece of literature to oppressive government in the twenty-first century. The novel documents the life of Orwell’s protagonist, Winston, in the dystopian world of Oceania; a place where oppression and the stripping of individual rights allot the government supreme power its people. The purpose behind the vindictive actions 1984’s totalitarian government was, originally, to save society from the irrationality of an emotionally driven world in an effort to create a utopia.
A Clockwork Orange follows the life of Alex DeLarge, a teenage delinquent growing up in the future’s working class. Instead of attending school, Alex and his gang of “droogs” partake in needless acts of violence aimed particularly towards the upper class. Alex and his droogs are extremely masochistic, they gain a great amount of pleasure through the physical suffering of those they hurt. Although there is more than obvious disorder present through this pleasure, the disorder is multiplied through the actions the state takes against Alex to control his violent tendencies.
The underlying setting in both 1984 and A Clockwork Orange is the dystopian society. In 1984, the people of Oceania are prohibited to speak out against the Party, or they run the risk of receiving a violent punishment inflicted by the Thought Police. In A Clockwork Orange, the police force consists of brutally corrupt men who often turn their backs on violent crimes, such as robbery and rape. The police are extremely dishonest, and hold themselves above the letter of the law. After the members of his gang betray him, the police violently beat and mistreat Alex for hours. Even his parole officer is offered a chance to attack Alex: “if you'd like to give him a bash in the chops, sir... don't mind us. We'll hold him down. He must be another great disappointment for you” (Burgess, 53).
In both 1984 and A Clockwork Orange, the citizens are denied their rights and freedoms due to unreasonable policing and cruel punishment. In both works, the governments attempt to rehabilitate their criminals to become productive members of their society. In 1984, disobedient thinkers who go against the Party and Big Brother are arrested and tortured by the Thought Police. Winston, ultimately, is caught during his love affair with Julia, and captured by the Thought Police. He is knocked unconscious, and taken to the Ministry of Love, and forced to endure countless hours of painful questioning torture. O'Brien, the man in charge of fixing Winston, forces him to blindly accept obviously false statements in an effort to make Winston understand he has no personal control over his mind. O'Brien holds up four fingers, and asks “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” to which Winston replies, “I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if I do that again. Four, five, six, - in all honesty I don't know” (Orwell, 264). Along with physical pain Winston is denied food in order to further weaken his spirit and cause him to be more easily manipulated. When Winston is strapped into a chair with a cage of rats ready to viciously gnaw through his face, he betrays Julia, and begs O'Brien to put her through this torture instead of himself. Winston placed back into society as a human being with no further knowledge of free will or thought.
In A Clockwork Orange, Alex is subjected to the Ludovico's Technique, where he is retrained to a chair and forced to watch movies of extreme violence while his eyes are forced open. Before this part of the treatment, he is injected with a chemical to induce nausea vomiting causing him to associate all acts of violence with an uncontrollable feeling of nausea. After a year of this treatment Alex, like Winston, is placed back into society unable to think or act of his own free will or accord because he will become violently sick. In both stories, the methods of rehabilitation are different, but the results are the same; a brainwashed “rehabilitated” criminal who appears to be a model citizen devoid of free thought.
By examining Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” after imprisonment both Alex and Winston become the by-products of the “reproduction of the relations of production” (Althusser 48). Both protagonists are imprisoned in order to come back as productive people of society. The prisons these men endure is what Althusser would call a Repressive State Apparatus. The State Apparatus, which includes “the Government, the Administration, the Army, the Police, the Courts, the Prisons, etc” (Althusser 11), functions to “ensure subjection to the ruling ideology” (Althusser 5).
In A Clockwork Orange the state apparatus tries to suppress and eradicate all forms of violence. This extreme suppression of violence only makes it more pleasurable to innately violent rebels, like Alex and his droogs. In an effort to eliminate even the slightest chance of violent behavior, the government begins the practice of Ludovico's Technique causing the mental thought of violence to enact the physical response of nausea. After Alex has gone though the series of brainwashing experiments he subconsciously associates violence with nausea and vomiting. The repression of the State Apparatus is amplified by the inhumane experimentation that eventually does away with individual choice and free thought.
The governments in both dystopian works attempt to hide the truth from its people, filling their minds with fictitious information. In 1984, the Party rewrites history to better control the people of Oceania’s thoughts. Criminals accused of committing thoughtcrime are deleted from literary history eliminating any possibility of their influence on society. Even wars against other nations are forged so frequently that Winston questions if Oceania was ever actually at war at all.
“The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had an alliance with Eurasia in 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.” (Orwell 37)
The citizens blindly follow their government because they live in constant state of confusion, everything and anything they’re told is blindly accepted making them oblivious to the ongoing oppression.
In A Clockwork Orange the government publishes an article in the newspaper discusses the successful affect the Ludovico Technique had on Alex, praising it as a fail-safe method in the rehabilitation of criminals. When Alex attempts to commit suicide due to his lack of free will the government reverses his treatment and keeps them free of blame. At the end of Kubrick’s film Alex regains his original personality, and is placed back in society unchanged. 1984 and A Clockwork Orange purposely manipulate the information they release to society in order to keep their citizens under their complete control.
Both protagonists rebel against their oppressive government. In 1984, Winston outwardly abides by the law of the Party while internally rebelling against everything it stands for. He is awarded a companion, Julia, who also internally rebels against Big Brother. They consistently meet to have sex and discuss a plan of action to take down Big Brother. Independent thought and free will is outlawed, and if caught, the punishment inflicted by the Thought Police is so excruciating it will either kill the guilty individual or bring them close enough to death they won’t ever repeat the offense.
Propaganda and hypnosis are common methods of oppression in both A Clockwork Orange and 1984. In 1984 a daily routine called the “Two Minute Hate” is performed, where people sit in front of a large telescreen and view images of the Party’s enemies and scenes of war. This hypnotic video influences people in such a powerful way that they stand screaming in rage at the face of the rebel leader Emmanuel Goldstein, and praising the name of Big Brother. In a mere two minutes, the calm citizens are filled with livid animosity and then regress back into docile civilians with a renewed appreciation for Big Brother. Even Winston becomes evoked with the same compelling feelings of rage brought on by the propaganda video.
“In a lucid moment, Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair.” (Orwell, 16)
In A Clockwork Orange, doctors show hypnotic videos to Alex as part of the Ludovico Technique. These videos parallel the Two Minute Hate, in that they display scenes of violence and war. Instead of invoking a renewed sense of patriotism for Alex these movies are meant to make him physically sick. In spite of Alex’s masochistic nature, these videos begin to give him an uncontrollable feeling of nausea. He does not feel repentance from these videos, just nausea. The hypnotic effects of the movie, in combination with the chemicals given to him to induce vomiting, are meant to change his thought process, and he subconsciously trains himself to avoid violent thoughts to avoid nausea.
Both of theses governments try to obtain absolute control of its citizens. Through methods of criminal rehabilitation, brainwashing, hypnosis, and propaganda the government creates a society conditioned for manipulation. With the rare exception, the large majority of each world’s population is completely oblivious to the fact that they’re being controlled both physically and mentally. Ultimately the government always is always granted the upper hand. In Winston's case, he tortured and returns rehabilitated with a new love for the Party. Alex is reverted back to his original state of mind by the government and ultimately chooses not to return to his previous ways through his own free will. The governments of 1984 and A Clockwork Orange control their people to such an extreme extent it deprives their societies of independent thought and understanding.
The issue that can be equally paralleled with the governmental oppression of 1984 and A Clockwork Orange is the United States Patriot Act. The Patriot Act has brought with it a large amount of animosity. The Act awards incredible amounts of authority to government agencies to watch the private practices of those labeled as possible terrorist, and also any individual living within the United States. The time right after the passing of the Patriot Act, not only was the United States still experiencing the effects of September 11th, but also U.S. citizens were afraid of appearing “un-American.”
In 2002 a detainee camp in Guantanamo Bay was created and held a large number of people from many different countries, many of who were arrested without “traditional legal protections for often unknown reasons” (Farrier). Not much was known about the intentions of the Patriot Act, and the monitoring of partially public records, including Internet searches and library records, caused people to fear being accused of terrorism because of the books they’ve read or the searches they’ve done online.
In George W. Bush’s televised speech on November 6th, 2001 he is quoted saying “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror” (Farrier). Although addressed towards the UN for military support in Afghanistan and Iraq, many U.S. citizens felt a more personal aimed undertone. Freedom of speech began to diminish for the fear that a random public state could be used as persecution. While others believed that the government’s incredible increase in public monitoring and disregard for personal privacy threatened the fundamental ideals of freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
When the Patriot Act was first drafted, being that it was different than any other act enacted before, it was given sunset provisions; “sections of law that automatically expire after a certain period of time unless extended through additional legislation” (Farrier). A lot of the provisions centered on public monitoring, which were supposed to expire on December 31, 2005 but were then extended until March 10, 2006. By this time, however, many U.S. cities chose not to uphold some of the sections of the Act they saw as unconstitutional (Farrier).
A compromise was eventually reached and the Patriot Act II was passed as law on March 9, 2006. The majority of Congress believes that the new act offers the government enough power while better protecting individual freedoms. But still, there are groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, that still challenge the new act; believing that “essential American freedoms are still at risk” (Farrier).
While a growing amount of people believe that the latest version of the Patriot Act is pointed in a positive direction, it still has a lot of development to undergo to ensure the protection of civil liberties. The current U.S. government is still a far cry from the dystopian worlds in 1984 and A Clockwork Orange; the Patriot Act pushes us further away from ideals this country was founded on. National security should always be a top priority for our government. However the ways in which they choose to ensure such security make it increasingly difficult distinguish the line of societal protection form personal infringement.
A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Warner Bros., 1971.
Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and ideological State Apparatuses." La Pensee (1970): 1-42. Monthly Review Press. 5 Oct. 2009.
Farrier, Jasmine. "The Patriot Act's Institutional Story: More Evidence of Congressional Ambivalence." 40.1 (2007): 1-5. Web. 9 Dec 2009.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: New American Library, 1961.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Eugenics in the progressive era. Many countries, including our own
United States, forcibly sterilized mentally ill, deaf, blind, or
disfigured individuals in order to promote the idea of Social Darwinism;
all under decree of law.
The origin of eugenics can be seen as far back as the philosophies of
Plato and its practice back to the ancient civilizations of Rome,
Athens, and Sparta. Most notable, however, is Hitler’s Holocaust of the
Jews. The Nazi regime forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of
individuals they saw as mentally and physically unfit is attempts to
maintain a “pure” German race.
While the intentions for New Genetics have a certain amount of positive
merit when trying to rid humanity of certain disorders and diseases that
currently have no cure. The moral way of solving these issues is
through treatment research not the aborting of unwanted fetuses for the
sake of keeping the human race more “pure.”
Argument for or against abortion is not the underlying issue, the issue
lies with whether or not we, the human race, is ready and completely
willing to take control over the natural order of things. Nature and
genealogy are put in place and governed by forces that were not
originally, and are still not completely, in our control. So the large
issue among New Genetics, is how is anyone able to decide when enough is
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the totalitarian undertones of Orwell’s 1984. The points of Howe’s
focus that I find particularly interesting is how the damaging affects
of suppressed sexuality and the lack of ancestry in 1984 keep Big
Brother in absolute power. The people of Oceania are overtly oppressed,
but the vast majority fails to see their damnation and live in oblivion.
The suppression of sexuality is not a new concept to any society, but
in this extreme case procreation is seen as merely an act to continue
the growth of population. Any intimacy or sensuality in lovemaking is
disassociated and instead becomes a couple’s duty to Oceania. By
removing one of humankind’s basic instinctual pleasures, sex, Big
Brothers chips away at one of the last characteristics of individuality.
The deprivation of man’s ancestry was another way of destroying 1984’s
social identity. Without a “social memory” a collective people become
unable to understand and unable to construct and value system. The
antithesis of “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”
conveys the complete lack of a sense of right and wrong. There is no
sense of opposite, of conflicting ideals, there is, and only is, the way
of Big Brother.
Ultimately, the stripping away of sexuality and ancestry is an
incredibly distinct element of Oceania’s control on its people.
Although there are different factors which hold 1984’s society under Big
Brother’s thumb, taking away cultural identity rids society of any sense
of morality, and the categorizing an instinctual desire as a “duty” to
Oceania prevents any true intimacy between couples and their offspring.
By reading the novel The Iron Heel I feel I have been able to develop a good connection of this novel with Orwell’s 1984. Both society’s are under extreme oppression, and individuals are controled physically, mentally, and emotionally. Also I hope to help the class see the duality between Winston Smith and the narrator in the Iron Heel.
Unfortunately due to a conflict of scheduling, and personal matters I was able to physically meet with my group. However with our monopoly-like trivia game we plan on playing in class I was able to give my group a series of questions used in our trivia game. Along with this I hope to help keep the class interactive within our discussions and actively participate myself in hopes of helping the class achieve a good understand of Jack London’s The Iron Heel.
November 18, 2009
1984: A World in which Nothing is Everything and
Society’s Greatest Enemy is the Individual
George Orwell’s novel 1984 conveys a world where fear is the government’s primary instrument for manipulating and controlling people who do not conform to the prevailing political orthodoxy. In an effort to educate the reader of the consequences of extremist political philosophies and the imperfections of the human race, Orwell reshapes the utopian ideal to create a dystopia. His dystopia is a totalitarian society that controls its people’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors with an acute attention to detail. George Orwell’s 1984 and Irving Howe’s “1984—Utopia Reversed” convey the horrific affect of dystopian ideals on a modern day society.
Beginning with Orwell’s depiction of psychological manipulation, the Party bombards its people with psychological catalysts created to overwhelm the brain’s capability of independent thought. With large telescreens displaying a never-ending broadcast of propaganda in every person’s home, the Party appears consistently victorious. The telescreens serve anther purpose, however; to continually monitor the behavior of Oceania’s citizens wherever they may go. Its people are constantly reminded that “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHIN [THEM].”
It is the Party which chips away at family structure by enrolling children in an organization called the Junior Spies, an organization that brainwashes its youth to spy on their parents and report any example of disloyalty to the Party. Finally, the suppression of sexuality is not a new concept to any society, but in this extreme case procreation is seen as merely an act to continue the growth of population. Any intimacy or sensuality in lovemaking is disassociated and instead becomes a couple’s duty to Oceania. By removing one of humankind’s basic instinctual pleasures, sex, the Party steals one of the last characteristics of individuality.
In addition to psychological manipulation, the Party controls its citizens physically. The Party is always watching for the slightest inclination of betrayal, even the smallest flinch can become warrant for an arrest. An individual’s own uncontrollable instinct turns into their worst enemy. Continuing the physical control every morning all of Oceania are required to partake in exercises call the Physical Jerks, following this ordeal citizens go work long miserable days at government institutions, leaving everyone in a constant state of fatigue.
If anyone is able to find a way to disobey the party is severely punished and “reeducated” by way of horrific torture. After weeks of brutal conditions prisoners are forced to face the fact that there is nothing more controlling than physical pain. No emotional loyalty or moral conviction overcome it because when someone “[thinks] there’s no other way of saving [themselves] … [they] want it to happen to the other person. [They] don’t give a damn what [anyone else suffers].”
The deprivation of man’s ancestry was another way of destroying 1984’s social identity. Without a “social memory” a collective people become unable to understand and unable to construct and value system. The antithesis of “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” conveys the complete lack of a sense of right and wrong. There is no sense of opposite or conflicting ideals; there is, and only is, the way of the Party.
When Winston asks one of the Proles if he feels he had more freedom in previous years, the Prole wasn’t sure how to answer the question. Irving Howe discusses how “one of the most terrifying things about totalitarian society is that it systematically destroys social memory, first through forced disintegration of individual experience and, second, through the complete obliteration of objective records.” The society in 1984 falls into this realm through its proliferation of technology and shrinking language of a growing society makes it increasingly difficult to hold onto one’s history.
Through both psychological and physical control along with the loss of a people’s heritage forms the defining element of Oceania’s control over its people. Although there are many contributing factors which hold 1984’s society under the Party’s thumb keeping an individual constantly surrounded by propaganda, forcing their bodies to work in a consistent state of exhaustion, and the loss of any cultural identity Oceania has the perfect formula for totalitarianism.
Howe, Irving. "1984—Utopia Reversed." Orwell’s Penetrating Examination of Totalitarian Society (1950). Web.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1950. Print
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In the view of Louis Althusser essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” Alex’s character, although obviously malicious, is not completely to blame. To start, Althusser believes that an individual’s desires, intentions, and judgments are all the consequences of social practices most of which are acquired at schools; there is no other capitalistic institution other than school that possesses the “obligatory (and not least, free) audience of the totality of the children…eight hours a day for five or six days out of seven.” When Alex’s social worker, Mr. Deltoid, reprimands Alex for his misbehavior by hitting and grabbing at his crotch, Mr. Deltoid uses classical conditioning to associate violence with sexual arousal. The same technique, but more along the lines of aversion therapy, is later used with the Ludovico treatment, which causes Alex to associate violence and all sexual pleasure with uncontrollable nausea.
The controversy that then comes into play is the decision of what is to be done with criminals. A decision, which according to Randy Martin’s essay “Where Did the Future Go?” becomes a political responsibility. The punishment and treatment for Alex in A Clockwork Orange is not only excruciating but can also be classified under torture and brain washing; acts typically isolated to larger incidents such as war. According to Martin “politics, the sort brought by there imperial liberations, looks increasingly like war, and war is conducted as an exercise in managing risk.” The constant theme, which follows Alex’s character, is indifference. Society provides no want or need to care for Alex prior to his incarceration, and then when attempting to rehabilitate Alex society merely solves their problem all the while not possessing any concern or interest in Alex as an individual.
Louis Althusser and Randy Martin charge that society ultimately constructs the individual to fit their need. With Althusser the audience can conclude that it was society that caused Alex’s deviant behavior, and with Martin the audience can understand it was society’s apathy towards Alex which did so. Unfortunately for Alex, he began as a character whose actions were the cause of a society completely uninterested in him, that society then in turned attempted to fix him, and finally came to realize their attempts did nothing but cause even more damage. Yet their interest never fell upon Alex, he was merely a problem, not an individual.