A Journal for Western Man

 

 

 

Orwell's Warning:

Vaporization

G. Stolyarov II

Issue XIII- April 19, 2003

 

 
This essay is the third in a series designed to dissect the totalitarian mentality portrayed in George Orwell's 1984 and to draw parallels to trends in modern academia and the sociopolitical arena of today. The following is an index of previous portions of this commentary:
1. Collectivism
2. Antiprogressivism

3. Relativism
4.
Doublethink
5. Popular Culture

6.
Newspeak
7. Vaporization -
You are here. Read on to continue your analysis of this topic.

Dissent. The fear of that word and it alone had resulted in reactionary institutions of mass hypnotism, such as doublethink, popular "culture", and Newspeak. All of the above are pre-emptive measures which concentrate upon assimilating the mind of the common man into the Witch Doctor paradigm, thus rendering him an eternal slave of the Party. Yet such measures, as is apparent, would not possess a similar function concerning already divergent individuals, Winston Smith being Mr. Orwell's example of one. Alas, a horrifying tactic for their elimination has, too, been devised by the oligarchy.

It is a common feature of totalitarian orders of chaos to constantly survey their subjects to note tendencies toward defiance and thwart them prior to escalation. The tyrannies which existed prior to the brief interlude of liberty, the Enlightenment/Gilded Age (circa 1700-1914 by the Orwellian calendar and taking into account the parallel universe he had created containing the world of Ingsoc) possessed not the technology nor the adequate knowledge of human nature to monitor the thoughts of their subjects. Their satisfaction emerged from a mere physical subservience, for during that time it was viewed as self-evident that reality was one and objective, and that the truth was incapable of being altered by the dominant paradigm (which as a result claimed to have communication with a power greater than itself, namely that of God. The potency of the Holy Inquisition and the divine right monarchs rested upon their claim to representation of a higher truth, not, in the manner of the Party, to sole determination of that truth's identity.). Power to inflict suffering itself was, too, not their foremost objective. The autocrats of the past merely desired an eternal material prosperity, perhaps at the expense of the remainder of the nation's social mobility, but not for the purpose of the latter condition. Therefore technological progress and a gradual formation of a middle class through the ingenious conceptions of such men as Mr. Locke, Monsieur de Voltaire, and Mr. Jefferson eventually displaced them, for the old elite withered away in its permission of such liberties as were necessary to elevate the individual and transition to a meritocracy, where power is constantly shifting, yet security for all is guaranteed, where it is, most significantly, in the hands of individuals, not collectives. Yet Party domination is severe to an immensely greater degree; one that does not possess such prospects for hope. O'Brien explains: "You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, in heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was 'Thou shalt not.' The command of the totalitarians was, 'Thou shalt.' Our command is 'Thou art.' No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean. Even those miserable traitors in whose innocence you once believed-- Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford-- in the end we broke them down. I took part in their interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down, whimpering, groveling, weeping-- and in the end it was not with pain or fear, only with penitence. By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother. It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean." (p. 210)

The Party comprehends that dissent is bred within the mind, and so long as individuals retain an adamant hold on divergent conceptions, they will serve as either guides or martyrs for progressive movements. Therefore it is a necessity for them to not merely suppress the opposition via brute force, but rather to mold the mind of the target and indoctrinate it into the condition of slavery, of submission and obedience. This is the purpose of a lengthy "rehabilitation" program which initiates the vaporization process. If and only if a man concedes that his cause is immoral and his ends contrary to the desired state, can the "desired state" demolish him. Only when one concedes a framework which holds as the ultimate virtue the infliction of suffering can the framework inflict suffering upon him. Yet suffering is not the ultimate misfortune encountered by the victim. Martyrs may still become bred should "conversions" become public, should the extent of the torment, employed to suffocate a voice unbound, escape into the minds of future dissenters. It becomes a necessity to destruct the very existence of such ideas, even the fact that "thought criminals" have converted from them. Then the question becomes, "What had been the reason for their arrest and torture in the first place?" The answer concocted by Party bureaucrats is, "There is no reason, particularly because there was no such crime and no such criminal. The man of whom you speak had never existed!" Hence is born the conception of the "mutability of the past" essential to the perpetuation of the Witch Doctors and the inability of contrary mentalities to spread or even survive. "All the confessions that are uttered here are true. We make them true. And, above all, we do not allow the dead to rise up against us. You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you; not a name in the register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed." (p. 210) According to relativist absurdities, not only is the Earth the center of the universe and the stars minor specks several kilometers away, but the individual's existence is warranted only by the Party's approval of it. The past, believe the Witch Doctors, exists, as everything else, solely in the human mind, and if it were there extinguished it would bear no consequences nor sufficient validity to consider it in the future. From the perspective of objectivity and a necessity for external control as an essential means to survival, such an approach would result in species destruction. From the misconstrued values of "blackwhite", i.e. evil as good, however, it seems perfectly functional in the securing of such aims as the oligarchs had arbitrarily ordained for themselves.

Martyrdom becomes no longer possible as a result of such a three-step process to which Mr. Smith in the end falls victim. The foremost step is commonly referred to as rehabilitation, or the process of reintroducing a deviant thinker into the dominant paradigm. This practice, however, is applied only to so-called "thought criminals". The common murderers, thieves, rapists, and other instillers of chaos into the public and plagues of the innocent are treated with leniency and granted insignificant penalties for their misdeeds. "The positions of trust were given only to the common criminals, especially the gangsters and the murderers, who formed a sort of aristocracy. All the dirty jobs were done by the politicals." (p. 188) For a society which bases its hierarchy upon the infliction of chaos and terror this no longer seems a surprise. The Party, as has been previously explored, seeks as a foremost goal the dominance of destructive emotions. It is merely the noble and uplifting that they seek to destroy, and the rehabilitation process, a combination of pain and crafty ideological argumentation (with fundamental flaws that persons as late in the history of Oceania as Mr. Smith are unable to wholly identify), proves inevitably functional in the end, rendering the individual susceptible to the imminent annihilation.

The key to the success of the rehabilitative program, however, lies in the assertion, transmitted by men such as O'Brien, that the target's mind is deviant not due to aspirations for a better world but a malfunction in the mind, a mental disease. "You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events, and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never cured yourself of it, because you did not choose to. There was a small effort of the will that you were not ready to make." (p. 203) As mental illnesses are wholly subjective and arbitrarily defined in nature (being the ultimate denial of man's volitional capacity, which can be performed in a myriad of ways, none of which resonate with reality), they are safe ground for the orthodoxy, and the dominant paradigm will, if aware of them, utilize them for the suppression of contrary ideas, most significantly the notion of objective reality, which is objectively the characteristic of a healthy mind, but, in the world of Ingsoc, prevents the grasping of diseased conceptions such as that of the "mutability of the past." As a result of the reversal of the matters considered "healthy" and "ill" (as expected in a society which deems evil to be the sole good), O'Brien possesses argumentative ground to "persuade" Smith that he is in reality acting for Smith's own benefit! This sparks a relationship of blind trust, in this case, of expertitis as a gateway to the "conversion."

Afterward, stage two, the physical recovery of the individual and his subsequent murder, can be enacted with swiftness, as this is what the individual (refer back to the examples of subversives Rutherford, Aaronson, and Jones) earnestly desires for his past "defiance" and as a result of a wish to act in accordance with the will of the Party, even in cases when such will aims to destroy the particular individual. Stage three of the vaporization process, of course, is the "cleansing" of the "offender" from the "past". "-'You do not exist,' said O'Brien. Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could imagine, the arguments which proved his own nonexistence; but they were nonsense, they were only a play on words. Did not the statement, 'You do not exist,' contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so? His mind shriveled as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with which O'Brien would demolish him." (p. 214) O'Brien was here referring to the Party's course of action to be undertaken following Smith's submission. Already, through his perception that he was unable to respond or to resist using logic and objectivity, Smith was ensuring his own susceptibility to the eternal destruction. He would continue to have existed in the objective past, yet such an existence would not be recognized by slave ducks perpetually bound to the oligarchy as a result.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.

 

 

 

 

 

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