Friday, November 14, 2014


In Orwell's '1984', holding an opinion that opposed or doubted the ruling party is a criminal act, a 'thoughtcrime'.  The narrative portrays the fear-filled lives of folks trying to color only inside the lines.  With life or death in the balance, freedom is a distant dream.

Thinking must conform.

Orwell explains how folks in his fictional world learned to cope, to manage their own thoughts.  "Crimestop," he tells us, "is the (learned) faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments .... Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."

It's commonly clothed in Doublespeak/Doublethink (veiling disingenuous thinking from ourselves)
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it...."  ~ Winston Smith

So folks spend their energies, struggling to explain away distinctions between right and wrong, freedom and oppression, choice and constraint.

We'd never personally accept such self-negation in western culture, of course.

Turn a blind eye, keep your distance, don't dig deeper or think it through ....  a Pavlovian response of adapt, adjust, acquiesce, survive, succeed. 

Is there a time and place to take a stand, or should we, as is common, just acquiesce?  On what issues?  Is there a threshold beyond which we must change our response?

Concessions begin small, usually.  We easily adapt to the norms of our own culture.  I recall being asked in another country by a couple of young Christian men what I thought about a husband beating his wife.  They were struggling with the question; one held that she should be beaten routinely to keep her in line while the other insisted that it was only appropriate if she was disrespectful.  These were fine, honorable young men, mind you.

Like cultural norms, the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves are persuasive.  We're inclined (biased) to accept ways that ensure our survival.  Wall Street, for one example, insists that pumping wealth out of the world is acceptable regardless of the harm done, and they continue unchallenged.  Despite clear connection between unethical practices in the financial industry and the death of hundreds of thousands in the developing world, there is little being done to address the cause. Acquiescence is a narrow pathway, and treacherous.