Listening to the Prime Minister of Topsyturvy addressing the House the other day, I could not but think of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, obviously the prime minister’s two favourite bedside books.
Most of you will remember how the Emperor walked naked through the streets while everyone praised his new garments, until a child pointed out that he wasn’t not wearing any. People in authority have the power to make their subjects believe whatever they want them to believe. In his novel, Orwell went even further: he invented a language to illustrate how dictatorship determines definitions.
One of the rules of the new language Newspeak is that any word can be turned into its antonym simply by adding the prefix “un-”. Thus un-good means bad. In Oceania, the setting for 1984, Big Brother is a character similar to Uncle Sam, only more dictatorial. The word “free” is used only in the sense of “the absence of something,” or as Kris Kristofferson wrote and sang: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
In Topsyturvy, where crime and violence are increasing threats to society, our prime minister speaks of fighting crime, of putting an end to violence. In Oceania, “crimestop” means “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought.” It is a crime not to agree with the leadership, which has an eerily familiar Topsyturvan ring to it.
The Topsyturvan prime minister who, in his latest speech, simultaneously praised the encouraging examples of emerging economies but warned us that these very same economies were failing to achieve their goals, was, as often is the case, guilty of “doublethink”—which is the power to hold simultaneously two completely contradictory beliefs, and yet accept both of them.
“Blackwhite,” the ability to accept whatever “truth” the Party puts out, no matter how absurd, is a quality essential to survival in Orwell’s world. Minipax is the Ministry of Peace, responsible for war. Miniplenty is the Ministry of Plenty, responsible for rationing and controlling the entire economy. Miniluv is the Ministry of Love, the most
frightening ministry, responsible for law and order. Minitrue is the Ministry of Truth: responsible for propaganda, record keeping and history re-writing.
In his recent refusal to accept the public service union’s decision not to demand a wage hike, and his dictatorial edict that all public servants must accept a 4% pay rise
the Topsyturvan prime minister was obviously pandering to his electoral base the “Outer Party,” or the middle class that is comprised primarily of bureaucrats and government employees. The Inner Party, on the other hand, comprises the Topsyturvan upper class or official Party members who have the most privileges.
Some people read their bibles at night just before retiring. The Topsyturvan leader clearly reads his 1984. In his mind, “crimethink”—that is, considering any thought not in line with the principles of Ingsoc—is unthinkable. Ingsoc is Newspeak for the
political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania.
A person who engages in crimethink is a crimethinker destined sooner rather than later to come into conflict with ThinkPol, the Thought Police. Crimethinkers become un-persons, persons who have been erased from existence by the government for supposedly breaking the law in some way. Most are vaporized, that is, executed by the state, and all record of their existence is erased. Room 101 in the Ministry of Love is the final punishment for thought criminals.
Standard English, or Oldspeak, is outlawed but still spoken by renegade oldthinkers who have not fully accepted the new Ingsoc way of thinking. “Oldthink” means holding on to old ideas and patterns of thought not consistent with Ingsoc. A person who strongly adheres to all of the principles of Newspeak is called a goodthinker.
In order to controlthe population, all Party members have a telescreen—a two-way television—in every room of their apartments. “Facecrime” or having improper facial expressions suggesting abnormality or something to hide, is seriously punished. “Two Minutes Hate” is a daily telescreen special in which various elements of crimethink are packaged into a parade of horrible images and sounds, at which viewers are expected
to boo, hiss, curse, and release any negative emotions upon.
The Youth League is a mandatory children’s group under control of the Thought Police. They monitor the activities of their parents on behalf of the Party.The preferred method of conception—to aid in the destruction of the family unit—is artsem. Goodsex
is the act of sex solely reserved for producing children for the Party.
The Junior Anti-Sex League is the organization for promoting celibacy. Sexcrime is having sex for pleasure. After the appearance of the findings of the Committee for the Final Solution to Oppositional Crimethinkers, the Topsyturvan leader has invited the remnants of the loyal opposition to peaceful negotiations in Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, in an amicable attempt to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution to their existence.
The Topsyturvan leader’s vision of a better, brighter future for all goodthinkers is truly encouraging in its warnings, inspiring in its gloominess, reassuring in its direness, elevating in its depths, and optimistic in its pessimism.