Friday, February 24, 2006

The Big Question:

What does all of this (the arguments presented by Orwell) really mean to you, to us, and to society as a whole?
Don't be shy. Let us know what you think.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought of something interesting. It seemed to me during the workshop of the Orwell essays on Thursday that a lot of people agreed with Orwell. This in itself isn't that interesting but what was is that none of the essays I read had a solution to the problem...

February 24, 2006 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought of something interesting. It seemed to me during the workshop of the Orwell essays on Thursday that a lot of people agreed with Orwell. This in itself isn't that interesting but what was is that none of the essays I read had a solution to the problem...

February 24, 2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

That's a good point. Is there a solution? Some tend to think that there isn't any point in trying to solve the problem because either a) it's part of human nature to deceive and be greedy with power and money, or b) it's systemic and therefor an unsolvable issue--for if we solve it, we lose the system and nobody wants that. For those of us who don't think the system is worth saving, that negates the second argument, sort of. And then there are those of us who don't think the system is irrevocably damaged--this view (argument b) is nothing more than determinism and is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if we don't want to fix the system it will remain broken.

The argument from human nature is determinist as well, and I think we all know that determinism is a bad thing. If everything is pre-determined, then how do we explain the progress of civilization thus far. Certainly we live in a better world than, say, the Egyptians. We are afforded levels of comfort never before witnessed throughout all of human history--at least some of us are. There is, of course, the third world and the fact that about half of this planet's population is struggling to exist on less than $300 a year. Some people might say that's all someone really needs to live in the third world, that survival is their only option. I on the other hand am a little more hopeful than that. We are thinking, feeling, rational beings. We have the choice to either stand up or sit down. I think we need to stand up and be heard. We all saw what happened when the German people sat down for Hitler (or any other dictator for that matter). Why should we think anything different will happen if we don't solve this problem?

Orwell was responding to political language that masked what we might call fascist intentions; that is, the extermination of people opposed to the dominant power structure. In my humble opinion, I think that is exactly what's happening to the Muslim world right now--to the entire world, actually. Like in any pack of wild animals, when the population or the pack gets crowded, power struggles and domination of the weaker members becomes more vicious and sustained. Who's to say that with 6+ billion people in the world, compared to 2 billion only half a century ago, that this instinct to achieve power in the hopes for survival isn't playing itself out in international politics today.

Take for example the struggle for oil. We need oil to survive, and many analysts have argued that the only reason our species has sustained such a high population is because of this finite energy source. Well, ask yourself this: is it a coincidence that the most powerful country in the world has surrounded the most oil rich nations in the world with a military presence? This question, if answered in the negative, leads to the assumption that the government, our government, us, we are planning on using our military might as a life boat for us to survive the inevitable depletion of the last remaining oil reserves. What happens when the rest of the world runs out of oil? They starve, quite simply. Oil runs the tractors, is a necessary ingredient of fertilizers and fuels the irrigation systems; essentially if you trace back the survival of people upon agriculture today, you will realize that it all depends upon oil. If we run out of oil, and no viable form of alternative energy has been realized, there will be a mass starvation the likes of which will be so staggering it will boggle the mind--turn thinking, feeling, ration people like ourselves to either absolute despair or complete denial.

This denial is what Orwell is getting at, I think. And in the documentary "Why We Fight", former President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes the point that it takes a conscious and informed public to make sure democracy and humanity survive. Thus, Eisenhower's argument is pitted against the neo-conservative argument that the less we know the more secure we will be. Is this really the case? Or could a more informed public wrest from the hands of the powerful elite the decision making process which could instead of denying the problem surrounding terrorism and anti-American sentiments, confront it in a rational manner? Like, for example, feeding and educating the people of Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma, and Columbia rather than bombing them and calling them free (itself a sort of Orwellian doublespeak)?

I leave the forum open to debate, and you are perfectly justified in calling me a liberal nutcase if you've read this screed.

February 24, 2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger Zhess said...

I think the solution to the problem (if there is one at all)lies in Eisenhower’s argument. If we have a conscious and informed public, the government will (hopefully) be less likely to try to lie to us. Orwell talks about the gap between real and declared aims. Right now, all we know is the declared aims of our government, (this can be argued with the presence of foreign media on the internet, but this doesn't reach our citizens to the scale of our national media) which is exactly what they want, for, if we knew their real aims, we probably would be less likely to waive our flag proudly and stand behind our leaders. Our government obviously does not want that, so they give us a false sense that what they’re doing is just.

Politicians manipulate their arguments so as to give them reason behind their actions. They say that we’re fighting for democracy, that we’re spreading freedom to the oppressed. What they don’t say is that we’re fighting for land, or that we’re fighting for oil, or that we’re fighting to spread our economy to other countries, making us more rich. Are these false justifications for war not a form of oppression?

Not only do they try to persuade us into believing this stuff, but they also try to prevent us from finding the truth for ourselves. They control what the national media is allowed to relay to us, the public. They screen audiences at press conferences, so as not to let someone ask them a questions that might challenge their positions. In the rare instances in which the audiences aren't screened, if a question is posed that the president doesn’t like, he pretends not to hear them. (Did anyone else see the press conference at a University in which a girl asks Bush about cuts on education? Suddenly, Bush goes deaf for a second and can only hear again when a question more to his liking is brought up)Aside from screening audiences, the government embeds the media with the military to show them how much our war efforts are working. What they don’t let them shoot is footage of the dead bodies that we leave. They confine the media to military installations, or they give them military escorts, who decide when it’s time for the camera crews to stop filming. They hide the truth from us by not letting us see what is actually happening. They tell us that everything is going well and we’ll prevail because God is on our side.

Some of the fault also lies on the media. Our media sources would rather be safe next to the government's side than to oppose injustices. I'm sure the employees of national news networks know more than they're reporting. But they're on the side that's winning, and that's all that matters. Most don't want to sacrifice their reputations amongst government officials as being their marionettes, I mean, as being their honest links from the government to the public. Orwell does a good job of explaining this sort of thing in his essay, "The Prevention of Literature.

Without a conscious and informed public, this will continue. The government is going to keep doing this, and we’re going to keep other countries thinking that we’re horrible people. Does anyone wonder why we, as Americans, are hated by so many around the world? We don’t know the exact reasons--we don’t see these conflicts from their viewpoints, but maybe we’d have a better understanding of why they hate us if we knew what we are allowing our government to do if they told us the truth. If we could find out their honest intentions and do something to stop these intentions before they become actions, we might just prevent something horrible from happening.

February 24, 2006 4:08 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Nice Jess, I think you're on to something there about the media (and the government) not allowing us to see the bodies and the leftovers of the wars we conduct. In fact, ever since the Vietnam War there have been serious, and purposeful attempts to keep this material off the air and out of public view. The question is: Why?

February 24, 2006 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have another interesting thought. I think its interesting anyway. Dealing with material on the news, the web, and whatnot, are people smart enough to see what exactly goes on in the world? I mean there are some terrible things that can go on in the world and I personally don't want to know about it. I would rather cast my vote for a representative to make those tough decisions for me. I want a guy (or gal) who is able to push the button on the nukes if he feels it necessary to survive. Why do we have a representative government if we don't want to, or can't trust the officials we elect? If politicians can't be trusted and use words to hide their the truth than why do we have a representative democracy. I just believe that the society we have now is the best we can get. The political system is the best we can get. And I will say that the current administration has made mistakes but I honestly believe that no one could have done better in the same situations.

February 24, 2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger Zhess said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 24, 2006 8:25 PM  
Blogger Zhess said...

Why does the government, along with the media, try to keep the public from seeing the casualties of war? If the public is to see the horrible sights that war has to offer, how likely are they to support it? They wouldn’t, I hope. And that’s exactly why I think the government tries to censor what we see. They tell us that we are going to war for freedom–-to protect ours and help others gain theirs. If they have to lie to get us to believe it, they do. They also try to instill fear in us. They tell us that if we don’t attack these other countries overseas, we’ll be the target of attacks. The documentary, “Why We Fight” included video of some of the propaganda that the government used to instill fear on the public. I think this aired during the Cold War, but I’m not positive. In it, the narrator said that the U.S. could be a target at any time. It emphasized that these attacks could hit anyone’s home at any time. Even your home, right now. If that isn’t propaganda, I don’t know what is. They try to make us look like the victims.

If we don’t see what our government is doing to innocent civilians in other countries, we’re more likely to believe what the government is telling us. If we think that we could be attacked and we’re only there to defend our country, then it gives us a feeling of rightness to the whole situation. Think about Vietnam. President Johnson lied to the U.S. about attacks on American Ships at the Gulf of Tonkin by the North Vietnamese. This belief that going to war would eliminate a threat to our freedom gave Johnson the power to declare war.

When did the war in Vietnam end? Only after footage of innocent civilians of Vietnam being murdered by American troops was shown to the public did the U.S. pull its soldiers out. The government suddenly realized that they couldn’t back up their claims that the U.S. was the victim anymore–-not with the footage that was broadcast into American homes. Then what right do they have to be there? If the U.S. wasn’t the victim why were they there?

This is why our government today doesn’t want the public to see war footage. We aren’t the victims. If the public sees the footage of all of the real victims that are caught in the middle of our conflict, the government’s argument suddenly isn’t so valid anymore. Then the government might feel obligated to pull out, which is not in its best economic interests.

February 24, 2006 9:04 PM  
Blogger Zhess said...

If the political system that we have right now is the best that we can get, then why is George Bush our president? The majority of Americans that voted did not vote for him. I think this shows an injustice in our society. If our votes are to count for who we want to be the president of our country, then why do we have an Electoral College in the first place? These representatives can vote for whoever they want, regardless of who the people that they are representing want to become our Commander-in-Chief.

Now, what if this president that we have decides that he wants to do what is in his best interests rather than the interests of the country as a whole? Is that who we want making tough decisions for us? Would we rather just have blind faith in our leaders? It seems to me that a lot of people would, and this scares/angers me.

If we are putting our trust in these leaders, don’t you think that they should at least be honest with us? Shouldn’t they tell us their intentions before we invade other countries? Shouldn’t we know what our military is doing to other countries once they get there? Or should we just trust that they know what’s right? This doesn’t seem like a representative democracy to me. Our representatives have given the power to declare war to one man. Does this seem wrong to anyone else?

Should we give one person the power to be able to push the button on the nukes if he feels it necessary to survive? I think that some of us have fallen for our government’s plan to make us feel that we’re the victims. Haven’t we been the only country in the past to have used nuclear capabilities to bomb other countries? From what I’ve heard, we have. And when did we do this? In 1945, some people say after Japan had already attempted to surrender to President Truman and the U.S. military.

I think that many people could be doing a better job than our current administration. What was our reason for going to war in Iraq in the first place? Has our government found links between Iraq and al Qaeda? What about the weapons of mass destruction that they are supposedly hiding? The Bush administration also used outdated intelligence to justify the war. I think the Bush administration was a bit trigger-happy and has made many mistakes that could have easily been prevented. I don’t think that most of the other candidates would have made these mistakes. But I think this is beginning to stray a bit off topic--I don't mean to find faults just in our current administration, but in our political system itself.

February 24, 2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Jess does make some interesting points, but I guess my question to Captain Anonymous is this: Why don't you want to know about the "terrible things that can go on in the world"? I'm not saying that you should, but why would you not? This is a topic that The Matrix brought up. Do we take the blue pill or the red? What are the ramifications of taking either? Why do we want others to make decisions for us? Why is the system we have the best it could possibly be? Are you saying we've reached the pinnacle of our governmental possibilities? I think there are a lot of people who would disagree and be willing to offer suggestions that might improve it... Alas, we are running away from the central topic of this debate: What does Orwell mean to us, our communities, our society as a whole? What are the implications of his allegations?

The ideas presented in our debate thus far have brought me to another question: How far should politics go in a writing class? We're here to discuss and learn about writing, particulary writing from sources. Jess did something significant with her first post; she linked to another article from Orwell. Has anyone read that article? What are the implications of that article on our debate? I would be interested to hear from some other voices. If you please, I would suggest using your real names (if you can) so I know who is speaking.

February 24, 2006 10:05 PM  
Blogger Debra said...

If we leave everything to our fearless leaders, without any of our own input, then we don't have a right to speak up and complain when things go really wrong and we have lost all of our rights. This is of course where the politicians want us---without a voice.
This administration has gotten as far as they have by twisting truths and framing words, accompanied with images on our television sets to make us think lies are truth. If you follow their trail of cronism, you will find that they and the media(or most of it) are one and the same. Colon Powells son was chairman of the FCC (federal communications commission.) He may have stepped down by now but made a lot of head way for the Bush administration before he did. Thats just one link, there are hundreds.
The solution to this framing of words would be to reframe them, expose the slight of hand tactics being used and let truth have a seat on the shelf again. does anyone else yearn for some truth? We've been constantly blasted with one effort after another to deceive, that the lines are kind of foggy at times.
It seems to me that we have our very own Pinky and The Brain in the White House. Every week theres another plan to take over the world. Its in our best interest to get educated in the area of politics and the language they use to deceive us.

February 25, 2006 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

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February 25, 2006 11:29 AM  
Blogger Zhess said...

We can’t place the blame solely on our current administration. Surely President George W. Bush was not in office when George Orwell wrote “Politics in the English Language.” It’s not like our previous leaders did not lie or made mistakes, and were honest with the public when they had, then Bush got elected, and suddenly politicians began to lie to us and use propaganda and political rhetoric to make war seem more appealing or justified. As Orwell stated, “in our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a ‘party line.’”

Is part of the answer to the problem stated in that excerpt of the essay itself? If we elect of these “rebels” that express their own opinions, will the problem be solved? Or do these politicians simply not exist? Are there really people out there that will, when elected and given power, stay true to their campaign promises and not try to deceive the public? Or is inevitable that they will eventually fall into the line of corruption that has existed in our government for so long?

February 25, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I think Jess is right to characterize this problem as systemic rather than specifically surrounding one regime or another. What does Pinkser (I noticed a lot of you used his essay) have to say about all of this?

February 26, 2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger Captain Anonymous Himself said...

What is great about this topic is that anyone can write about it and it is arguementative. Yeah thats all I got for today so there.

February 26, 2006 6:41 PM  
Blogger Captain Anonymous Himself said...

Does anyone remember the word we used in class for when the government had the media use a fancy word to say that 50 people died or something. It was like using investment instead of spending when the tax thing came out... anyone understand???

February 26, 2006 6:47 PM  
Blogger Zhess said...

Are you talking about Newspeak? There are some examples of it on this site if that's what you're talking about.

February 26, 2006 8:06 PM  
Blogger Sara Dye said...

I think you are talking about euphemisms. The government calls the shooting of our own troops "friendly fire". Killing or wounding innocent civilians is called "collateral damage". Killing an enemy is called "servicing the target". Orwell talks about them in "Politics and the English Language" on page 547 of the packet Hatch gave us.

February 26, 2006 8:37 PM  

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