Rampant midwittery utilises convenient cultural-political references in an impressively efficient way. “It’s just like 1984!” — The signal to like-minded concerned citizens, the class of ‘higher’ education. These sorts of people have almost never actually read the book all the way through. If they did it happened to be required reading. Some lie to themselves that they have, but instead have actually only seen the film (it’s basically the same thing, right?). Others simply understand the reference through the osmosis of ingesting political Reddit threads.
The irony is that control of the kind Orwell was describing doesn’t actually come to pass because of stylish uniforms, jackboots or orange men. Newspeak comes as a result of the milquetoast center, those who just go along with the narrative, the process of neoliberal hegemony itself.
“Citizens of current year, it’s really happening, the thing is finally happening.” - any talking head of the so-called ‘left’ or ‘right’
The truth is that these people are only ‘left’ or ‘right’ by virtue of the center. They are quickly swept up in societal process through a lack of principle, which they rationalise in simple gymnastics after the fact.
1984 isn’t a great book, it’s a good book. However, it’s a terrible Orwell novel. Critiquing Socialist Authoritarianism from the left is a display of Orwell’s principle. 1984 was a prophetic insight into the 20th century and it’s various shades of utopian authoritarianism. But, in the 21st century, 1984 has become so ubiquitous it no longer induces anything in me other than a predicting eye-roll.
Am I anti-prole? Probably. Am I a snob? Definitely. If Orwell knew the level of undeserved intellectualism he was unleashing with 1984 he would have certainly destroyed the manuscript. Half of the book is compellingly prophetic. But, unfortunately out-of-date. The observations within amount to platitudes, only generating upvotes and nothing tangible in a 21st century context. The other half being an expression of middle-age lust for youth, which is just as neutered in it’s language as the Junior Anti-Sex League it describes.
Around a couple years ago I remember a post-lecture university gathering in a pub where I was engaged in conversation with a young lady who was a Socalist in the ostentatious sense. Fawning over the recently-elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and making the case that Bernie Sanders really has a chance in 2020.
I explained I was once inclined in the same direction. She asked what influenced me away from the righteous cause, mentioning: “Orwell…” I was interrupted after a single word:
I’m not saying that nobody has ever had their eyes opened by the book… but they lived almost 100 years ago. In current times if you are a thinking adult and need 1984 to draw the lines between the liberal equality doctrine and the race to the authoritarian bottom of hermoginised equity then there is no hope for you.
I mentioned The Road to Wigan Pier. She had never heard of it.
Don’t read 1984. Send 1984 into a memory-hole, unperson anyone you hear leaping to utilise it in reference.
Read The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London to shatter any champagne left delusions you might have.
Read Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up for Air if you have any middle-class neurosis to work through.
Read Orwell, but don’t read 1984.