"íDonít you see that the
whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we
shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no
words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will
be expressed by exactly one word, with its meanings rigidly defined and
all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.í" Syme, from
George Orwellís 1984, on the ultimate goal of the Ministry of
Truth through refinements to Newspeak.
If you read that passage to someone today, they might
be inspired to grunt, "Cool."
Or, if they were unusually articulate, an adulatory,
"sweet," might burst forth from their rhetorical repertoir.
In other words, what Orwell foresaw as a conspiracy of
Big Brother to keep power by dumbing down the masses, we are doing to
ourselves with a numbing ambivalence for vocabulary, dialogue, thought
and debate. Since we have forfeited our ability to put meaningful words
to our thoughts and beliefs, we have just suffered through a
disgustingly nasty, if not agonizingly stupid, campaign for
president--and worse, many of you are thinking it is the other guyís
Consider for a moment that if a person is not able to
define their thoughts with appropriate words, the most effective way to
communicate with them is through their emotions--kind of like dealing
with a two-year-old. Take for example if you want a two-year-old to eat
his vegetables you might try to convince the child that doing so would
be good for them, as in the tried and true phrase, "If you eat all your
Brussels sprouts youíll grow big and strong."
Or if you want a child to clean his bedroom you might
appeal to fear by warning, "If you donít clean that room Iím going to
tan your hide."
It has become the same in election campaigns, except
the primary motivation is fear. Television and radio commercials
continually warned that doom awaited the republic if we did not happen
to vote for the candidate that approved of the ad. Various authors and
media celebrities have contributed to the anti-intellectual political
scare-fest not by supporting one candidate over another, but by
assaulting the character of individual candidates.
One might say this is the price we pay for democracy.
To that someone with the intellect and ability to express his thoughts
as did James Madison might reply, "From this view of the subject (of
factionalism), it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I
mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens who assemble
and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the
mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every
case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert
results from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to
check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious
individual. Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles
of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with
personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been
as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths."
The intellectual curiosity and verbal skills that
marked Madisonís observations on the influence of human nature on
government in The Federalist X have been cast upon Americaís
cultural ash heap. Consequently we have become a nation unwilling to
think beyond emotional impulses or sensual gratification and we have a
political class that has capitalized upon our shallowness. Since we are
largely unable to articulate political opinions beyond a guttural
disdain for one of two parties, we are voluntarily subjecting our
thoughts, opinions, and choices to those who gain from their
Although it appears that the political class that
controls access to the power of government does not seem interested in
changing our ability to think, it is not their responsibility--it is to
their benefit, after all. We are the ones who will lose liberty with the
loss of our ability to analyze and articulate our thoughts. If we canít
explain our thoughts and give support for our observations, our only
hope will be that only benevolent dictators will come to power.