THINGS TO MIND By: Doms Paliawan
Can the government have complete control of its citizens through language? This is precisely what Orwell, author of the book 1984, is trying to show. Without language, he argues, we can’t think beyond a primitive level, hence stripped of our humanity.
Some instances show how the party controls the people of Oceania. That totalitarian government is working actively to reduce English to as few words as possible, a revised language called Newspeak. By taking as many words as possible from people’s vocabulary, the government limits the people’s ability to think in nuanced and complex ways.
The regime eradicates all but the simplest words from English. It reduced the scope language can describe positive and negative emotions to the two terms–”good” and “bad.” Intensity can be shown by adding “plus” or “double plus” to these two words. Through these moves, the government stripped the language of its power and expressiveness. It severely censors word choice. What people say in their sleep can lead to their arrest, torture, and death.
The way the government in this future dystopia takes control of its people is through a mixture of manipulation and fear. There is this ever-present threat of the Thought Police, who can watch everybody at all times and see into their minds. Then there is this scheme for the Party to turn families against one another, with children reporting their parents to authorities even for the slightest crime.
This assault on families does not only seek for separation between parents from children, but also wives from husbands, attacking sex itself, making people believe it is but a functional necessity rather than an intimate physical act of pleasure, of love. Finally, and perhaps worst, it is shown through the Ministry of Truth that a crucial way the government can maintain total control is through iron-grip of what happened in the past.
The Party owned or controlled the “truth” of what happened in the past through its constant shifting of historical realities and the various “unending series of victories over your own memory.” It is this that allows the Party to shift allegiance in the war without anybody taking note, and suddenly to have always been opposed to one particular side.
The name given to this process, “Reality Control,” shows how through language the Party is able to literally control reality and people’s perception of it, which is the most effective method of maintaining power over its populace. It’s no surprise then that throughout generations, despotic leaders had always given emphasis to the importance of language in controlling the people. Once the language is controlled, the mind follows.
In our country, there’s but a thin line between liberty and dictatorial form of government. Such oppressive rule could come from a single dictator, like a president, or from a Party dictatorship, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines in case it succeeds in toppling down the government. Either way, we can only expect language control on their part, as a way of eventually controlling us. We hope none of these would come to pass.