Dec 4, 2003

Fighting words. Fighting with words.
The failure of Winston Smith in 1984 and of Boxer in Animal Farm is, ultimately, personal. Big Brother isn’t finally about politics in the sweeping sense of economic production and foreign wars, but about politics in the most private and personal sense possible. “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’,” Orwell wrote, because politics isn’t out there, it isn’t another law or a new plan of production or an army on the front, it’s about us in the most human ways possible. The fight against totalitarianism is a fight for language.

Winston Smith, at the height of 1984, tries in consternation to recall the words of an old nursery rhyme. A nursery rhyme – an innocent and childish collection ditty that is, really, the point of conflict between a propagandistic world-tyranny and honesty. The old man he meets in a bar can’t stop talking about how he misses pints. These are just the mutterings of the feeble-minded young and old, Big Brother says, but the real battle is over these measures of the world: the size of a drink and the rhyme of a child and the way we use our language.