Welcome to Part Nine of this month’s totally escapist Tale for Our Time – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s nothing like anything happening today, so need to worry about it.
In tonight’s episode Winston Smith tries to cling to observed reality:
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
As Winston is to learn the hard way, there is no freedom to say 2+2=4: The party has imposed a new mathematics. The rejection of “the evidence of your eyes and ears” is now firmly established in Wokeworld: If there is a blazing precinct house and a looted CVS behind the reporter, that is still a “mostly peaceful” protest. If your daughter comes home from the state track qualifying rounds and says she was showering with Kelli-Sue who’s 6’2″ and hung like a horse, well, that’s nice that her sporting interests are helping her make new girlfriends.
Thank you for all your kind comments on this latest Tale. My recent coy evasion on our theme music for Nineteen Eighty-Four prompted this response from Michelle Dulak, a First Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Oregon and very musically expert:
OK, Mark, now you have me wondering about the music in earnest. So, not Shostakovich. Then I’m inclined to guess some Soviet composer more toadyish than he. Kabalevsky. Late Prokofiev (when he’d returned to the USSR for good, and was writing things like The Story of a Real Man). Khachaturian, maybe.
Or — my best guess — Tikhon Khrennikov. I’ve heard barely any of his music, but he sailed peacefully through the Terror and the Zhdanov purge (hell, he chaired the inquisitorial committee), and died in his bed in 2007.
All good suggestions, Michelle, but I’m going to tease it out for a few more episodes if you don’t mind… But we may make February Tikhon Khrennikov Appreciation Month.
If you’ve yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Membership is available now – and, if you sign up, you’ll be all set for Part Ten of Nineteen Eighty-Four this time tomorrow (and all the earlier episodes, of course). And, if you’ve a friend who likes classic fiction, don’t forget our special Gift Membership. Oh, and aside from audio fiction, we also do video poetry.