When life imitates art, it typically takes those elements we believe are unique to our own experience and weaves them into a broader tapestry of humanity. It gives rise to a warm sense that beneath all of our differences and rivalries, there is a tether, no matter how tenuous, that maintains that common connection.
This article is not about that. No, this is about the aberration of contemporary American politics. It is about collective fear driving many to the brink of madness. I will predicate this by saying the book, 1984 by George Orwell (1948) is quite possibly the scariest book I have ever read. That being said, we are witnessing the rise of “The Party.” 2020 could very easily be the prologue to the novel.
“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 right! They were wrong and he was right.” ~ 1984 (George Orwell)
We have only to look at this piece of literature through a lens of human motivation to make the excerpts and quotes in the extensively read novel 1984, take shape. To view these trends of ambition played out daily on C-Span, FOX News, and CNN we might be inclined to deny what we are seeing and hearing. That would be the easy course. Some of us are not wired that way. Should the events unfold in similar fashion in these United States, I venture a guess that we would have long since been rendered “Un-Persons” by the time Winston started asking his questions. How many of us remain depends largely on how many are willing to answer my sounding trumpet.
There is a serious threat that exists in this country right now. As we speak, we have two factions making up a large segment of our population. Though they seem to be diametrically opposed to one another…so different as to draw blood…they have something infuriating in common. They share an unwillingness to acknowledge facts. Even in the face of irrefutable evidence that something is true, they will challenge it. They never have to refute the fact if they simply deny that it is one. So on and on we go. We circle one another and never really reach consensus on a definition of reality.
So who is able to put questions in their minds? Who is it the people trust so blindly? Who has assumed the role of “tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes…” (~ O’Brien – 1984) of their choosing? In Orwell’s novel they were referred to merely as ‘The Party.’ How appropriate that life would choose to mimic such an entity to achieve the same ends. After all, we relinquish the power of the people to the private organizations known as ‘parties’ and trust that they are able to play the political games that we have no interest in learning (War Is Peace). We pay less and less attention to the means by which our ends are obtained, caring more that the results are achieved. What happens when those ends are not achieved? What happens if they fail to deliver on their promises, their platforms and stated goals? The answer is simple. Nothing.
“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” ~ 1984 (George Orwell)
Power is the currency of control. Fear is its exchange rate. Our government, in its current form, is the market by which their fluctuations are calculated. It is in this context that The Party has risen to dominate the political landscape. To consolidate control, the Party has learned to manipulate people through a variety of triggers. They handily convince their members that they are the only thing standing in the gap to prevent total dissolution. They are the guardians of our heritage. The Party is the benevolent defender of our values. It becomes the recipient of our trust.
By cultivating such a level of loyalty as to dissuade questions, they begin to insulate themselves from criticism. Any threat to the Party represents a threat to the Republic for which it stands. Their motives are above reproach. In such an environment, the people will question their own judgment. Inevitably, they will look at their neighbors and friends as evidence that their concerns are unfounded. So they suppress suspicion and seal their lips, lest they be exposed as a subversive element from the other side.
Two strong forces of fear must be at play to maintain a grip on such absolute control over their membership:
- Fear of the opposition must be so primal in origin that it demands a unification, a surrender of autonomy (this would include orthodoxy, ideals and distinct views) and an undying allegiance to maintain the Party’s effective strength.
- Fear for the Party’s existence demands that membership defend it, justify it and accept that it operates in a strategy far above the proletariat’s capacity to understand (indeed, a good amount of time is dedicated to discovering the genius behind the Party’s plan).
Blind loyalty is not a tendency of membership, it is a necessity. However, a faceless entity cannot invoke such deep emotional attachment to it. There must be a uniting figure to stand strong, to champion the Party and bring flesh and blood vitality to its image. There has to be a “Big Brother.” He has to demonstrate tendencies of brutality and favor in equal measure, rewarding some while castigating others. As there is no clear guideline to determine what will fall in favor or out, many are reluctant to posit any original views, preferring the safety of repeating quotes or reciting messages through reorganizing the Party’s words. As the Party shifts tactics, even reversing itself, the membership is required (for the Party’s preservation) to follow suit. This requires no deep understanding, merely dedication (Ignorance Is Strength).
“Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature was now completely obsolete.” ~ 1984
When taking all of these things into consideration it is much easier to rationalize the irrational. It is much easier to inhabit the mind of the Party member. For many, their very survival is dependent on the Party and the part they play in protecting it. If those who oppose the Party are able to destroy it (regardless of the quarter from which that opposition comes) there will be no means to preserve themselves. If the Party falls, they fall and all their fears will be realized. It is this desperation that guides their actions and motivations. It is this fear that compels them to accommodate Party reversal of formerly held positions. There is nothing that cannot be justified, no slight or major shift that cannot be adopted for the cause (Freedom Is Slavery).
Solidarity must be absolute. Any challenge is construed as an act of subversion, an insidious threat to be confronted with extreme prejudice and a battle to nobly engage. After all, in their minds, they are fighting for the future even of those who oppose them. Any opposition that will not embrace that is not worthy of the future that the member is trying to secure.
The novel goes to great lengths to explain the Party’s lust of power for power’s sake. It reveals how the power is obtained and maintained. Any dissenter who steps out of the security of the Party must be broken in mind and spirit. Those who challenge Party control must be ferreted out, made to confess their subversive acts (even owning transgressions for which they were not guilty), apologize for their crimes against the Party and through torturous affliction learn to embrace the party once again. After that they pass from notable mention into the obscure ranks as a shadow of their former selves. The parallel of being “primaried” for failures they have previously atoned for, cannot be lost on those who have read the book. The method of converting those deemed reprobate is an additional level of Party protection that illustrates its dominance over those who would consider presenting a challenge to its supremacy.
With the emergence of the Party mentality in America, all the former things have passed away. Platform, policy, principle, ideology, values, our very country, the law and the prophets are now relegated to a passive role as tools in the overarching conflict. The very Constitution has been subjugated to obtain victory over membership. As dangerous as such allegiance is, it is the Party that cultivates it. As anathema as such loyalty is to the Republic, they will justify the Party and themselves to save it. This is the heart of the paradox. When the Party has subverted everything it claims to preserve, it has ceased to be a viable defense against the threat. It has become the threat. So, which “Party” am I referring to in this article? Well, in the novel, there was only “The Party.”
Eric Buss is an avid reader and studies history, military, philosophy and politics.
He considers himself a Christian Conservatarian