Thursday, June 25, 2009

Orwell and Iran

A Sunday Telegraph video about "George Orwell--A Celebration," in London's West End. It seemed less relevant when I saw it two weeks ago than it does today:


The Ministry of Love-Hate

A new form of totalitarianism is being born in Iran. Why—and what—Big Brother is watching.

By Christopher Dickey in London | Newsweek Web Exclusive

... "Totalitarian" is, in fact, one of those words that's been applied so often to so many governments that it doesn't seem to mean much any more. But back in the middle of the 20th century, when George Orwell wrote the bleak, iconic novel 1984, he had a profound sense of the evil that men did when they sought to control every aspect of a nation's and a people's life. For those who have the chance to see it, there is a dramatization called "George Orwell—A Celebration" playing in London just now. And parts of it, especially the interrogation-indoctrination scene from the closing pages of the novel, bring home this point like nothing else I've seen recently—except the videos out of Iran. Day by day, even as less and less news leaks past the human censors and inhuman digital filters, we can still make out the shadowy outlines of a new totalitarian state aborning. And this is something new.

Perhaps you thought this was always true in Iran, but it wasn't, quite. The reign of terror that followed the revolution 30 years ago had come to seem a fading nightmare. The regime, even under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had become one that could accommodate many views. It was restrictive and sometimes capricious, but it allowed most people to breathe and get on with their lives. When right-wing American pundits anxious to discredit Muslims everywhere talked about "Islamofascism," the Iranian reality tended to give the lie to their arguments, not confirm them. Now, sadly, all that is changing.

"In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self-abasement," says the state interrogator in the 1984 Ministry of Love, which is the ministry of hate. The message is beaten into the society until all resistance, even mental resistance, is broken. As the protagonist of Orwell's novel finally surrenders, he lets himself believe that "Freedom is slavery," that "two and two make five," if the state tells him so, and that "God is Power." He learns to love Big Brother.

That was the kind of love, based on lies and fear, that the old totalitarian governments learned to expect from their populations. That is the kind of love the leaders of Iran's government seem to want from their people today. No wonder the Russians, the Chinese and the Cubans are cheering them on.

The full article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/203566

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