16 May 2009

Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc

Just had another little epiphany about Nineteen Eighty-Four. You know, what they do to Winston in the Ministry of Love doesn't make him love Big Brother. It just smashes all his self-esteem and any previous sentiments and attachments he might have had. In the last chapter, he's sitting there in the Chestnut Tree Café, completely empty. What changes everything is the triumphant news over the telescreen of a (presumably fictitious) massive Oceanian military victory in Africa. It's then that he loves Big Brother.

You see, I think at that point Winston sees the point of what he's been doing with his life. The continuous falsification of history and reality itself, torture and oppression, etc - they are all worthwhile in that they actually make people happy. He who really believes in Ingsoc and loves Big Brother will never be unhappy again because there's an entire mechanism set up whereby the good guys always win - no matter what objective reality might be saying. The Ministry of Truth creates a world where Oceania is always winning (but never wins) the War, the chocolate ration is always going up (from 30 to 25 to 20 grammes, etc), where traitors are always ferretted out and nothing ever goes wrong, where increasing psychological joys are produced for continually minimising real costs.

The big difference with what we have now is that of course there's no ideological or economic competition in Oceania. In the world-as-is, on the other hand, the individual campaigns and firms want us to continually be unhappy, to make us keep consuming the right products (or voting for the right candidates) rather than the competition. You will see that, when people are actually stirred to mass political action in the real world, this continuous low-level hum of anger and dissatisfaction rises to the surface.

But on the other hand, this continual pressing on the nerve of dissatisfaction requires a compensating need to be told that Everything Is Really Just Fine. Which is where the other side of propaganda - propaganda on behalf of the whole system, of "free markets", "democracy", "the consumer is king" - comes in (and of course the various religious cults). And this is why masses of journalists had no interest in exposing the lies of the rush to war in Iraq in 2002-3. They wanted to believe because a war would make them feel better about themselves. They wanted certainty amidst chaos. They wanted to create a Big Brother they could love. (ETA: This side of the memetic complex, much like Ingsoc, is essentially solipsistic. It only exists if you believe in it, perception is reality, if people suffer it's through lack of faith and belief, etc.)

One reason why capitalism is unstable is precisely because the ideological-media apparatus wants to make us unhappy so we'll purchase and consume, but also happy so we won't rebel and will go to work on time. This is the area in which we've got to work. One big problem with Marxist attitudes to mental health is the idea that anything that actually makes you happy (eg. psychotherapy, religion, your own private lifestyle or leisure pursuits) is bad because it distracts you from the need to overthrow the cause of all unhappiness, capitalism. And then they wonder why the only people they can recruit to their groups are the severely psychically disturbed who can't be happy whatever they do.

The approach that "no-one can be happy until we overthrow capitalism" just means that the freaks and weirdos who would be taking drugs or joining religious cults end up standing on street corners selling papers. Which is good for the survival of sects, but not for the project of transforming humanity. Chaos Marxism's approach - as we've said before - is that political activism motivated by the need to feed or bolster the ego is doomed to failure, in that the ego is itself formed by the needs of hierarchical capitalist society. True happiness - as well as effective political action - lies in the submission of the ego to the deeper Self (which the religiously inclined might see as God-however-definied) which is, in its very nature, part of a broader network of humanity rather than an isolated, monadic entity.

If you find Big Brother within yourself, in other words, you will be free from anyone else's mythology, and free to truly be of help to something apart from your own self-image. Not submission to the Party or some abstract concept, not submission to the lies and myths that your culture tells itself to stop from falling to bits, not submission to the lies that if you consume enough of the right sort of goods - or hang around with the Cool People - it will fill the yawning gap that you feel all the time. The Christians are probably right that there's a God-shaped hole in everyone. But fill your own hole in the way that it needs to be filled (oo-er, sounds a bit rude), and then you will see where you actually fit into the symphony of human existence.