Friday, October 28, 2011


I recently finished reading 1984, one of many classics on my to-read list. I had what I’m pretty sure is a common experience in that I thought, as I read, that anyone who sees this as merely a science fiction novel doesn’t understand it. In fact, as O’Brien tortured Winston and explained the nature of reality from the point of view of the party, I recalled words from a senior aide to the Bush administration. It was unnerving how similar their thinking was.

Here is the paragraph from Ron Suskind’s article “Without a Doubt” published in 2004.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Here is how O’Brien characterizes reality in 1984:

But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.

In other words, as the senior Bush aide put it, “we create our own reality.”

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