Today, I finished reading 1984. I noticed many new things this time around, but something that stood out to me was the re-education and re-integration concepts. Winston’s time in the Ministry of Love reminded me of Alex’s conditioning in A Clockwork Orange. In both cases, the offender/victim is conditioned through torture in order to force them back into respectable society. In both cases, this conditioning is overwhelmingly successful, in the sense that the government achieves its goal. Also in both cases, the subject is ruined as a result.
The last line in 1984: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother” is particularly disheartening when you consider what that mindset cost Winston. He used to be a fighter, he was a rebel, a lover, a thinker. In the end, he is a shell of his former self, almost unrecognizable as the passionate individual he used to be.
I took a few psychology classes in college, and we learned about classical conditioning. Like with Pavlov’s dogs, stimuli can bring about a psychological change in the subject. This was particularly evident in A Clockwork Orange. After the conditioning, Alex couldn’t even listen to classical music without feeling incredibly ill. Winston’s torture and questioning in the Ministry of Love led to a psychological change: the manifestation of DoubleThink. The Party broke Winston’s mind after breaking his body.
It is frightening to consider that given enough control and time, through relatively simple means, one can change another person. Not merely their behaviors, but their motivations, their mindset, and even their thoughts. Classical conditioning works, very well. Hopefully government mandated conditioning isn’t something I’ll have to worry about in my lifetime.
The nail that sticks out gets hammered.
This dystopian view of the future helps me appreciate the freedom of expression and freedom of thought we have right now.
Well, in the US anyway.
Well, in most cases.