What Orwell did not predict

Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert on Orwell and Big Brother and who saw Big Sister on the horizon?

You also showed us the way out of this insane “sanity”:

“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.”

But you also wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” You said a boot. You did not say a men’s size twelve Christian Louboutin Hot Chick Patent Leather Pump stamping on a human face — forever. You, who predicted Big Brother would force us to say two plus two equals five and to say war is peace and to say we have always been at war with Eastasia, did not quite predict that we would also have to say that Big Brother has always been Big Sister, that the penis can be a female organ (and has always, when the owner chooses, been a female organ), and that males can give birth. You did not predict that “Transwomen are women” would be the pledge of allegiance — the oath of loyalty — we would all have to swear, hands over our non-binary chests.

He didn’t, but he did give us a lot of useful metaphors for the situation.

The authors of this article have written a book called Bright Green Lies, which is not about queer or transgender issues at all, but about how wind and solar power will not stop the murder of the planet. Our previous publishers refused to look at it. We shopped the book, and another publisher offered us a contract. Less than a week later we received the email we knew was coming — the one demanding we explain our “transphobia.” The publisher didn’t even bother to wait for our response before sending the next email: the one voiding the contract.

Well. Be fair. Which is more important, the planet or trans ideology?

In The Politics of Experience, psychiatrist R.D. Laing describes how one person can control another’s perception of reality. If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also. Laing writes:

“Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on ‘bringing it up.’ He may invalidate her experience. This can be done — more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: ‘It’s all in your imagination.’ Further still, he can invalidate the content. ‘It never happened that way.’ Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.

This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as ‘How can you think such a thing?’ ‘You must be paranoid.’ And so on.”

That is a fine and useful passage.

When the invalidation, the impingement, and the guilt don’t suffice to shut Jill up, Jack can also call her a bigot, de-platform her, get her fired, have her book contracts voided, have her kicked out of public spaces like bars and Pride Marches, and punch her. Big Sister can do his damnedest to destroy her career. Big Sister can threaten rape and murder. Big Sister can threaten and commit other acts of violence, like nailing a dead rat to the door of a rape crisis shelter. In Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other places, he can sic the police on her and haul her into court. He can even murder her, her lesbian partner, and their son.

So, they sum up, we need to speak up and fight back. They’re not wrong.

13 Responses to “What Orwell did not predict”