Thoughtcrime

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When Newspeak is introduced, thoughtcrime will be impossible. The sentence “Big Brother doubleplusungood” would be meaningless. Only orthodox thoughts will be possible. Our language accomplishes that purpose, now: just not so efficiently.

The way it accomplishes this is negativity. Words that describe those who do not conform are negative. A gay child in the 1960s would hear words like “sodomite” but perhaps not words like “gay”. That example shows we get better, but we still do not have a positive word for “sissy“.

The bus stop was immediately behind the taxi rank, and though the taxi rank was empty, the post office van was parked in the bus stop. “I’ll show him”, said the bus driver. He got out and scratched “Please do not park in bus stops as a slap in the mouth often offends” on the van’s bonnet. Later, we were having coffee. Sara, who is three, wandered away from the table only for a moment, and when we looked she had gone. “Easy come, easy go”, said her mother, and indeed no-one gave a toss. And- just after I noticed the used condom lying on the footpath, the jogger ripped my wig from my head, threw it in a puddle, and laughed.

I got less bothered by groups of loud drunks in the street when I labelled them “boisterous”. There are positive ways of seeing anything, which liberate both the viewer and the viewed.

AArgh! I am feeling disturbed and out of sorts, and

Where I am is perfect.

I have never made a single mistake, 

for I have got to this perfect place,

being loving and creative along the way

and blessing others with my presence.

I am perfect as I am:

what might seem a "fault" is beautiful if seen correctly.

File:Lightning in Zdolbuniv.jpgHave you ever noticed those abrupt changes of gear in the Bible? The prophet is going great guns, God is wrathful and Israel is going to get what is coming to it, very soon and it can’t come quickly enough. And then everything is going to be Wonderful. God like an abusive parent or wife-batterer, swapping at random from rage to weeping declarations of LOVE and apology, with nothing in between.

Better find one, now. Get down the Bible- Isaiah should do: And indeed, as soon as I thumb through to Isaiah, I find this:

You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
    like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
    and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
    with no one to quench the fire.’
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Remember that the chapter and verse divisions are Mediaeval French, not original. It begins to make psychological sense to me, if not rational or objective sense: there was I in my misery, not showered today until 3pm and playing spider solitaire obsessively, and beating myself up about it until I decided not to beat myself up. If that is what I want to do, then that is OK. Then I went for a walk and wrote my purple prose.

34 thoughts on “Thoughtcrime

  1. I fear this may rupture the irenicism that has broken out between us, but the following leaps out at me.

    What is pernicious about thoughtcrime for Orwell is not that it stigmatizes certain things per se (as you point out, natural language does that anyway). It’s that it is a thing alien, imposed, and unnatural, and that it attempts to force people to believe something that is the opposite of the truth. Orwell would argue that true liberty is the freedom to say that 2 + 2 = 4; precisely, the liberty to say that four is four even when the party says that four is five.

    It is inevitable that our use of language will stigmatize certain things and exult other things. You describe a movement in one direction re homosexuality; I think we have had a movement in the opposite direction concerning people who hold strong opinions – of any stripe, but especially of a conservative stripe.

    Whether this is good or not is a question for natural law, as it applies to language, and as it applies to the characteristics under discussion. The mere fact of liberalisation in one direction (re e.g. homosexuality) cannot be accounted immediately good for that fact alone, if only because it inevitably entails stigmatization in the other direction (re people who exhibit strong moral opposition to homosexuality).

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    • I have, of course, answers on whether stigmatisation of homosexuality is a good thing or not, and whether Conservatives are now unjustly stigmatised. I lay these aside, because you have heard it all before, and I would not be saying anything new; and I like Eireny.

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      • I am interested to note that you accept there is such a thing as just stigmatization. That is refreshingly candid.

        I read your post about bestiality. Presumably you find murder abhorrent as well as bestiality – though perhaps not to the same degree. Do you distinguish between the murderer and the zoophile in terms of the social application of stigma?

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        • My idea of stigmatisation is more democratic.

          I feel a perfect right to despise Conservatives- or, according to mood, pity or resent them; but I hope I would overcome their hostile beliefs on, say, homosexuality by argument and by knowing gay people and by empathy, rather than by force of my disgust by itself.

          I see stigmatisation as mobile, rather than static. I think stigmatisation of gay people is wrong. Stigmatisation of zoophiles- well, I don’t like the idea of zoophily, but-

          As for murderers, Tony Martin shot a man in the back. I can find his act pitiable, as well as repellent. I found the two men I met who had done seven years each for attempted murder pitiable in their anger and violent impulses, as well as repellent.

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          • Ok. Certainly I would recognise the importance of the individual’s freedom to express contempt for those things he is honestly moved to despise, even if his motives are wrong, within a pretty broad range of tolerance. I would draw the line, however, at someone being able to say something like “I think the law banning murder is bigoted, and that murder should be legalised” – because that seems to be like an act of treason or revolution.

            “I see stigmatisation as mobile, rather than static.”

            I think this explains what you mean when you say your conception of the place of stigmatization is democratic. Do you not worry that this opens the flood gates for any majority bullying any minority?

            Precisely my issue with a lot of the developments we have seen in our use of language is that it seems to have proceeded in large part not as a general social movement, but as a revolutionary progression instigated by a few prominent members of an elite caste; ironically then, in this sense, I baulk at its LACK of democratic credentials – but that reflects a difference in my application of the word ‘democracy’.

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            • Feminist progression has been revolutionary, with a vanguard- but has achieved equalities legislation because it is clearly just, and has the consent of most. I don’t think we are completely safe from mob oppression of a minority, but perhaps I don’t see it as likely as you do. I observe progress.

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            • I am always conscious that civilisation is a perilously thin veneer, that it has only ever been maintained by sustained, purposive effort, and occasional bloodshed, and that every great civilisation yet has fallen via moral and cultural decadence in a more or less protracted decline from its zenith. I can think of no exception – except it be the Church.

              Where you observe progress, I observe a society, the material wealth of which has extended to all the luxury of indulging vice which had previously only be restricted to the very few. If one is living on the breadline, the good will of his wife might mean the difference between life and death; if there is a safety-net… well… not so much. We are our own worst enemy; I believe our society is committing suicide.

              I think, probably, that our real wealth is running low, if it is not already entirely exhausted, and we could see some very nasty developments in our own lifetimes as people wake up and smell the coffee (or the absence thereof).

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            • I’m not for bloodshed, myself. I condemn the martyring of Christians by Edward as much as that by Mary, for example.

              I have no solution for the lack of work for uneducated people. I hope the wealth of society, growing intermittently, can provide the safety-net. Society without it was horrible- do you read Dickens?

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            • I think it was perhaps not the absence of a safety net, but the presence of a tyrannical plutocracy, and the massive upheaval brought about by industrialisation that made that society so penurious for some. The lot of the working classes in the 19th century was unusually bad – I think probably much worse than the conditions in Tudor England or in the middle ages before then.

              Re bloodshed – it is unfortunately true that sometimes one must deal in force, though it is an evil thing. If I am given the choice between using force against a reprobate, or suffering him to use force against an innocent in my care, I know which option I must take.

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            • Interesting.

              I am not trying to argue that state welfare is all bad, or that it hasn’t helped some people. My worry is not that it doesn’t work in the short term, but that – on the maximal model we are pursuing at the moment – it is simply not sustainable in the long term, and creates an hopeless caste of state dependants, which is, in itself, politically very dangerous.

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            • I don’t think giving someone £71 a week plus housing costs to live on, and making him pay at least some council tax out of that, creates a hopeless caste of state dependants. They are created by the jobs market, and the siphoning of wealth to the rich and super-rich.

              I am pleased to note that with your help I have today passed an average of five comments per post, and four thousand comments in all.

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            • The problem is not so much, initially, with the people receiving benefits (though they are now a serious problem, through long isolation from the ‘real’ economy); the problem lies with the politicians and bureaucrats who have a vested interest to keep them on benefits.

              It’s not about the amount they are given per se, but about the way the system is orientated. It seems like madness, to me, to leave the provision of public welfare in the hands of bureaucracies that have every interest in making work for themselves = more welfare dependants.

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            • This was spammed again. I will keep an eye out, and release them as soon as I see them.

              I agree that 5m on Incapacity Benefit makes the unemployment figure look better, but if you look at the “reduced capacity for work” test now, you will see that people incapable of independent living may be found fit for work. It is ridiculous and oppressive.

              The DWP has a vast number of EOs and HEOs compared to the administrative grades, because of the nature of its work. Yet the hierarchy is cutting them, such lowly workers are comparatively powerless. It is in no-one’s interests to increase welfare dependants.

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            • I think the system demeans people. I would favour a system where the state was there to provide the absolute bare minimum of support for those with nowhere else to turn, but charitable organisations took the brunt of the aid beyond that.

              I don’t believe you can trust the state with anything other than a ‘minimal’ provision scheme; government departments are always after more (of our) money for themselves, and the best way to justify is to extend their own scope of operations.

              Look at how the NHS has mushroomed; I would argue that this is the biggest problem for the welfare system at the moment, not people on benefits. Social security is peanuts compared to the NHS.

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          • Incidentally, I do not consider the (hot-blooded) murderer to be among the worst of sinners. I do not find it hard to imagine myself murdering someone, under the wrong circumstances, and so my ability to empathise makes it more difficult to dehumanise the subject.

            The worst sinners for me – those whom I find it most hard to forgive – are those men who argue for an evil thing, knowing full well that it is evil, and knowing full well that they themselves will not observe their own diktats in a private capacity, and knowing full well that it will cause misery and deprivation for others.
            Like the Labour politicians who cynically decided that it would be a good idea to entirely relax our immigration policy to gain more votes for the party and render conservative social ideas redundant, and then ‘repented’ of it recently when that became the expedient thing to do.

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            • I don’t have a fully worked out hierarchy of sin of my own. Dante’s seems as good as any, the fornicators in the outermost circle and the traitors in the centre.

              I don’t know that, say, Muslim immigration would weaken conservative social ideas. As I understand it, Sylhet in Bangladesh is a particularly poor, rural area of that country, and immigration thence helped the Lancashire cotton mills stagger on a few more years without any capital investment- in the interests of Capital, and against those of the Workers.

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            • But the interests of Capital have always been represented by classical Liberal notions, not Tory ones; granted the modern ‘conservative’ party has adopted some of these tenets – but I for one utterly disown them.

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      • It is interesting to note that you would consider some social stigmatization of some things justified.

        Re your post on bestiality, would you extend it equally to the murderer, thief, and zoophile?

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  2. As to the tension between wrath and forgiveness, I think these are two horns of one apparent paradox, which is the love of God.

    For me, the only thing which enables me to begin to truly pity, and have mercy for people who are by all human standards utterly beyond the pale, is to remember where they are likely headed, how appalling it is, how lucky I am, and how I will join them – most likely in an even worse estate – if I do not live up to my own dizzylingly awesome vocation as a son of God.

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    • I disagree about Hell, as well; but am glad you can use it as a way of entering into mercy for those worst by human standards. I found pity for a child abuser, by seeing the pain he was in, Now. Oddly enough, I have written on child abuse for tomorrow, followed by one on Hell for the day after. It might, I fear, break all Eireny between us.

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      • But you perceive that those who have strayed from God already suffer a foretaste of the torments of hell in their own souls, which are wide open to the tortures of the Demons; that seems to me as good an evidence from experience for the existence of Hell, as the joy that the Christian in the state of grace experiences as a foretaste of heaven.

        Do you find that when you have sinned you are troubled by evil dreams?

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        • CS Lewis wrote something about the soul in Heaven or Hell realising it has always been there. For me, the difficulty with that is that people in awful situations behave badly, and I can sympathise with the Mexican drug-lord’s footsoldier making his way through life as best he can- and I rather hope God can too.

          All people seek Good as best they are able. I hope God rewards that Good, rather than punishing anything we might see as evil. I remember the atheist Shaw’s play St Joan has an English soldier, let out of Hell for one day a year for his one good act towards the saint. It seems a meagre mitigation to me.

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          • Personally, I would advise [against] going to G B Shaw for theology.

            God takes into account the particulars of everyone’s situation; but as Lewis perceives, Heaven and Hell are estates of the soul, in an important sense chosen by that soul.

            That will mean that some who appear to us to be the very pits of humanity will be saved, and that some who outwardly have the appearance of Godliness will be damned.

            But I say with all sincerity that when I knew that I had sinned mortally, deliberately, in knowledge that it was wrong, I perceived very acutely that I deserved Hell. The free choice of iniquity over righteousness is so evil that it defies comprehension.

            What amazes me is that God does not kill us all right now and have it over with; how He suffers for our sakes!

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            • Oh, no, it is still spamming you!

              I have edited your comment, because I doubt you meant advise going to Shaw for theology.

              Il est son metier. Love is God’s nature, the overwhelming love of the sacrifice of Christ.

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            • Yes, that was a true instinct. Gratias.

              Indeed, Love is essential to God’s nature, and it is true that we should expect nothing less of Him; but this is the exquisite paradox that transports us into infinite ecstasies, and can never be exhausted in an eternity – that it is given us to know Whom no man can know, and given to us to believe in Him, Whose goodness is beyond belief.

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  3. I think it works better if I use the comment box at the bottom, rather than clicking ‘reply’. The problem with that is that it makes it more difficult to direct my answers.

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