Words spoken by Winston, the protagonist in George Orwell’s 1984. He’s with Julia, his lover and partner-in-thoughtcrime, staring out over the courtyard below their rented room, their hideaway.
In an age where every room in every building has a telescreen – a two-way communication device that watches, that listens, and that drip-feeds a steady stream of propaganda, they think they’ve found some respite – a musty room above a junk shop in the proletariate side of town. Free from prying eyes of the Party, perhaps.
But he knows, they both know, there is no escape. The system is too pervasive, too complete in its myriad of spies, informers, cameras, microphones. Party officials and Thought Police and neighbours and children, all waiting for a sign to turn them in. And then …
We are the dead.
It was Julian Assange I had in my mind when I wrote my song, We are the dead, which you’ll find on the latest album, Welcome to Zombieland. (If the lyrics aren’t clear enough, the live version has a little homemade video that kinda pushes the point too.)
The parallels are there.
As Winston knew would happen, they are arrested (turns out that the room was rented to them by a member of the Thought Police – all along there was a telescreen hidden behind a picture in their room).
As with Julian Assange, they are kept in solitary confinement. We follow Winston as he is tortured. And whilst Winston’s torture still feels in the realms of sci-fi, with buttons, machines and intangible but excruciating pain, that of Julian Assange is the banal drip, drip of isolation, psychological attack, insecurity and debasement. Torture tried and true, nonetheless.
Assange’s extradition trial, a sure-footed mockery of justice, due process and any concept of fairness, was completed with scarce a comment from the mainstream: big business, corporate media, the security state and captured politicians – the perfect recipe for public apathy as British justice and values are swept, with little ado, over a still and silent cliff edge.
Any of Craig Murray’s reports from the trial – he was virtually the only reporter to get access to the public gallery and observe the trial first-hand; video-links were denied, too, to NGOs, MEPs, and most media organisations – are worth the read: to the point, stark in their honesty. Here’s his last report, day 21, and a video interview with RT if you prefer it face to face.
Winston was broken; he came to know that two plus two equals five, and his love for Big Brother knew no bounds.
Reports from concerned people with expertise, for example a group of doctors whose letter was published in the Lancet, make it clear that Julian Assange is, in similar fashion, being destroyed; if not in front of our eyes, at least within reach of our keyboard and monitor.
In a previous blog I quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now at the end of that book, another passage that seems more than relevant:
The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based not on individual strength but upon individual weakness. What’s really demanded in the Church of Reason is not ability, but inability. Then you are considered teachable. A truely able person is always a threat.
And as we watch our rights being put on hold, temporarily we’re told, and our movements as well as our thoughts watched, weighed and measured, as we spend our waking moments living in virtual spaces devised by algorithms and implented by blindmen, as we sleepwalk clutching to the straw that it will all be OK, as we watch our leaders grin and sign treaties and bury the starving and bomb the poor, as we learn to hate and to forget or to ignore or disdain, as distopia becomes the new normal, how those words ring true.
The schools might be open for the time being, but minds are closed. We are the dead.