War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
A few days ago, when I was watching the news, there was one remarkable report about the Dutch article ‘het’. Linguists predicted that it will disappear and be replaced by the other article ‘de’, because the immigrants have difficulty with distinguish them. Nonsense, was the first thing I thought. How can a word disappear when everyone uses it?
This made me think of the famous book ‘1984’, written by George Orwell, in which an oppressive regime develops its own language, known as Newspeak, by removing words and synonyms so that people can’t express their feelings. Language has to simply be a means of conveying a clear message.
Of course this is in a total different context, but I was wondering how the people in the book felt when ‘their words’ were taken away. It must have been terrible to get imposed a new language which contains less words than you want it to have. For example, in Newspeak there was no word for science because the Party believed that when people are omnipotent, they won’t need science. I think this is badly reasoned, because you do need science to become and stay omnipotent. This ignorance will lead to weakness, not to strength.
In 1984 there is also a large reduction of verbs. When you take the verb ‘to make’, all synonyms, such as ‘to manufacture’, ‘to shape’ or ‘to fabricate’, are removed from the dictionary, which becomes lighter with every new edition.
But words are not only being removed, they are also being given a new meaning. The word ‘war’ has even become misleading. Normally this word was used to declare a situation of a country conquering foreign territory. According to the Newspeak dictionary it is a way to keep society intact. Once that is assumed, it is kind of logical that no one sees that the slogan of the Party ‘War is Peace’ is a contradiction.
Because everyone is forced to be naive, the world is seen as heaven on earth, all thanks to the four great Ministries: The Ministry of Love, The Ministry of Peace, The Ministry of Plenty and The Ministry of Truth. People don’t dare to say it’s untrue. That their lives are full of hatred, war, starvation and lies. They don’t even dare to think it. The fear that they can be caught for thoughtcrime is always chasing them. Doublethink should be practiced everywhere. When the Party says that two and two make five, you must not just accept it. You must believe it.
The sad thing is that this will always continue. People will never know what is really going on and can’t learn from faults from the past because the Ministry corrects them in every written source.
Apparently it is possible that a change of language can have an impact on our ideas. So what if the Dutch article ‘het’ disappears? Could it influence our communication? I don’t know. As long as we don’t have to live like the people in 1984, I’m content. Because a nation with a language that is intended to mislead can never be good.