For the author of 1984, truth begins with a dream by Robert Moss
We don’t have to search far for the reasons why George Orwell’s terrifying parable 1984 is currently a huge bestseller in the United States, Orwell depicts a totalitarian order in which those in power not only feed the captive population a constant diet of alternative facts, but seek to cage them in an alternative universe, where lies are truth and war is peace.
It is timely to recall that the author of 1984 was awakened by a dream and that in the dark dystopian future of the novel resistance begins with a dream. Prior to his own dream in 1939, Orwell had been an uncritical supporter of Russia and its state ideology, impervious to the evidence that the ruler of Russia was a monster, murdering his own people and willing to do anything in pursuit of his aggrandisement.
In his essay “My Country Right or Left” Orwell recalled the dream that changed his mind. He could hardly forget the timing. It was the night before the announcement of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, signed by foreign ministers Ribbentrop and Molotov in Moscow on August 23, 1939. Officially this was designated the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Under this agreement, the dictators of Germany and Russia promised to leave each other free to practice aggression against anyone except themselves. This gave a green light for Hitler, who had already devoured Czechoslovakia, to invade Poland, bringing on World War II.
On the eve of this cynical deal, Orwell dreamed that war had already begun. The dream shook him to his foundations. He recalled in an essay titled “My Country Right or Left” that “It was one of those dreams which, whatever Freudian inner meaning they may have, do sometimes reveal to you the real state of your feelings.” The dream made it clear to him that if war came he must be willing to support his own country and its democracy, even if he had perceived that system to be profoundly flawed.” Before the dream, he had been so wedded to the Russian line that he had called for the creation of an underground network to spread anti-war propaganda and undermine Britain’s defenses if war started with Nazi Germany. Now, with the clarity of the dream, he knew he “would not sabotage or act against my own side, would support the war, would fight in it if possible.”
In 1984, Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith, is a dreamer, and resistance to Big Brother begins with a dream. Winston Smith dreams that as he walks in the dark, a man’s voice tells him that they will meet in “a place without darkness”. He trusts that voice and it sows the hope that there are others who oppose the Party.
His first act of defiance is to start keeping a journal. He writes his private thoughts in a contraband notebook just out of view of the spy cameras of the Thought police that are built into the “telescreen” on the wall that spews out propaganda day and night and cannot be turned off.
In the second dream reported in the novel, Winston finds himself in a place of freedom in nature, in a “rabbit-bitten” field where fish swim in green pools under the willows. In this “golden country”, a young woman throws off her clothes with magnificent abandon, defying the Party’s ban on love and passion. As he embraces her, Winston becomes a rebel, and knows rebellion is possible.
In Orwell’s novel, both dreams are played out. The young woman from the second dream invites Winston to a tryst in the landscape of his golden country. As their love blossoms, she promises that whatever happens, “They can’t get inside you.”
Alas, the way the earlier dream is manifested proves her wrong. Winston decides to confide his hopes of fighting the regime to a senior Party member he believes to be the voice in his dream. The “place without darkness” proves to be a torture cell where the lights are never turned off, where the prisoner’s mind is raped until he is ready to believe any lie he is told to repeat, and to betray everything he ever loved.
We must make it our game to dream happier endings. Along the way, holding fast to our brightest dreams, recording them in our journals, and sharing our dreams with the right people in the right way, will keep us out of the clutches of the Ministry of Truth. As another great author, Dostoyevksky, taught us in Crime and Punishment. dreams of the night are often correctives to delusions of the day,
Posted by Robert Moss