If there is hope, it must lie with the Proles.
1984. George Orwell.
This thought came back to me today, fitting in both a wider and a narrower, smaller sense.
In the novel, Winston writes it down in his diary; the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent power of the Party and Big Brother cannot, knowingly, be fought against from within. The power to overthrow a system must be from without. Where does this thought take me?
The political side of the thought can take a back seat for now; give it some Haribo, a large Coke, stick Star Wars on and it will be a happy chappy until I pay it more attention.
The personal side.
The proletariat are the downtrodden, in the novel, they are seen as simple people who are controlled, by the crumbs that the Party throws at it: the literature section, the songs created and the Lottery. Moving swiftly from that thought. Importantly, the proles do not believe they are being controlled, of course, there is the fracas in the pub about the lottery numbers; aside from that, they go about their lives in seemingly blissful ignorance of the power of the machine that is above them. Reminiscent of a subterranean metaphor there. The base instincts are geared towards survival, while the higher brain and moral functions keep them in check, they are determined and will test the boundaries.
Take hunger for example: base instinct tells brain (adopt caveman growl and grunt): hungry, must eat. In the primal sense: go out, hunt food, eat. Rather than going out with spear to hunt rabbit or some other creature, we turn to the fridge, or cupboard to eat. The higher brain instinct is guided by learning: fat intake, salt content, best before date on packaging, manufacturer and its ethical stand point. All of those things don’t matter as long as what we eat is food. Media tells us all sorts of things: fat is bad, too much salt, too many carbohydrates, eat five-a-day, our higher brain function takes all that in and taints the primal need to eat. Point: homeless guys on the street may exist on fast food or sandwiches bought by kind passers by, does the person care that junk food does not represent a balanced diet? What matters to that person is that there is food. A primal urge satisfied.
When it rains, how many people do you see taking shelter under some ledge of a building? It’s not great shelter, it probably doesn’t keep the rain at bay and won’t stop a wind blasting in, but it’s shelter. A primal urge to take shelter; keep ourselves warm and dry, a building ledge, bus shelter or shop doorway won’t keep us warm. Higher instincts want to improve our shelter; decorate. We spend money on soft furnishings, rearranging furniture, all to make our home more comfortable.
In my mind, we keep these primal instincts, these proletarian thoughts, subdued; they serve a purpose when we need them, but otherwise, we think we are better than them. We have intelligence, we have choice, we have individuality. Those base actions make us part of a herd, a collective.
Listening to those urges, that level of primality, can we take back elements of the higher functions? Is there a freedom to be had by embracing them. The sad thing is, using the Orwellian analogy, our higher functions trap us. Winston is seduced by the idea of somewhere away from the watching eye of the telescreen, a place he can go and be free.
Thanks for reading.