What better day than today to memorialize George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” a work that began its story on the fictional future date of April the fourth of that eponymous year? The novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, is captured and brutally tortured for, among other things, “crimethink,” the entertaining of private thoughts deemed inimical to the state.
Before being ultimately broken and rendered wretchedly subservient in room 101, the place wherein lies everyone’s greatest personal terror, Winston Smith is asked by his tormentor, O’Brien, why does Big Brother, and hence the government, seek power? “You are ruling over us for our own good,” Winston meekly responds. For that Winston is treated to a back-archingly brutal jolt of electricity. “That was stupid, Winston, stupid!” O’Brien replies. “You should know better than to say a thing like that.” O’Brien goes on to explain it to him. “No one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end.”
It seems to me this is the best answer to why the Republican Party in general and Donald Trump in particular do what they so outrageously do, day in and day out. I submit this fictional theory of Orwell’s goes a long way in accounting for the pervasive mystery of the two years prior to the Blue Wave, when Trump and party virtually owned the government – yet did virtually nothing with that ownership. What little that did happen, the raping of the average taxpayer with the tax scam, the fast track installation of two eerily unqualified Supreme Court justices, put more money in the pockets of their cronies and paymasters in the first instance and shored up their prospects for keeping that money in the second.
The promised sweeping reforms for Jane and Joe Citizen, including the latest promise that a world-beating healthcare package that is so good you won’t believe it, are just around the corner. After the 2020 elections, of course. Vote us back in, they say, and you’ll see. Just don’t get sick in the meantime.
The Republican machine is using Donald Trump, toward this end, to consolidate their power against the day when they can freely abandon their hypocrisy and cease pretending they exist for the good of the people at all. Orwell gives us a cautionary tale of what might very well one day happen to America unless we stop them. “If you want a picture of the future,” O’Brien tells Winston Smith, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.”
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.