It Was a Bright Cold Day in April, and the Clocks Were Striking Patriarchy – a blast from the past from April 2016
‘As you lie there,’ said O’Brien, ‘you have often wondered you have even asked me — why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you. And when you were free you were puzzled by what was essentially the same question. You could grasp the mechanics of the Society you lived in, but not its underlying motives. Do you remember writing in your diary, “I understand how: I do not understand why“? It was when you thought about “why” that you doubted your own sanity. You have read the book, Hayek’s book, or parts of it, at least. Did it tell you anything that you did not know already?’
‘You have read it?’ said Winston.
‘I wrote it. That is to say, I collaborated in writing it. No book is produced individually, as you know.’
‘Is it true, what it says?’ Something about the idea that O’Brien had written it did not ring true, but Winston had no proof it had existed before the Utopia.
‘It was thought to be true once, yes. The programme it sets forth is nonsense. The individual by himself, no compensation to historically oppressed groups, no debasing of privilege. Everyone knows the only way to run a society is to keep the forces of oppression and compensation in balance, to right historical wrongs. The way to sanity is to always be aware of your evil thoughts, your tendency to abuse your privilege. And everyone has privilege, except the priests of balancing, the enlightened, those who know how to keep society running.
The peons can’t be trusted with such delicate balancing of forces. Left to themselves,s the lumpen proletariat will embrace greed and money making and the society created will be unequal, and wrong, and chaotic. Like Somalia.”
“What’s Somalia?” Winston asked. And for a moment he saw a shadow of confusion cross O’Brien’s eyes. “It’s not important. That’s how to answer the idea of individual freedom. It’s like Somalia. And Somalia is not Utopia. Utopia is perfect and it’s forever. Make that the starting-point of your thoughts.’
The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O’Brien’s face. He knew in advance what O’Brien would say. That the enlightened ones did not seek power for their own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the enlightened ones was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O’Brien said this he would believe it.
You could see it in his face. O’Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the enlightened ones kept them there. He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?
‘You are ruling over us for our own good,’ he said feebly. ‘You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore –‘
He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.
‘That was stupid, Winston, stupid!’ he said. ‘You should know better than to say a thing like that.’
He pulled the lever back and continued:
‘Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. Only the enlightened ones can punish humanity as it deserves to be punished. Humanity is a cancer upon the Earth, the only species capable of rendering others extinct, the only species that will destroy the planet left to its own devices.
But killing everyone would be wrong, because then someone might get the idea they could kill us and we don’t want to die. And the instinct to reproduce is so strong, that merely outlawing reproduction wouldn’t work.
Setting a barrier between men and women? Convincing women men are the oppressors? Convincing women that they are simultaneously fragile and powerful, till they’re crazy? That works. Convincing people heterosexuality is somehow abnormal, and sex is just for play, and then ultimately that all sex everywhere is about power and wrong? That works. The birthrate is falling, Winston, and soon we will have w orld without people.” Winston stopped, a mad gleam in his eyes. “A world without people.”
For a moment Winston ignored the dial. He made a violent effort to raise himself into a sitting position, and merely succeeded in wrenching his body painfully.
‘But how can you control all humans?’ he burst out. ‘Don’t you think here and there, a new colony will start and the species will grow anew.”
O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. ‘Oh, yes,” he said. “Humans are like cockroaches. But if we get in their minds and make them believe us, then we have them. You can make them believe anything. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not make you believe. Invisibility, levitation — anything. That despite biological, obvious differences, and other differences in musculature, in brain formation, despite hormones and how they shape everything about a human before he’s even born, we can make humans believe there are no differences between the sexes. And alternately we can make them believe all males are natural oppressors and must be punished simply for existing, and all women, no matter how powerful or rich are natural victims and must be appeased. We can make them believe there are no differences, and at the same time that there are six genders, or ten, or twelve, or a hundred, all of them natural from birth.’
“But that’s mad,” Winston shouted. “Utterly mad. You can’t make anyone deny the truth of their own eyes, forever.”
He knew the lever would be pulled.
“How many genders does humanity have, Winston?”
The lever was pulled.
The lever was pulled.
The lever was pulled.
“As many as the enlightened say.”
“That is right, Winston, you are almost well. And what is PIV.”
“Violation. Always violation.”
“Can’t a woman consent to sex with a man?”
“There is no true consent, since even in Utopia cis het males are programmed to institute patriarchy. You must always be vigilant against your own thoughts and your own unconscious privilege, even if you can’t be fully aware of it. All penetration is violation. A baby is an invader in a woman’s body. Utopia is forever and only the enlightened can tell us when we’re wrong. Because the individual is not able to balance the forces of retribution and oppression and greed by himself, or not even within himself. Society is always imbalanced, and there will be oppression till all of humanity is gone, so the enlightened ones must teach us and correct us until that time.”
Winston gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken zeem to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the androgynous, unreadable face. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of zees nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. Zee had won the victory over Zeeself. Zee loved Big Gender Indeterminate Sibling.