Oceania Has Never Been At War

The rebuilding continues.

It's another chilly day in England. It's always been great weather and winters have always had a little chill. Today, nine construction workers are rebuilding a bombed-out church in Wintersall outside London, a town which sits on a narrow and treacherous winding B-road, a town which is so insubstantial and has so few inhabitants that you could walk right through it and not even notice it was there. You'd miss the speed limit signs on the way in and on the way out, and just blitz through, although, so narrow is the road, you'd slow down to respect that limit anyway.

The church must have been hit by... well. There's the problem, isn't it? All of this has to be fixed up, the church and the adjoining hall. It's going to cost MiniPlenty a fortune. It may take thirty years and bankrupt the country twice over but the good people of England (and it has always been England) are tough old people and will press on with the work of repairing all of the... damage. The men are wrapped up warm and work all the way from eight in the morning to seven in the bitterly cold evening, long after the Sun has gone down and they've had to turn on the generator lamps to keep working. One stop for lunch, and a few stops for tea. This far out into the countryside, they have to borrow the vicar's house for the Two Minutes' Gratitude.

The problem is getting equipment around, so many bridges have inexplicably fallen down in recent years. At least the structural integrity of the remaining bridges remains. Bridges have stopped falling. Inner-city suburbs have stopped exploding suddenly, due to surges in gas mains and the like.

In London a colossal redecoration effort is proceeding. So much propaganda, all posters and flyers and stickers and graffiti, none of it making any retroactive sense. Who is Goldstein? Goldstein is dead. I've never seen a man who looks like that or who even looks like he knows a man who looks like that. Men are up ladders stripping miserably-coloured propaganda off the walls with paint scrapers. Men are up other ladders in other parts of the city just painting over the offending materials with brightly-coloured weatherproof paint in interesting colours.

Telescreens all over the world, as numerous as flies and twice as intrusive, continue to watch the continuing efforts. Rebuild, rebuild. Build more, receive additional rations. More gin. Gin has always been plentiful. Agricultural production has always been as plentiful as it was this year and we should plan along the assumption that agricultural production will continue to be as plentiful as it was this year. (But then how does the world work? You have to assume rough times are coming. You can't terrify and torture grain to make it grow. You can live every day assuming it'll be worse than the last. That's practical and eternally within your means. But better?)

Telescreens continue to watch you. You had better say the correct and positive things. You had better support the reconstruction of the British Isles which is not now and has never been named Airstrip One or the MiniLuv building which still exists and has always existed and will always exist will be your destination and you may not come back or worse you may.

It's going to be okay. Terrible things have evidently befallen our country (as they have all of our allies!) but we cannot afford to look to the past. Up in MiniTru there are thousands upon thousands of very intelligent men and women indeed whose job it is to look to the past and construct a rational, reasonable, sensible, internally consistent historical explanation for Why We Are Where We Now Appear To Be. There was a great Confusion last year when the word came down from on High but it never really did come down from on High, it bubbled up from below and everybody had always known it was true. There was a period when it was incredibly difficult to understand exactly what was happening besides the sudding surcease of shelling and military movement and overflight by friendly aircraft heading out towards... towards where? Why, we honestly don't remember where. In fact, has England's military might ever been raised in anger? We have great airfields and shipyards, but these have, in my living memory, seen little to no use-- precisely because we keep them so well-stocked with the most advanced and powerful jets.

But now the Truth seems to be settling down. The Story is becoming gradually more concrete. The Explanations are filling up at a prodigious rate and the sour and unpleasant martial history of Airstrip One is wafting out of the MiniTru chimney as fast as anybody can replace it.

Oceania has never been at war.


So where is my father, then? Sixty years later and I don't even know.

Big Brother is still watching me. He is watching all of us. He sees everything we do and makes a careful note of everybody who might think negatively of the State's and the Party's continuing and obviously sincere efforts to raise us all up to ever higher levels, to promote interoceanic Unity and Prosperity. But we mustn't speculate as to how those improvements may occur. We just know the world is always getting better. London, England, Oceania is the greatest place in the world to live.

But I don't know what happened to my father and nor does my mother. I was the oldest of four children. I know what happened to my mother: she died of a heart attack when I was quite small. She died a valuable member of Society. And I was put into a foster home and grew up. And none of that has changed. The history of the world is being written a second time, or maybe a third or thirtieth time, line by line, but I think that good people to the State who died with a positive "score", which does still happen, are good people to the State for all time.

But I thought I knew what had happened to my father and now I don't. There is no Resistance. There are no terrorists and there was never a man named Emmanuel Goldstein, whom I hate, and now I have a lot of hate in my heart and I don't know what direction to point it in. The whole world is wonderful. I am growing to believe it purposely. So whom should I hate? I have no father except in my mind and even thinking this I must think it quietly in case my eyes give me away or I whisper a word aloud and a telescreen catches it and I have to explain myself. I have no father, but I must have a father, so he must be an unperson. He fought Big Brother and then he was caught and unpersoned. But nobody has ever fought Big Brother. Everybody loves Big Brother. So how did he die? How did he die now?

Oceania has never been at war. Food has always been plentiful. Something about... an uprising, which never happened. A riot at MiniLuv, a year ago, which I saw, and was then incinerated and never happened. I fear I'm too clever for this world. I don't buy this world. Monocultures are unstable. It stands to reason. There must be... periodically... revolution. And the clue is the word. Everything returns to the way it was before.

There's someone in the street being dragged away. "I spent fifty bloody years of my life fighting this bloody war and now you're-- get off me-- there was a NIGHTMARE! DON'T LET 'EM TELL YOU THERE WEREN'T NO WAR! I remember--" and then the hood and a truncheon to the stomach, I expect, but by this time I've already hurriedly ducked into the nearest shop and I am not looking at him or listening to him or wanting to know what happens to him.

What does he remember?

I'm staring at the interior of the newsagent, at a rack of newspapers. Distant, muffled: "BIG BROTHER IS LYING TO YOU--"

The clocks start striking but I don't count the strikes. It's February the twenty-ninth, Twenty Forty-Eight, but I don't know that. I don't really know that.

Something pulses in my head, a blood-throb flash of a future or two.


And in most secret and sacred upper rooms of the New Inner Party, where, even now, almost nobody even knows it's possible to go, a few men are smoking cigarettes pilfered from their late predecessors. And they are discussing those futures among themselves, and familiarising themselves with the vast and gigglingly-powerful second-hand (or could it be third-hand?) Controls of the world below.

They have succeeded, but in what, they might not ever know.

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Discussion (12)

2010-11-28 22:42:45 by qntm:

1479 words. Running total is 51347 words. Mission accomplished.

This is another nodeshell title that I've had kicking around for some time now. My major problem with the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is that it is presented as a *stable* society; a static dystopia which will persist in the same form forever, "A boot stamping on a human face, forever". I have serious problems with the practicality and plausibility of such a monoculture, even if it only extends as far as England or even London (the book is careful to make clear that the truth about the rest of the world is totally unknown as far as Winston is concerned).

Anyway, the nodeshell title I had was "Oceania Has Never Been At War" and the main thought is that a successful uprising would be inevitable-- or else the complete submission and destruction of humanity as we know it, causing the Party to topple simply due to a lack of proles to carry it along. This story takes place in 2048, one year after just such an uprising has happened, and the narrator (who kind of appeared in the story unexpectedly when I was 1/3 of the way through it) is (or might be) the now-elderly daughter of Winston and Julia. As you can see, the Revolution has reached the highest offices of the Party, and is now confronted with the unavoidable temptation of using the Big Brother systems to continue to control England for their own aims... which will, inevitably, come around to reflect those of the original Party once again. The implication is that the cycle of revolution is inevitable; this has happened before and it will happen again; the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is not stable, but relies on this continuous turnover to persist. And finally, because of this, you have no idea what the year really is or how long the cycle has continued. It may be 2984, or worse. Only serious archaeological research could prove anything.

2010-11-28 22:45:59 by qntm:

I guess this is fan fiction again technically. Oh well.

Oh, the other problem I have with Nineteen Eighty-Four is that people with such vicious appetites for human annihilation as the Inner Party are simply not competent enough to construct such an elaborate dystopia. In my mind, psychotic vindictiveness and economic and political competence are too opposed to each other. The Inner Party are basically supervillains and thus the whole premise isn't credible. I didn't address this in the above story, but it looks like I may have done so accidentally-- the Big Brother System was "installed" by a preceding "Party" which was competent and well-meaning, and which then mutated into what the book presented.

2010-11-28 23:57:40 by BenFriesen:

Congratulations on finishing!

2010-11-28 23:57:49 by skztr:

1984 has much less fan-fiction than it should.

To me, a lot of the fun of thinking about SciFi worlds is: accept the characters and events presented within the story as "real". Then, work-out explanations for how various inconsistencies or impossibilities are not really inconsistent or impossible. Then, come up with new situations which might arise out of those explanations.

What it comes down to: 1984 is a hopelessly flawed story, so there is a lot of room for speculation on how it might be made to work.

2010-11-29 00:41:45 by Joseph:

Please keep going until the end of the month. I love the daily stories. Some are better than others, and the beginning was confusing in this one, but then it got good.

2010-11-29 01:39:53 by JeremyBowers:

I've thought that about 1984 for a while as well.

I always thought "Brave New World" had a better chance of being stable. 1984's problem is that it is too far from the nature of humans to be stable. It requires the near complete elimination of the revolutionary mindset, for instance, which is at the very least not going to happen overnight. Brave New World has its own issues, but at least by medicating the populating so heavily we are no longer dealing with "stock humans", and I can sort of believe in the idea of some sort of designer drugs that create or destroy certain stable points in the social organization space. (Though in the real world, I deny that anybody is smart enough to actually design such drugs. Somebody at some point is going to try but I would bet immense amounts of money the net effect is far different than what was intended. Sort of like in Serenity, though that's sort of a simplified, moralistic case.)

2010-11-29 04:51:28 by dankuck:

I think the constant surveillance and sting operations show that the system wasn't stable, until those things were added. With those things, I can believe that the psychology of 1984 would work. 1984 is conjecture, but it is an extreme version of actual events and techniques. Nazi Germany had underground dissenters, but even they weren't a powerful organized force. And Germany didn't have the technology or expertise that were implied in 1984. They had to get by with mere psychology and secret police.

But if a revolution did erupt in Oceania, I think this story pretty much sums up what would happen.

2010-11-29 07:15:13 by Kriel:

Mission accomplished. I'm impressed. Good job, Sam.

This must have taken a toll on you. (You made a comment on another story about your other projects suffering.) I can imagine.

I think it would be good for you to re-do this excercise once in awhile. Maybe not 28 times in a row, mind you, but once a month or so, just pumping out a rough-draft stream-of-conciousness story, to give you a break from the constant structuring and forecasting that you have to do for your more intricate stories. (Fine structure comes to mind.)

2010-11-29 07:55:43 by YarKramer:

You know, Sam, your first post here reminded me of a description from Terry Pratchett's "Night Watch": Revolutions always come round again. That's why they're called "revolutions."

Meet the new boss, just like the old boss, indeed.

2010-11-29 19:03:51 by fredrancour:

Regarding the problem of Oceania being static as a flaw of 1984: I always took it to mean that the Party did its damnedest to appear an immutable force of nature but since we had no assurance of their invulnerability but what we see through winston, there could very well be a viable resistance that gets away with organizing eventually. I felt like they were posturing at me as hard as at their prisoners.

2010-11-29 21:32:16 by pozorvlak:

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Congratulations, Sam :-)

dankuck: The history-rewriting described in 1984 is also an exaggerated version of reality. The Soviets used to literally airbrush people out of photos once they fell from favour.

2010-11-29 23:08:51 by LabrynianRebel:

And re-write history so that they never agreed to divide up Poland with Nazi Germany.