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"1984" Thought Experiment: how would the dystopia end?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Winner, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    I assume mostly everybody has read Orwell's famous Nineteen Eighty-Four. When I read it for the first time in the late 1990s, it left me pretty depressed and I was asking myself - is there a way out of that dystopia? The author clearly wants to drive home the message that there isn't. You get re-educated and/or vaporised if you think otherwise.

    But...

    ... let's go there anyway. Use relevant knowledge in the fields of political science, sociology, economics, biology, psychology, ecology, and whatever else you find useful to explain how the tripartite totalitarian system in 1984 would eventually come to its end.

    ---

    I'll begin with the environmental sustainability argument. The three superpowers are always at war because they need to get rid of surplus production which, if used to improve the living standards of the people, would ultimately expand the middle class and cause a revolt against the Inner Party (and its equivalents in Eurasia and Eastasia).

    They think this is a state which can go on forever. But, even assuming very low population growth or even stagnation, one day critical resources would become scarce, especially oil/natural gas and coal. The first superpower to realize it is running out of critical resources would likely attempt to expand its core territory to acquire more resources, precipitating an alliance against it by the other two. This would lead to even quicker exhaustion of the critical resource in question. Eventually (one scenario*), this superpower would begin losing as it would be unable to maintain the war effort. Even if the two other superpowers didn't press the advantage (which they likely wouldn't, they don't wage war to "win"; war is peace), it would begin to collapse internally. After all, the massive state apparatus keeping the population in line needs to be maintained. If critical resources are not available, it might lose its power over the populace. Were that to happen, it is likely the Inner Party (or its equivalent) would panic and use its stockpiles of nuclear weapons to take down the other two superpowers, thus triggering a global atomic (I am not saying thermonuclear, because we can't assume these stagnating societies have developed H-bombs) war. Alternatively, the system would collapse and a non-totalitarian government(s) would emerge, which would likely cause the other two superpowers to divide the defeated superpower's territories among themselves.

    The problem is this would gravely destabilize a system which was previously in balance. It would now be possible for one superpower to get much more powerful than the other, which would escalate the war, and eventually probably lead to a nuclear exchange. Even if not, one of the two remaining superpower would again begin running out of critical resources, leading to the scenario above.

    (* - alternately, an attack by one superpower against core territories of the other would lead to a nuclear escalation right away. Say, if Eastasia invaded Australia and/or Siberia to acquire critical resources, this breach of the status quo would force Oceania and Eurasia to counter-attack with much more force to contain the "rogue" superpower.)

    The post-Orwellian world would be a sad place - impoverished and ruined socially, culturally, environmentally, and economically. Without the Party to maintain demand for high-level surveillance technology, societies would likely regress technologically back to the pre-industrial era and never reach the technological sophistication of our today's world. Without cheap coal, oil, and metals, humanity would be stuck in perpetual middle ages until it died out, for reason or another.

    So, no happy ending in my view. What about your ideas?
     
  2. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    Why do you assume that the population would remain stable.
    Each power could reduce its own population to match the decline in resources.
     
  3. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Even so, one of the three would put itself at a disadvantage. Especially Eastasia is mentioned in the book as being reliant on "industriousness and fecundity" of its people. Generally speaking, too many people is bad, too few is even worse for the ruling Party as it would mean a decline in relative power vis-a-vis the other two superpowers.
     
  4. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    The resources that would be used for maintaing population would be available for warfighting as well as reduced demand. The powers are in contact with each other so they would agree to do this together.
     
  5. GoodSarmatian

    GoodSarmatian Blackpilled Idealist

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    If the three superpowers have this kkind of gentlemen'S agreement that the war will go on forever they could just as easily decrease the intensity of the conflict. The first step would be to first increase let the industrial infrastructure decay with the justification that the resources are needed for for the war effort and then slowly wind the tech level down to hordes of poorly equipped conscripts killing each other. They already have total control over their economies, so it shouldn't be that difficult to go from war as a means to get rid of excess production to just preventing excess production.
     
  6. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    1) I am looking for ways the dystopia would eventually collapse in on itself. I'd like to hear some alternative ideas, something I haven't thought about. I.e. the premise of this thread is that it CANNOT last. I am interested in constructive criticism, but if you keep with "but it will last forever, just as the book insinuates" this thread will become pointless.

    2) I don't think the superpowers are in any kind of proper "conspiracy" to keep the world the way it is. They're not, in my opinion, in any real contact. That contact is likely limited to "don't shoot at us now, let's shoot together at the other guys", kind of like when you play DEFCON with random people on the internet. The war is simply a convenient way of maintaining status quo, and the rules the superpowers observe are inherent to the nature of the game; meaning they have probably never been agreed on, formally speaking. In fact, doublethink requires the Party to believe that final victory is possible while also knowing it is not desirable at the moment. That's why all the superpowers keep building and stockpiling nuclear weapons, for this kind of hypothetical final showdown.

    Don't forget that certain level of industrial production and technology is necessary to keep the police state functioning. If the basic surveillance infrastructure started failing due to resource shortages, the system might collapse. Also, the Inner Party members are accustomed to certain luxuries; their lack might spark an inner conflict between its members, likewise resulting in the regime's collapse.

    Scaling down industrial production and getting rid of excess population (by whatever means) to adapt to diminishing resources would require far more co-ordination between the ever-suspicious superpowers. It might just be possible if all three of them were facing the SAME rate of decline as to maintain the RELATIVE balance of their power. What I am saying is that if just ONE of them faces a growing resource crisis while the remaining two don't, it might unbalance the system and lead to an escalation of the perpetual war into a total nuclear war, or a collapse of the weakest superpower and the ensuing total war between the remaining two.

    Oh, I am also assuming that what's in the Book is factually correct, as O'Brian said. The wiki article offers some interesting alternative possibilities, such as that Britain/Airstrip One is essentially a rogue, DPRK-like state whose leadership created the fiction of global superpowers to keep the population ignorant of the outside world. Now that would a be a rich plot-twist for a film, but I stick with the Book.
     
  7. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    Hmm. Given the terms of this hypothetical there isn't any way out of the bind. Not that I can see, anyway.
     
  8. Takhisis

    Takhisis excuse me

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    Winner, this is all based on Emmanuel Goldstein's book which is a fabrication of the party of Eastasia. For all you know it could be just England -not necessarily the whole of England- that is under the sway of the Party. Nothing is really known about the outside world, just about London and Ingsoc, and even those are debatable.
     
  9. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    There would be a mutated gene, that would be constantly screened for, but unable to be wiped out until after the damage is done.
     
  10. Takhisis

    Takhisis excuse me

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    But in keeping with your OP, Winner, a large natural disaster might be enough. Remember that the proles are the majority and they're not that brainwashed.
     
  11. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    "If there is any hope, it lies with the proles."
     
  12. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    That's a bit harder then just decreeing that production will be lowered. It requires you to fundamentally reorder how production comes about.
     
  13. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    O'Brian, when he tortures Winston, confirms the factual accuracy of the book. He says something like that it is true as a description. Therefore, I have decided to consider it a basis for the hypotheticals debated in this thread.

    "[Proles] can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect."
     
  14. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Doesn't mean he is telling the truth. Or even knows whether he is telling the truth or not. It may be that there even a hierarchy above him that goes unmentioned in the book, despite he is considered an important Party member.

    The weakness of the IngSoc party will be that the Proles inadvertently become educated enough to overthrow it. Oceania most closely watches the Middle-Class to which Winston Smith belongs to because it fears that they are most able to overthrow it. But the IngSoc never has accounted for the possibility that the upper strata within the Proles may actually supplant the current middle classes as represented by Winston Smith.
     
  15. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Yes, and we could question basically anything that happens in the book. I have just decided to take it at face value.

    And how would that happen? The Proles are controlled less by the Party because of their sheer numbers, but any too intelligent/aware prole is eliminated by the Thought Police.

    Any Prole action that could seriously threaten the Party would have to be extremely rapid, which, given the lack of communications between Oceania's constituent parts, is very unlikely.

    It reminds me of a worker unrest in Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1950s which followed a particularly outrageous "monetary reform" by the Communist government which basically obliterated people's savings overnight (one day you could buy a car, the next you barely could afford a new pair of shoes). In Pilsen, masses of people took to the streets; but due to the effective communication/media blackout, there was little to no coordination between the various groups of protesters and therefore what could have escalated into a Hungary-level uprising against the Communist government ended after a few days when the government deployed the police and People's Militia to suppress the protesters.

    Now, Communist Czechoslovakia, even in the 1950s, was a democratic paradise compared to Oceania.
     
  16. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Yet the Thought Police primarily polices the lower party members. The point is that the Proles are not assumed to be a threat to begin with.
     
  17. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    That is certainly what rulers have always told themselves, yes.
     
  18. Takhisis

    Takhisis excuse me

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    Yes, and we can play along, but O'Brien might be lying himself, which is the point of the book. There's no such thing as truth in such a world.
    With doublethink…
     
  19. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Do you imply that the Thought Police may actually destroy itself?
     
  20. Takhisis

    Takhisis excuse me

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    Not sure. But perhaps the collective neurosis would eventually result in a collapse from collective madness.
     

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