With all his quirks and weaknesses (some noted by Kingsley Amis here; and elsewhere ? can`t find the reference ? Amis cast doubts on Orwell`s honesty), George Orwell is indispensable as a guide to the totalitarian mentality.
Sitting having lunch in the refectory at Siping Teacher`s College in just-post-Mao China, listening to the talk of my (Chinese) colleagues, I knew exactly where I was: in the staff canteen of the Ministry of Truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The decor was a precise match.
I was there again last week, as reported to Radio Derb.
The context there was the remarkable story from the last week of the Olympics of the English spectator who was arrested ? cuffed, taken to the station house, fingerprinted, DNA tested, and interrogated ? for not smiling. As Radio Derb reported:
Finally, there is the even stranger case of a 54-year-old man watching the Olympic cycling road race in Southern England who was arrested for not smiling.
Mark Worsfold was not merely arrested, he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and dragged off for a five-hour spell at the local station house, where he had his fingerprints, DNA and mugshot taken before being questioned about why he did not appear to be enjoying the event.
And you thought I was kidding last week when I compared Britain to North Korea? When Kim Jong-il died, Koreans were arrested for not weeping in public. When London holds the Olympics, you`d better be smiling if you want to avoid the attentions of the peelers.
Paging Mr. Orwell, paging Mr. George Orwell. Yes, here it is: Chapter 5 of Nineteen Eighty-Four, when Winston Smith has noticed Julia staring at him across the cafeteria. Long Orwell quote:
"His earlier thought returned to him: probably she was not actually a member of the Thought Police, but then it was precisely the amateur spy who was the greatest danger of all. He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself ? anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called."
End of long quote.
Don`t be caught out in facecrime, dear listener. If you visit Britain, make sure you keep your features fixed the whole time you are there in an expression of happy appreciation of the multicultural welfare state the wise leaders of that nation have created for their fortunate citizens.
I am not so far aware of any arrests for facecrime in the U.S.A., but the way things are trending, it won`t be long.