I’ve been thinking more and more lately about language, and specifically their role on the formation of ideas and the creation of avenues of discourse. This won’t be a cohesive opinion, because I just want this out of my chest. I’ve been thinking too much.
In Orwell’s 1984, the idea of crimethink (which exists in vernacular as thoughtcrime) was popularized. It is, in fact, one of my favorite words in existence ever (a fact which I’m just sharing now for fun). It defines something that does exist in the real world and yet can obviously lead to harmful censorship and oppression in its most exhaustive extent, as seen in the celebrated novel.
My dictionary defines it as:
an instance of unorthodox or controversial thinking, considered as a criminal offense or as socially unacceptable
In the book, it covers mainly those thoughts which are against the government and against the kind of order the state promotes. Any thoughts which feature dissent, individuality and creativity are criminalized. (In 1984, topnotch surveillance and psychological profiling enabled authorities to pinpoint who was thinking what, even without explicit verbalization of such ideas).
Another favorite newspeak word of mine is crimestop. Crimestop describes the way people in 1984 would deliberately not think of something if they realize or feel that that “something” is dangerous, illegal or harmful. It’s like purposefully not thinking of the elephant, which they can do, just so that they don’t commit crimethink.
The discipline required to ignore budding ideas or the slope to radical ideas comes in different degrees of difficulty for some people. In the novel, majority of the people are able to accept two obviously contradicting ideas as true through a lot of compartmentalization and maybe apathy. This is described by another favorite word of mine: doublethink. In the real world, people who accept two conflicting ideas as true usually do feel some stress the moment they realize the contradiction. This is the basis of cognitive dissonance.
Lastly. In 1984, newspeak was created and taught in such a way that any form of idea generation, creativity, dissent and opposition would not exist. Words are short and meanings are limited, so that people are less encouraged to think. It is difficult for people to name and address the grievances they feel when there are no words to describe and name them. Abuse, therefore, can go on unchecked because no one knows what abuse even is, much less that it is a bad and immoral thing.
Newspeak has come to general usage. It describes any attempt to restrict disapproved language (though for some reason my dictionary says otherwise).
As individuals cannot process anything that can destabilize the structure, society itself cannot affect the structure. When words like liberty, freedom and revolution are eradicated by newspeak, movements concerning liberty, freedom and revolution become eradicated from the realm of possibility. Ideas cannot spread when the ideas cannot take a tangible, definitive verbal form.
But anyway, that isn’t the point of this long and rambling musing. Actually there is no effective transition here. I’m just talking about a lot of things.
The development of ideas and the spread of discourse is therefore contingent on the availability of precise and inclusive language. Words are a necessary vehicle for the dissemination of thought and the conversion of thought to idea to argument to action.
What I’ve been thinking about lately is the state of gender politics in the Philippines, and specifically the role of local language in its development.
Continue reading “i’ve been thinking lately (on language, 1984 and the ‘bakla’)”