Orwell's novel 1984 defines doublethink as the ability to hold two or more contradictory thoughts simultaneously while remaining untroubled by their inconsistency and expressing one opinion or the other as the situation requires. Orwell defines it in Part II of the novel in an extract supposedly written by the communist party. The phenomenon of doublethink enables the politicians affiliated with the communist party to constantly deceive themselves and others while always believing their utterances even when contradictory. For example, the party members defy every principal associated with socialism but still claim to be representing true socialism. Another example, is how they could fight one enemy on one day, another on the following day, but then declare that the second enemy has been the original enemy of all time and to switch sides again on Wednesday with no qualms (Orwell). Doublethink is an enormously flexible system of constructing reality allowing its practitioners to become detached from concrete reality.
The most prevalent example of doublethink in 1984 are the names of the four ministries in the ruling political party. They are the Ministry of Plenty in charge of shortage of resources, Ministry of Peace that is responsible for initiating and conducting wars, Ministry of Truth, handling the creation, spread of propaganda, and falsifying historical records and believing their modifications (Orwell). Another example is in the ruling party's slogans Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, and Ignorance is Strength. As Orwell puts it, the party forgot what it was necessary to forget, and then drew it back into memory when convenientand then apply the whole process to the process itself. The rules in the state were not to let citizens form individual thoughts instead accepting government wisdom and decisions at face value in order to survive. While the names and slogans sound contradictory, the citizens have been brainwashed to the point that they no longer recognize the contradictions.
The concept of doublethink is still applicable today as many countries claim to be fighting wars of peace or against terrorism. For example, affirmative action is the belief that discrimination can be ended by practicing it. In short, no matter the number of qualified people for a job position, there has to be a certain percentage set aside for minorities. Therefore, for Caucasians, their chances of getting a job are decreased to justify generations of discrimination of minorities. However, this is also discrimination against the non-minorities (El Sawad, Arnold, and Cohen 1184). This form of doublethink is not needed as people should be hired based on their competency for the expected job tasks. Doublethink is also evident in society where judges are forced to believe that enforcing justice requires their enslavement. People selected for jury duties have to drop all prior commitments and work for the court for minimum pay. The citizens really have no choice to determine whether to accept or deny jury duty (Morgan 423). For high profile cases, the judges are quarantined away from society, which is a contradiction to the constitutional provision for freedom of movement and association. While some may argue on the morality of this form of doublethink, it is necessary in todays society since a criminal has to have a fair trial decided by their peers. Some may find it hard to sit through trial thus lowering their morals but jury duty can also be perceived as virtuous as it can benefit society through the release of innocent people and convicting the guilty ones.
El-Sawad, Amal, John Arnold, and Laurie Cohen. "Doublethink: The prevalence and function of contradiction in accounts of organizational life."Human Relations 57.9 (2004): 1179-1203.
Morgan, Phillip. "Doublethink and District Judges: High Court precedent in the county court." Legal Studies 32.3 (2012): 421-447.
Orwell, George. 1984. Editions Underbahn Ltd., 2006.
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