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MILITARU: Do we need ideology?

George Orwell's classic "1984" deals with perception and ideology. But how do those two things impact each other, and how do they influence our idea of America? – Photo by Pintrest

"INGSOC."

What do you think it means? A failing millennial sock start-up? Perhaps an obscure government organization that runs the Interior National Governing Systems of Colorado? Is it an acronym you used to memorize the different state birds in grade school? For once, we turn to English majors for the answer. 

Every creative writing minor and pro-privacy political pundit will know that there is no political ideology more potent than INGSOC from George Orwell’s "1984." INGSOC, short for English Socialism, is defined by three pillars: newspeak, doublethink and rewriting history.

Newspeak is the new dialect of Oceania, a simplified version of English that makes expressing one’s desires and personal beliefs almost impossible, and doublethink is the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time, usually for the benefit of the party.

So why are you reading an article about a fictional political ideology? There is no better time to discuss the “soul of our nation” than November 2020, an election year so crucial, stores are boarding up their windows before the results come out. Our nation’s political ideology is changing, and while there is plenty to say about what the right direction to go in is, I would rather focus on where we have been and what purpose our uniting ideology has. 

Traditionally, an ideology serves the role of mental blinders that control national culture and identity, while also mobilizing people to identify with one another and work together. 

The writers of national ideology have a significant impact on the moral and political identity of a nation or group, but identifying these authors is near impossible because they do not exist as individuals but are rather the collection of individual behaviors, some with more weight than others (i.e., leaders, celebrities, etc.).

The psychology of personal ideologies is something that far surpasses my understanding, but in short, it is a lot like an identification or driver’s license. For the most part, everyone’s got one, and it’s a bit difficult to function in society without it.

Our American ideology begins with a creation myth (the word myth is used not to imply falsehood but rather to explain the embellishment of facts). George Washington and his posse of founding fathers gave birth to our nation in 1776. Selfless heroes, like Paul Revere and Nathan Hale, put their lives on the line to create a nation where all men are created equal, and some are used as cattle.

A few years later, the new nation would be plowing full steam ahead, bulldozing natives and nature by manifesting their destiny with the power of God and railroads on their side. Next thing you know, Americans are helping their “little brown brothers” and others just like them across the world by imposing their rule and pillaging whatever their steamboats can hold without capsizing. 

The multiple iterations of American ideology, including the modern versions, are all based on the same concept of American supremacy, which is not necessarily unique to the U.S. of A.

Almost every nation that can impose its will upon others does so with the firm belief that they are superior to everyone they are stomping on and, therefore, are doing them a favor. The French national anthem is a particularly potent example, describing the impure blood that will water their battlefields as they wipe their enemies off the face of the earth. 

The classic American ideology displays the three principles of INGSOC: doublethink, newspeak and rewriting history. 

Our history is rewritten every day in classrooms across the country. Students are learning about the atrocities committed by the Confederacy and are conveniently steered away from the atrocities committed by the U.S. in Southeast Asia, Japan, Dresden and even right here on American soil.  

We see evidence of newspeak in the sanitized language we use to describe American foreign policy and problems at home. As George Carlin puts it, it is easy to ignore poor people living in slums when you rebrand them as “the economically disadvantaged."

Doublethink is present across party lines in condemnations of other nation’s crimes that we are just as guilty of. As Americans, we are quick to look at China and Russia and claim that their policies and ideology are extreme and brutal, but as the old Romanian joke goes, the United States of America can be conveniently rearranged to stand for Another Soviet Union.

We have more in common with our enemies than we would like to think and not in a kumbaya type of way.

But what does life look like without ideologies to guide us? Would the U.S. have pulled together the effort it did to help win World War II if Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter were replaced by ugly pictures of U.S. war crimes on the Pacific front?

It’s possible that political ideologies, while narrow blinders that restrict our freedom of thought and expression, are necessary for the collective achievements that have given us the standard of living we have. Perhaps it is necessary to trample others so that our country can be “great again."

If you disagree with these sentiments, like a majority of voters this election cycle, ask yourself why the U.S. continues to contribute to human suffering and atrocities across the globe if most of its citizens are such pacifists. Careful, your doublethink is showing. 

Alice Militaru is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in economics. Her column, "Opinions No One Asked For," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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