The minestry
of madness

'Big brother Sirens'
and Doublethinking

Nausica Manzi

Doublethinking is the sea in which contemporary mentality drowns, and the gaze of Big Brother is every ‘siren’ whose song attracts human beings, which is later devoured.



Illusory screens whose blazing light pierces the pupils and penetrates right into the bones, a virus that torments souls with its paradoxes, a loud cry that calls for order: images of a reality governed by a ministry of inhumanity at the orders of a Big Brother, in which human beings struggle to hold on to the mast; but in the end, intoxicated by the sirens’ song, they get lost between truth and lies, between doing and undoing, between being and not being. 

Keep your distance! However, sit comfortably on a bus full of travellers from all over the world. Wearing a mask is a social duty! Sure, but lower it unrestrainedly in a crowd. You are free to think and act! Oh no, first there is a compulsory subscription to the logic of conformism and one-sidedness. Always be yourself! Actually, come to think of it, identity is just simply regressive…

In his novel, 1984, George Orwell coined a term – doublethink – to define the action of a totalitarian government with the purpose of controlling and changing humanity. Nonetheless, the term is not science fiction, but rather the sea in which contemporary mentality drowns, and the gaze of Big Brother is every ‘siren’ whose song attracts human beings, which is later devoured.

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies[…]to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed[…]consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.”[1]

Doublethink is a means of control and power enclosed in a gaze that haunts human beings, both invisible and visible, human and digital, it is a condemning voice: «It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU»[2]. Doublethink, a method embodied by the contemporary world, is oblivious to true thinking, but has the power to enchant every individual: it is a siren’s voice, a mythological creature with an apparently sweet feminine appearance and a suffocating sound that alerts, always concealing an essence of oblivion, fear and death. How many ‘Big Brother Sirens’, little by little, devour the contemporary world every day? How do you fight the siren? Through the Ministry of Madness.

The ‘Ministries’, in 1984, through which Big Brother runs the government represent precise ways in which the concept of doublethink spreads. According to Orwell, it uses first and foremost the Ministry of Peace to underline the usefulness of war. Today, it represents the logic of domination, singing at the top of one’s voice like sirens in order to take the podium and crush an already deeply wounded humanity: « If you want to see a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever »[3]. The logic of domination is the wild race to become ‘the best’ in every field; the master of every soul and breath, it is the imposition to kill the humanity contained within every single human being. It is the trap of a delusional thought pattern that involves everyone: even those who believe they dominate over others are victims of their own logic! Domination is wanting to achieve one’s own interest, even by paying with human flesh and breath, only to then find oneself lost in a dark alley.

Doublethink also employs the Ministry of Love, thought police dedicated to the control and above all the indoctrination of individuals: today it is the deviant surveillance, which indicates a freedom that does not exist in practice. Deviant surveillance is the eye of the standardising and illusory society that erases and wounds anyone who is ‘different’, anyone who has the courage to think differently: it is the gaze of the Big Brother Siren who violates souls to the point of breaking their original components to make them identical and non-thinking entities, thus cold pieces of machinery in a repetitive assembly line that erases all shades of beauty. Surveillance not to guard and revive, but to deviate; to dry up the rivers of thought and extinguish the light of the stars of deep and disruptive essence in the inner sky of individual existences: «The black-moustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner.»[4].

The concept of doublethink is also using the Ministry of Truth to erase the past and change the present. This is what is represented by deceit today: every area of reality is misleading, nothing is as they say or as it seems, everything suffuses an original meaning. The siren song is filled with words, false promises, which speak of a reality that does not exist but fascinates because it professes to be turned toward the future. This, however, is actually the road to the oblivion of a ‘what might be‘ repeated endlessly in the funnel of impassibility and indifference. Doublethinking is deception claiming to be the truth: consider modern language, the use of terms without their true meaning, such as ‘freedom’, ‘action’ or ‘right’. Therefore, deception is Big Brother Sirens singing to cover a fighting soul’s scream of despair.

Finally, Orwell’s concept of doublethink makes use of the Ministry of Plenty, which today represents hollow wealth: one is rich if one accumulates money and success while losing fragile, yet strong hearts. Hollow wealth is the gaze of Big Brother Sirens who are powerful illusionists of the heart but have forgotten their own. Hollow wealth is the wealth of those who believe they have the whole world in their pockets, but on checking them discover only a mirror reflecting their own gaze, an emptiness that makes them revert. How can reality be restored? Here is where it becomes necessary to open up a new ministry in the contemporary world that of ‘madness’.

The Ministry of Madness is one that reconstructs true thinking, takes on courage and confronts the dastardly spread of doublethink in all its forms. Madness indicates a state of mental alienation, stepping outside the ‘so-called’ normal box. Madness usually has a negative connotation: the madman is the one who deviates from normality; he who, in his own disarray, must be brought back to order. Yet who decides what is normal? Isn’t every order born from disorder? Is it not necessary to make a reordered disorder the basis for a new beginning? This is what Ulysses teaches us: in order to satisfy his curiosity, he had himself tied to the mast of the ship. As soon as he began to hear the song of the sirens, among his shipmates rowing imperturbably with wax in their ears, he entered a state of madness: «I beckoned my fellow men that they untie me»[5] . This is a condition that contrasts the “normal” progress of one’s comrades, with the immobility of the wax, symbolising indifference and fear that suffocates identity. Hence, Ulysses choosing to step outside the world’s normality in order to understand it better and to face it by starting from the depths of himself:  «Those undiscerning derive authentic wisdom by facing things up close and dealing with them directly»[6] . 

Madness is a state of positive alienation to be embodied in order to defeat the concept of doublethink. The Ministry of Madness acts against the current mentality of ‘Big Brother Sirens’, the logic of domination, deviant surveillance, deceit and hollow wealth: wicked politics, an economy that forgets value, a society trapped in a house of cards of identity control and conformism, technological life that mirrors the human crisis – a virus made of paradoxes. Therefore, in such a complex picture resulting from the distorted use of reason the only way to return to true thinking is to go mad, i.e. to have the courage to take on a new mentality: The Ministry of Madness is what forms artists of existence who do not bend to the logic of continuing to sail with their ears plugged to avoid the danger of the ‘sirens’. They are rather those who, by grounding themselves to the fulcrum of existence, face it with insane wisdom. They are artists with tender revolutionary eyes who do not fear those of Big Brother whose face claims attention in order to redefine its own identity. Madness transforms the human face, which is under the boot of the ‘Big Brother Sirens’ who want to crush it, into a wise stumbling block – making it fly beyond in order to restore dignity to today’s non-existent humanity. 

[1]  George Orwell, 1984, Large Print press, 2017, p.25 

[2]Ibidem, p.1.

[3] Ibidem, p. 30.

[4]  Ibidem, p. 1. 

[5] English translation from Odissea, Libro XII, 256-257.

[6] English translation from Erasmo da Rotterdam, Elogio della follia, ed. Fabbri, 1996, p.80.

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