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Orthodoxy: Liberty’s Other Enemy

February 12, 2013 in Blogs

By Robin Koerner I am typing this in Miami, where I have had the privilege of sharing ideas of liberty with some new Americans who know more of its antithesis than almost anyone on this Continent — Cuban exiles of Castro’s regime. One of them, Normando, has spent seven years in prison for the crime of criticizing the quality of government-manufactured Cuban bread.

A conversation with Normando over breakfast on the day of my second lecture caused me to throw out the lecture I was going to give and replace it with one entitled, “Why Changing Minds (and Hearts) Is Difficult,” which is full of empirical psychology, epistemology and neurology. It attempts to explain why it is hard not only to interpret reality accurately but even to see reality when it conflicts with what we already “know” — regardless of whether our knowledge is right or wrong. (Its opening quote is from Goethe: “We see only what we know”.) I am referring not so much to the changing of others’ minds as to the changing of our own.

At the end of my lecture, I asked my audience who among them had read 1984. Some of them had — although more of them had lived it than had read it.

I suggested that the book is, from its opening page, set in a near-complete tyranny. In the political sense, the world of 1984 is as hopeless as any dystopia that has been imagined in literature. You read it without much sense of hope for anything. Isn’t it strange, then, that there would be any palpable sinking of the heart when you get to the end, when Winston, taken to Room 101 is finally broken by the destruction of his ability to believe for himself; to think for himself, even to perceive for himself? Why does your heart sink? Because at that point, all hope truly is lost. The ability to see his world as it is has gone, and with it, the possibility that he could ever experience his true self.

Before that — throughout nearly the whole book — Winston was a victim of tyranny — but not, apparently, without all of his freedoms: he retained what might be called the final freedom, or (better, perhaps?) the first freedom: the one that resides inside — the freedom to think. The freedom that makes him …read more
Source: ROBIN KOERNER BLOG

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