Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Month: May, 2017

Hi. I’m still here. Thanks. Bye.

Spectacular mammal rediscovered after 113 years — first ever photographs taken

NewImage

A unique and mysterious guinea-pig-sized rodent, not seen since 1898 despite several organized searches, bizarrely showed up at the front door of an ecolodge at a nature reserve in Colombia, South America. The magnificent red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis), stayed for almost two hours while two research volunteers took the first photos ever of a creature the world thought would never be seen again.

Note this story is from 2011. None of its kind has been seen since.

A disclaimer to all news stories out there.

Keep Watching the News, But Be Very Skeptical of Everything You Are Told

A reader taking in a story about the president in any major newspaper would be wise to imagine a prologue at the outset, one that goes something like this:

The story you are about to read was written and edited by people who a) voted for Hillary Clinton, b) think Donald Trump is a menace, and c) are appalled that 63 million of their fellow citizens – all those ignorant rustics out there in the howling wilderness between Beverly Hills and the Hudson River – could have so abased themselves as to choose Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton. Furthermore, these same reporters and editors go about their daily lives with no contact with anyone who might have a different opinion, and if they were to encounter one by accident they would run shrieking from the room. Every one of these people hope to be their own era’s Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein and be remembered as the journalist who saved America and the world from Donald Trump. And finally, these aspiring Woodwards and Bernsteins have ready access to what seems to be an endless supply of aspiring Deep Throats, anonymous “administration sources” equally desirous of seeing President Trump impeached, jailed, or otherwise rendered impotent.

The answer to the question has always been obvious to me.

Crushing on Crushers

Why do intellectuals fall in love with dictators and totalitarians?

From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship, by Paul Hollander (Cambridge University Press, 338 pp., $29.97)

The question Hollander asks is why intellectuals whose own experience of danger was that of a negative book review or a hostile tenure committee, and who were so sensitive to the slightest threat, real or imagined, to their freedom at home, were so often attracted to the oppressors, and even slaughterers, of foreign multitudes.

The answer has always been very apparent to me.

Simply put, intellectuals do not believe that the (largely) unfettered free will of the masses will lead us to a better world.

And I think the reason for this is twofold.


First, intellectuals (and those self-styled intellectuals who believe themselves smarter than the average) have a hard time conceiving the idea that people less smart than them, when left to their own devices, will make rational choices.

You see this all the time in news reports. From discussions on poverty (where the poor are framed as either witless victims of society or lazy layabouts who refuse to improve themselves), to discussions on nutrition and diet (where people are framed as incapable of resisting the addictions of the food industry) to politics (where people on the other side are slavish idiots or two-faced), we are faced with the fundamental proposition by journalists and others that we are surrounded by idiots who need our help.

We see this in polls showing strong support for severe restrictions on SNAP benefits, despite the fact that most economists point out the fungibility of benefits. (That is, unless you are desperately poor, recipients of SNAP benefits can substitute: using the cash they save with SNAP benefits to buy prohibited items.)

Just look at this article: How to Deal With Less Intelligent People.

It can be frustrating to have to deal with people who are less intelligent than you. You may feel that you are constantly having to answer questions or carry their weight. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to change their intelligence. You can, however, change the way that you interact with them and perceive them. Some small changes on your part can make dealing with less intelligent people a much easier task.

Only one of the tips even remotely suggest that perhaps your self-assessment of your own intellectual superiority may be wrong. Yet (as has been popularized recently) most of us have heard of the Dunning Kruger effect which observes that people of low ability suffer from an illusion of superiority because they are too dumb to self-reflect.

(The flip side of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which has been completely forgotten in all our discussions about the stupid is “the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” That is, the more competent you are, the more likely you are to suffer from Impostor syndrome, the belief that your achievements and intellectual accomplishments are fraudulent. The more intelligent you are, the less likely you are to realize your intelligence.)

It’s also worth noting that those with intelligence tend to specialize in a handful of topics. With the death of the Liberal Arts (thanks to post-modernism), and with a Liberal Arts education being synonymous with that all important question “do you want fries with that?”, the intelligent in our society tend to specialize in a handful of topics. This exacerbates the illusion of superiority, as generally those with some mental horsepower craft little bubbles in which they are objectively superior–forgetting that outside that little bubble they’re probably as dense as a fucking rock.

We see this all around us, with stories of people like Stephen Hawking warning us about AI destroying the human race. Stephen Hawking may be the most brilliant theoretical physicist of our era, but in other subjects (from philosophy to computer science) his opinions have about as much intellectual backing as some random guy you pull off the streets of New York City.

When Stephen Hawking says that philosophy is dead, when he advocates Scientism, or when he discusses Artificial Intelligence–we give him far more credit than he deserves. Sure, Stephen Hawking may be vastly more intelligent than the average person–but these are topics he has not studied with the same depth as a philosopher, a theologist or a computer scientist.

Putting all this together it’s pretty clear that most intellectuals are ill-equipped to understand those they see as less intelligent. Worse, the majority of people, having specialized in areas which objectively make them more intelligent about a particular subject (like computer programming or psychology or health care or advertising or plumbing), see their intellectual superiority extending over the rest of their lives.


The counter to this problem is Ethics, or the philosophy of morality. The idea being that in the study of ethics we concern ourselves with understanding the best way for people to live–and if you conceive that this problem applies to others you see as less intelligent than yourself, you necessarily come to some sort of universality of individuality in moral decision making.

Yet this leads us to the second problem:

Modern intellectuals tend not to subscribe to a deep belief in ethics or morality, beyond a form of prescriptive ethics which formulates “right” and “wrong” as the pragmatic application of a set of rules.

You can see this all around us. From Neil deGrasse Tyson’s observation that “philosophy is useless” to Stephen Hawking’s observation that “philosophy is dead,” and with the dearth of active philosophers thanks to creeping post-modernism which strips meaning from existence in a nihilist “anything goes” which flushes intellectual rigor down the toilet, we now live in a world without moral reason.

All that is left is victimization, complaints and prescriptive training which attempt to answer the deep moral questions of acceptance and correct living through the formulation of mindless rules.

Don’t have the moral compass to respect those around you regardless of gender? Sexism awareness training, where you learn the signs and are trained on the proper reactions but without a moral compass as to why we should show respect.

Lack the moral compass to take a live and let live attitude towards the LGBT community? Diversity and tolerance training where you learn the signs of a lack of tolerance (including supposed “dog whistles”) and training as to how to respond and react to these signs–but without a real moral compass as to why we need to show respect.

We live in an era of “political correctness”–a mindless formulation of policies and learned actions which teach us to avoid certain language and certain actions–but without a real moral compass as to why we should respect one another.

Worse, those who observe there are moral absolutes are dismissed as either being hateful religious hacks or as old-fashioned idiots who are out of intellectual fashion.

George Orwell’s Newspeak (from the novel 1984) has become a user’s manual.

We no longer learn morality and ethics, because our post-modern world with deconstructed language and islands of victimized minority groups, “meaning” is null and void–at best relative construct promulgated by dead white oppressive philosophers.

Immanuel Kant’s notion of the universality of moral laws cannot exist in a post-modern framework where meaning is no deeper than the worlds used to express them. Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments” is reduced to an excuse for selfishness–as there are no “great systems of the universe” by which one can navigate, as those “great systems” are little more than a form of eurocentric intellectual imperialism.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, stripped of its original meaning that one should live by the seven heavenly virtues and predicated by John Locke’s idea that true happiness stems from quiet self-reflection and moral action, becomes a statement of unabashed hedonism and a recipe for rebellion against a Creation that exists only in word and thought.

In such a world stripped of moral and ethical meaning all that is left is Force.


So why do intellectuals flock to dictators and totalitarians, looking at people from Joseph Stalin to Hugo Chávez with respect and admiration?

Simple.

In a world stripped of moral meaning all that is left is Force. With a world full of people who are incapable of taking care of themselves, top-down control is favorable to the chaos of bottom-up control.

The population, incapable of making any sort of moral judgement, will never self-organize in a working, functional society which hints at a deeper order to the Universe–even if that deeper order is simply an emergent phenomenon. That’s because in a world where meaning is no deeper than the page it is printed on, there can be no deeper order, no global absolutes.

So the population must be bridled and broken, like a bucking horse too stupid to live on its own.

And that requires a dictator.


The saddest part about all of this is the simple observation that throughout history, dictators have relied on “useful idiots” in order to bring themselves to power.

And the first up against the wall in the purges dictators inevitably need to cement their power (as no dictator can create the utopia intellectuals demand of them for reasons too deep to go into here), are the “pseudo-intellectuals”–those who see themselves as intellectuals but who are at best the petit-bourgeoisie: the people who have mastered a single subject, and in that mastery saw themselves as intellectuals who helped wave in the current dictatorial regime.

Dictators must shoot them in the head–because they are the ones who helped change the government, and as such are the biggest threat to the new regime.

We see this time and time again: with the Bolshevik purge in the early 1920’s, with the purge and executions in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s by Joseph Stalin, with the Great purge which left millions dead. We see this when Hitler consolidated power in Germany, with Hugo Chávez’s consolidation of power less than two decades ago. It’s a pattern throughout Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, and in Europe: the popular ruler who executes members of his own party–a necessity given they are the only ones who can remove him from power.

You see it today in Turkey as “President” Erdoğan consolidates power.


It’s a shame that most intellectuals hate the populous, and rail at the notion that “there but with the grace of God go I.”

And it’s a shame that most modern intellectuals look down at their noses at those who may question evolutionary theory, while they themselves do not believe in emergent phenomena, at least as it applies to history, civilization and culture–as if the pressures of evolution stop at the macroscopic level.

Because it leads intellectuals to the inevitable conclusion that, because of the idiocy that surrounds them by a flood of incapable self-interested idiots, the best way to order a society is to imagine a boot stamping on a human face–forever.

I always believed drinking just gave people permission to do what they wanted to do anyway.

Does drinking change your personality? Not so much, study suggests

The self-assessment carried out by the participants confirmed the usual signs of drunkenness. According to the participants, drinking changed their personality across all of the five traits as defined by the classic Five Factor Model: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, intellect, and conscientiousness.

The participants reported feeling less conscientious, less open to new experiences, and less agreeable, while they felt more extroverted and more emotionally stable.

However – and this is the interesting finding of the study – the outside observers saw far fewer differences between the participants’ sober and drunk “personalities.” The observers’ assessment and the self-reported one concurred on only one aspect: extraversion.

Overwhelmingly negative, and no longer trusted.

News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Findings include:

  • President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.
  • Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.
  • European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.
  • Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.
  • Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

Note that even Fox News has covered Trump unfavorably for a slim majority of their stories.


The problem is, the negative news has been non-stop since the very beginning, and for those who support Trump, has created a sort of “meta-story” that the press is no longer unbiased or worthy of any respect.

And that creates a problem: the boy who cried wolf cried wolf too many times. Ever since Watergate, press reporters have wanted to recreate that feeling that a powerful Press, as protectors of the public, can even take down a President. And now they think they have their moment to shine.

But no-one is listening.

I need to travel more.

States I’ve visited:

Countries I’ve visited:

Parts of the world I’ve visited:

Criteria: I had to have spent the night in the state or country indicated. (Interestingly enough this eliminates South Carolina. While I’ve gone there a few times, I’ve never spent the night there.)

All day Friday I watched as various liberal CNBC commentators talked about the possibility of a Trump impeachment or resignation and its influence on the markets.

And I wondered just how bat-shit crazy the Left has become.

Apparently, this crazy: Funny Fake Liberal News on Trump ‘Impeachment’

It seems that the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to President Trump about his upcoming impeachment by the Supreme Court:

Sources further say that the Supreme Court notified Mr. Trump that the formal process of a case of impeachment against him was begun, before he departed the country on Air Force One. The notification was given, as part of the formal process of the matter, in order that Mr. Trump knew he was not able to use his powers of pardon against other suspects in Trump-Russia cases. Sources have confirmed that the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to Mr. Trump.

I’ve taken the liberty to include a photo of the Marshal of the Supreme Court with his honor guard arriving at the White House to serve notice to President Trump. (h/t David Frum)

Supreme Court Marshal


The fact that the battiness of the Left has caused even commentators on CNBC not to know what is going on with the Trump Administration suggests just how bad the media bubble has gotten. Many reporters within the national media see themselves as belonging to a self-styled “color revolution” in the United States, and they see their objective as being the removal of a President they believe is worse than a dictator.

And if that means not being accurate about reporting the news–even if that means promoting stories based on the thinnest of evidence–well, everything is fair in love and war, right?

All it takes, however, is common sense to realize that the idea Trump will resign or be impeached is a fantasy the Left is selling itself in order to deal with the fact that we have Trump as President:

First, Trump’s supposedly “unhinged” style is nothing new. Voters who voted for Trump knew he would blast out tweets on Twitter, would speak in a manner which blatantly ignores all the rules of modern rhetoric, and was politically incorrect with his ideas.

So thinking somehow Trump will now step down in shame because of how he is behaving is absolutely absurd: this is the Trump his supporters voted for.

Second, Trump was elected to, in essence, go to war with the Federal apparatus and to seriously curtail or at least reform the Federal bureaucracy.

So the reports that somehow the Federal apparatus is under siege is a feature, not a bug. This is why Trump supporters voted for Trump.

And support them they do: one poll I read (my Google-fu is broken now) seem to suggest that amongst those who actually voted for Trump, he has overwhelming support: nearly everyone (to within statistical error) supports or strongly supports Trump.

Third, for Trump to be impeached, he must actually commit a crime. He cannot be impeached for the “appearance” of having committed a crime, he cannot be impeached for violating the customs of previous administrations. He must actually commit a crime.

And despite efforts by the press to paint Trump as having broken the law by sharing secret information with the Russians or by having somehow colluded with the Russians by meeting with them–these are both actions taken by previous administrations (including Obama), and none of these items are actually illegal.

(Watergate took down President Nixon because, at the bottom of the stack, Nixon broke the law by being instrumental in a break-in at the Watergate hotel to steal campaign information from the Democratic National Committee.)

Weirdly the Press seems to think impeachment of Trump is an option not because of any legal impropriety, but because when asked a sizable minority of the public seem to support impeachment–as if impeachment was a political question rather than a question of law.


Face it. President Trump will be President of the United States for at least another three and a half years.

If the Left continues down the path it’s going, we may wind up with Trump for another seven and a half years.

And making political or economic bets on the idea that Trump somehow will step down is fucking insane.

It’s why I found the comments from CNBC bat-shit crazy, and wouldn’t give any of these asshats one thin time to invest on my behalf: because they are making bets on an event that is as likely to happen as a meteor hitting New York and destroying the NASDAQ trading floor.

“We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations.”

The Conceptual Penis As A Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies

The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.

(Emphasis mine.)

If the Russians bought Trump the Presidency, they bought a pig in a poke.

When Does All That Evidence of Collusion Arrive?

The funny part about all of this is not how Obama sat with Putin in 2012 and whispered “after my election, I’ll have more flexibility,” or the Russian money dumped into the Clinton Foundation.

No, the funny part is that if somehow Russia bought Trump the election in order to get favorable treatment, from Trump’s assertion that if Syria used chemical weapons against its population, the Russians knew about it (and the subsequent ebb in U.S./Russian relations), to escalation of weapons sales to the Middle East to counter Russian clout there, the Russians bought a pig in a poke.

Trump’s foreign policy overseas has been “America First” as promised–and that has caused Trump to run head-long against the Russians in all fronts, from European energy sales (which Russia has been using to gain influence in the European Union) to the Middle East to Asia.

In fact, if you’re a European, you do not see the election of Trump not as strengthening ties between two of the three major world powers (the third being China), as Trump becomes Russia’s “Manchurian Candidate.” What you see is a dangerous world being made far more dangerous by a U.S. President who is willing to shove “America First” down the throats of the two other major powers, to the detriment of a Europe caught–as always–in the crossfire.

I’d love to say this means “Social Justice” has jumped the shark, but I know you cannot underestimate the power of human stupidity.

New ‘Social Justice’ Math Class Teaches Kids That Math Is Evil, Dehumanizing

“Mathematical ethics recognizes that, for centuries, mathematics has been used as a dehumanizing tool… mathematics formulae also differentiate between the classifications of a war or a genocide and have been used to trick indigenous peoples out of land and property.”


From the original article:

To remedy math’s contribution to oppression, teachers are thus encouraged to think of ways that math can be used to advocate for marginalized populations, to which end they are encouraged to read an article by an English teacher from Hawaii, Christina Torres, who argues that failing to teach students about social justice is a “wasted opportunity” to provide them with the “tools to subvert power, question normalcy, and change society as we understand it.”


This is not to suggest, by the way, that there aren’t problems. We’re seeing computer algorithms being used to help make “impartial” sentencing decisions in criminal cases–and discovering that we are seeding those algorithms with a racist set of assumptions. The Association for Computing Machinery has long recognized the power of computer systems to violate privacy rights and significantly alter social compacts, and has promulgated a code of ethics which require members to abide by standards which recognize this.

But math, just like guns or horses or cars or computers or hammers or a million other tools, are simply that: tools, which can be wielded for good or for bad.

To me, while it is good to remind students of the ethical requirements to behave in an honorable way, it would be preferable if we were to simply teach a class on ethics, rather than steal valuable time that should be spent teaching math skills. And I say this because all too often as citizens we are being repeatedly manipulated by bad statistics and terrible math–and mathematical illiteracy plays into the hands of those who would push their own agenda.

Including those teaching “social justice.”

If the “social justice” crowd believes students need to be trained in ethics, I actually have no problem with this. But let it be its own class.

Otherwise we are not giving students the tools for them to decide. Instead, all we are doing is reinforcing mindless training in order to create adults who do not have the tools to think critically.

Reminding everyone of the crimes without giving them the tools to understand and think critically and reason future events does not create utopia. It indoctrinates the crowd into passivity for the next Hitler to rise to power.


And that’s the real problem I have.

The far left and the far right are not struggling for equality and fairness and a population able to engage in self-determination. Both sides would rather pacify the crowd so they can take power–so they can put their own left-wing Hitler or right-wing Hitler into power. (And if you are saying the Right has won with Trump, you are a fucking moron–because your ability to say that negates your assertion. Just look at how, in certain areas–such as college campuses and in certain professions–conservatives are no longer entirely free to speak their minds.)

Just look at the pathetic state of most Liberal Arts colleges. There was a time when someone studying the Liberal Arts was sought after by corporations for leadership positions, as Liberal Arts colleges taught intellectual literacy and critical-thinking. This was done by exposing Liberal Arts students to a wide variety of thought, including lines of thought many of us may find deplorable, such as Nietzsche and Machiavelli, as well as drilled down deeply into topics including Classical History, and pointed an unwavering eye at at subjects as wide and varied as Mathematics, Psychology and Religious studies.

Such individuals often came out of these colleges able to speak or read in a classical language (such as Latin or Greek), had a solid background in the philosophy of science and scientific methods, and was exposed to economics and business informatics. Many colleges required studying at least three modern languages, as well as civics and world history.

It is easy to imagine such a person, who has a solid grounding in business methods, but who has exposure to the arts, who can puzzle out multiple languages, and has an understanding of philosophy and the scientific method, would be sought after for management positions at large companies: such an individual would be an engaging conversationalist but also capable of managing large groups of people.

Today, the joke goes, a Liberal Arts college education leaves you prepared to ask that all-important question “do you want fries with that?”

And that’s because in the United States, the Liberal Arts has become increasingly experimental, and increasingly disdainful of the classics–seeing it as a form of mental imperialism. But without a solid philosophical theory all we are left with is indoctrination rather than education–in training seminars rather than in critical thinking, in goodthink over crimethink without even recognizing the source of those terms. Deconstructionism has not helped; deconstructionism is predicated on the notion that truth is relative and meaning is shallow–and acceptance of meaning is a form of mental rape as dead (and therefore worthless) texts are permitted to outlive their authors.

Without meaning there can be no critical thought, and in a nihilist world full of problems all that is left is mindless indoctrination and supplicating oneself to authority.

Which is precisely what we are now seeing the far Left demand.

(This criticism cannot be levied on the far Right; instead, an honest appraisement of the far Right by those on the far Left who are still capable of critical thought would reveal a far Right concerned to the point of paranoia about overly powerful individuals imposing themselves–and a call to arms to fight back, legally if possible, by violence if necessary. The difference between the far Left and the far Right is that the far Left is demanding conformity, while the far Right is demanding people to get off their fucking lawn by gunpoint–even if it destroys the fabric of society.)


The barrier thus far to the “Social Justice” crowd is that the STEM subjects are resistant to the same indoctrination philosophy which has turned the Liberal Arts into a pathetic joke.

After all, no amount of deconstructionism in the world will change the fact that 2 plus 2 is 4.

Further, there is recognition in many quarters that the upper-middle class in our country is increasingly populated by those students who study STEM subjects–even those who do not directly use their science or math degrees. In some countries (such as China and Taiwan), most politicians tend to be engineers rather than law students.

I suspect that’s because the critical thinking that used to be demanded of Liberal Arts students–the sort of critical thinking which is important to large corporations–is still being taught in STEM classes, albeit in a more limited fashion: you may not be asked to discuss how the Battle of Salamis represented a conflict between two managerial styles and how the superiority of one came to drive the rise of Western Civilization. But you may be asked to discuss how the Millikan Oil Drop experiment–used to measure the charge of an electron–demonstrates how observational bias can affect scientific results.

Of course this sort of critical thinking must be stopped.


Which is why, I suspect, my observation that if we wish to teach “Social Justice” we should do so in a single set of ethics classes, will never happen.

That’s because if we were to concentrate “Social Justice” into a single ethics class, it would permit us to point a critical eye on the assumptions underlying “Social Justice.” And the point here is to do away with critical thought; to teach goodthink, to encourage the right responses while “rous[ing] the minimum of echos in the speaker’s mind.”

‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.’ Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.


It is fortunate that we shoot revenuers, and celebrate that fact.

And it is fortunate that the “Social Justice” crowd are in conflict themselves as to what Social Justice really means.

Otherwise:

O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’

‘No.’

‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

‘In records. It is written down.’

‘In records. And—-?’

‘In the mind. In human memories.’

‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’

‘But how can you stop people remembering things?’ cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. ‘It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!’

O’Brien’s manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

‘On the contrary,’ he said, ‘YOU have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.’

He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink in.

‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’

‘Four.’

‘And if the party says that it is not four but five–then how many?’

‘Four.’

The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four.’

The needle went up to sixty.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!’

The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!’

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Five! Five! Five!’

‘No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?’

‘Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!’

Abruptly he was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O’Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O’Brien who would save him from it.

‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.

‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

The book 1984 was a warning, not a user’s manual.