“Oh, no, said Zuckerman. “It’s the pig that’s unusual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web.”
“Maybe so,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Just the same, I intend to have a look at that spider.”
from Charlotte’s Web
written by E. B. White
illustrated by Garth Williams
On its 70th anniversary this month, I decided to re-read George Orwell’s 1984. After all, it had been years and years sine I read it the first time. It is more relevant than ever, maybe more relevant than Mr. Orwell even could have imagined.
At the risk of rehashing old news, remember when the forty-fifth president of the United States was sworn in? He declared that he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history. When asked to explain, his senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, claimed to have provided the media with “alternative facts.”
Why is it important that we know how many people attended the inauguration? Well, frankly, it’s not. What is important is that he said it. Then justified his truth with a lie. And people believed him. Incredible! And he keeps doing it!
Here’s the definition of DOUBLETHINK from Orwell’s 1984:
To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to
forget any fact that has become inconvenient and then,
when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from
oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the
existence of objective reality and all the while to take
account of the reality which one denies—-all this is
indispensably necessary. (Book II, Ch. 9)
DOUBLETHINK is holding two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time and accepting both of them. It is selectively forgetting crucial pieces of information to be able to engage in our society, guilt-free. Our president is a genius at it. An evil genius, to be sure, but still.
An article in last Sunday’s Washington Post (6/9/19) disclosed that White House officials prevented a State Department’s Intelligence Committee from publishing a warning that human-caused climate change could be “possibly catastrophic.” Rod Schoonover, who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global issues, prepared the report. He was ultimately allowed to present an oral report before a House panel. The written report was suppressed.
According to the article, “White House officials took aim at the document’s scientific citations” referring to NASA and NOAA. And “Trump officials sought to cut several pages of the document on the grounds that its description of climate science did not mesh with the administration’s official stance.” https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/447560-white-house-blocked-state-officials-written-testimony-over-climate
Trump is trying to challenge the fact that burning fossil fuels is warming our Earth. Scientific facts vs. false perceptions is another example of DOUBLETHINK, for sure. Can even he, himself believe his own words?
In 2019, we have Google, Amazon, and Facebook. I admit to using all three. I appreciate their convenience, scope, and efficiency. I know I am giving up my privacy by joining these networks. Yet I still do it.
I have clicked all the buttons recommended by these Big Three to assure my safety. I want to believe that I can’t be identified by an algorithm, but when I was in Florida and I Google-searched different styles of bathing suits from my own computer, ad after ad showed me bathing suits on sale (and not) in the town I was visiting. It gave me a different visual of the World Wide Web. I was caught. And another confirmation about the lack of privacy in our world.
And I continue to use all three, still. I’m not sure I can even navigate through 2019 and beyond without a computer. My medical records? My buying habits? My financial information? Yep, yep, and yep, again. Private? Of course not. Safe? Only maybe.
When we only use what our perception tell us is true and not filter it with common sense, we are prey for DOUBLESPEAKERS. I’ve come up with my own formula. Of course, it’s not really math, but it looks like math: Perception + Common Sense = Reality.
I was a children’s librarian in my working life. I am still a children’s librarian at heart. I know among the important messages E. B. White gave us in his delightful book, Charlotte’s Web, is the far-reaching effect one individual, whether spider or human, can have on another. When we open the book we see Fern save Wilber’s life, literally. At the end of the book, Charlotte saves him. On the pages in between, Wilber learns to love his life. He gains self-confidence as he learns to see himself as his friends see him.
Can a spider really write words in her web that humans notice let alone read? Of course not. That was not the point. The literary term “suspension of disbelief” lets us do exactly that when an author engages us with Story.
But stories are not life. While we can still discern fact from fiction, we need to define our own reality We need to add common sense to our perceptions.
-—stay curious! (and think clearly)