2+2=5, but only because it is without absolute value
I’ve been thinking a lot about the end of 1984 in regard to truth, human nature, and censorship. The mystery of whether or not O’Brien is right–that humans are malleable–is daunting because it doesn’t seem like he possibly could be right, at least through the perspective we as readers come into the world of the book which is technically set in our past.
I was reminded of a mathematical proof that literally makes 2 + 2 = 5 during our discussion of 1984 this week, and it got me wondering about the notion that if humans are malleable, does that not also mean that truth is malleable? If human nature itself can be hammered and shaped from one set of behaviors into another, couldn’t anything else?
The problem with truth is that it is fixed and remains true regardless of whether or not it is believed. That makes truth–or, at the very least, absolute truth–very dangerous to the Party in 1984, because Oceania’s society discourages fixed points other than Big Brother. If anybody decides to focus on or is tempted to focus on anything else, that puts the Party in peril. This is why the Ministry of Truth exists: to blot out anything that has ever been documented that has been deemed incorrect or threatening.
So there are all of these “truths” and “proofs” in the society that are only pretending at actual, absolute truth, and it is easy to dismiss the little details in favor of manipulating people at every which way, keeping them in line by the rod of their marionette strings. That’s why it’s so baffling to learn about the 2 + 2 = 5 proof as being a legitimate thing. The little omission of truth that it takes to make 2 + 2 = 5 is barely noticeable to the common people, but to those who are paying close attention, it is frustrating rather than amazing.
This is the same feeling that anyone who discovers any little snippet of truth is made to feel in 1984, and then some, since every opportunity to discover it is illegal.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1950. Print.
patrickJMT. “A Proof that 0 = 1 (Can You Spot the Mistake?).” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Apr 2011. Web. 8 May 2015.