Sunday, August 5, 2018

436. Prophecy

It was abnormally quiet in the house. I had come in from working outdoors and my wife was away for the day. I thought I’d better check on C.W. Did I mention that it was abnormally quiet? That’s when it’s a good idea to check on C.W.

But, uncharacteristically, I found him in my favorite easy chair reading a book. At least I assumed it was he, the shape was that of a middle-aged man of scholarly demeanor. He had a long, hawkish, face beset by wrinkles and accentuated by a thin mustache. His eyes flashed beneath a crop of dark, unruly hair.

He looked vaguely familiar but I let it pass. “What’s up? I said.

“The Elders are pissed,” he said, closing the book.

“Oh?” It was then that I notice what book he was reading. It was Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“And why are they pissed this time?”

“Don’t you think they have a right to be?” He said gruffly.

“I don’t know.”

“Listen,” he said. I noticed scads of yellow stickers protruding from the book. He turned to them, one after another, and read.

“War is peace.”

“Freedom is slavery.”

“Ignorance is strength.”

He closed the book. “Sound familiar? Maybe a little like last night’s newscast?”

Before I could answer, he turned to another marker and read, “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” He looked up at me and smiled, then said, “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

“Is this going somewhere?”

“Be still and learn,” he said. He didn’t say it in a friendly way. I’d never seen him like this before. He quickly turned to another page and read. “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”

I just stood there, thinking of our Secretary of Education. “Are you,” he said, “proud of your country now? How do you like being a fulfillment of prophecy? Not the mythical kind where you read a prediction and then go make it happen, but when it happens on its own and you say, ‘So and So saw that coming?’”

As I pondered this, he continued, pointing at another section. He read, “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” He stopped. “Say, for example, you have a twice-divorced adulterer being worshiped as a religious icon by a third of your population. He flashed a half-smile for the first time. If you think the Elders are pissed, you ought to talk to the Galilean. See?”

Trying to make sense of it all, I tried to answer. I could only say, “Yes.”

Do I have to draw you a picture? - C.W.
He snapped. “Is any of this really beginning to make sense? Does any of it sound familiar at all?”

“Yes,” I said. “I first read the book in high school and then several more times since.”

“Idiot,” he snapped. “I’m talking about 2018, not some journey into your past.”

This was the strangest C.W. I had encountered ever. “What is with you?” I said.

“Don’t you watch the news?” he said. “The Elders certainly do.”

“And why are they so upset?”

“You have no idea?”

“Maybe a slight idea. Could it be …?”

“Shut up,” he said. “Listen.” He turned to another marker and looked at me, his dark eyes piercing the farthest corner of my mind. “Listen,” he said, “and learn. Then you may know why the Elders are pissed.

This time he read gravely, “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m beginning to see you point. America today is starting to sound exactly—and I’ll admit it’s scary as hell—like the state described in Orwell’s book.” I paused, “But what has the Elders so upset?”

“Orwell!” he screamed. “Orwell … what has the Elders so pissed about Orwell, his prophecies, and modern America?”

“Yes,” I said, “yes … what?”

“Only,” he said, “that they sent me here in 1947 to warn you.”

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