Irony of Ironies

Who is this a statue of? It’s of George Orwell who, in his book “1984”, warned us about the abomination of total state control over the lives of its citizens; what they do from minute to minute, and what they say in any place, at any time. Such control must include language. The state decides which words can be used, and how they’re to be used; what their precise and only meaning can be. All other words are expunged from the lexicon and eventually from memory. The state is the sole writer of history, so that that reflects its own mind-set and values, and it re-writes, even reverses, what it previously wrote if that becomes expedient for its ongoing controlling purposes. A nightmare vision!    

Where is this statue situated? Well here’s a thing! It’s situated (of all places in these days of self-created chaos) outside Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC ! It might better have been placed inside, as an unmissable, daily reminder and warning to all who visit, work or ‘govern’ there.

What’s said in its accompanying inscription?  “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” And “people” has to include governments, political parties, religious groupings, and all who are in the business of telling, or deciding for, others how they should live, and what they can and can’t do and say. Rightly, there are laws addressing libel, slander and direct incitement to hatred and violence, but outside of these there should be no immunity from, and no suppression of, the right to comment and to criticise. There is, after all, an equal right of reply.

I’m reminded of the Biblical story of “the writing on the wall”, which appeared in the palace of the tyrannical despot Belshazzar. It told him he’d been weighed and found wanting, and that his rule was about to be ended. What’s written beside George Orwell’s statue are words which threaten all proponents and agents of political and religious control. To hell with the lot of them.

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