...the food with its strange evil tastes.
15. Life In Oceania
...disease, crime and insanity.
The world of 1984 was a bare, hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people used to look forward. This, Winston thought with a sort of vague distaste - this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? The bombed sites where the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow-herb straggled over the heaps of rubble; the places where the bombs had cleared a larger patch and there had sprung up sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken-houses?
VICTORY MANSIONS, where Winston lived, were old flats, built in 1930 or thereabouts, and were falling to pieces. The plaster flaked constantly from ceilings and walls, the pipes burst in every hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the heating system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed down altogether from motives of economy. Repairs, except what you could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned by remote committees which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window-pane for two years.
The fabulous statistics continued to pour out of the telescreen. As compared with last year there was more food, more clothes, more houses, more furniture, more cooking-pots, more fuel, more ships, more helicopters, more books, more babies - more of everything except disease, crime and insanity. Year by year and minute by minute, everybody and everything was whizzing rapidly upwards. The only evidence to the contrary was the mute protest in your own bones, the instinctive feeling that the conditions you lived in were intolerable and that at some other time they must have been different.
The thing you invariably came back to was the impossibility of knowing what life before the Revolution had really been like. He took out of the drawer a copy of a children's history textbook which he had borrowed from Mrs Parsons:
In the old days (it ran), before the glorious Revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know to-day. It was a dark, dirty, miserable place where hardly anybody had enough to eat and where hundreds and thousands of poor people had no boots on their feet and not even a roof to sleep under. Children no older than you are had to work twelve hours a day for cruel masters, who flogged them with whips if they worked too slowly and fed them on nothing but stale breadcrusts and water. But in among all this terrible poverty, there were just a few great big beautiful houses that were lived in by rich men who had as many as thirty servants to look after them. These rich men were called capitalists. They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like the one in the picture on the opposite page. You can see that he is dressed in a long black coat which was called a frock coat, and a queer, shiny hat shaped like a stovepipe, which was called a top hat. This was the uniform of the capitalists, and no one else was allowed to wear it. The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave. They owned all the land, all the houses, all the factories, and all the money. If anyone disobeyed them they could throw them into prison, or they could take his job away and starve him to death. When any ordinary person spoke to a capitalist he had to cringe and bow to him, and take off his cap and address him as "Sir". The chief of all the capitalists was called the King, and --
How could you tell how much of it was lies? Not a word of it could ever be proved or disproved. It was like a single equation with two unknowns. It might very well be that literally every word in the history books, even the things that once accepted without question, was pure fantasy.
Lunch hour at Winston's place of work was in a low-ceilinged canteen, deep underground. On the tray was dumped the regulation lunch - pinkish-grey stew, a hunk of bread, a cube of cheese, a mug of milkless VICTORY COFFEE, and one saccharine tablet. Had food always tasted like this? Had it always been like this - bent spoons, dented trays, coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy; grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes.
VICTORY GIN could be bought at ten cents the large nip. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of Chinese rice-spirit. Winston paused for an instant to collect his nerve, and gulped the oily-tasting stuff down. Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, whereupon the tobacco fell out on to the floor. With the tobacco ration at 100 grammes a week it was seldom possible to fill a pipe up to the top.
Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything greatly different. In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat, one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always been battered and rickety, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces, bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigarettes insufficient - nothing cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. Was it not a sign that this was not the natural order of things, if one's heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one's socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?
He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side. And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever?
Wibbly-wobbly carrots worry Prince (video camera films each carrot). SundayTimes, Oct 29, 2005. Go to 15.Life in Oceania & TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
A continuing discussion about: GOOD FOOD DAYS IN ENGLAND (after WWII rationing was over). Apr 19, 2005
Is Safeway sucking your soul? (American consumer culture is teeming with neon-colored, overprocessed, demon-spawn products). SanFranGate, Apr 17, 2005. Go to TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
CYCLISTS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (thoughts on Easter weekend). Mar 25 - 28, 2005. Go to DIRT ROADS
Reader translates Dorset poem: IT'S HEDGE GRABBING, THOMAS (like Big Boxes & Motels by the river). Mar 26, 2005 and POUNDING PILLARS INTO FLOOD PLAIN
WINDMILLS ARE GREEN STALINISM (hundreds of miles of ancient countryside & shoreline will be disfigured). Telegraph, Jul 24, 2004
Baseball size potato cuts carbs (no mention of what's in 'em). Canoe News, Jun 24, 2004. Go to TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
GULLIVER DESCRIBES GM AGRICULTURE (extracting sun-beams out of cucumbers; condensing air into tangible substance). Apr 24, 2004. Go to 9.Keeping Masses Down
Low-calorie diet may lengthen life (new drugs will suppress appetite & help more people eat less). Washington Post, Apr 19, 2004. Go to 14.Scientific Experimentation & TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
'Happy Meals' for adults (apple slices instead of fries; no cheese or bun on burger; & 'take a hike' pamphlets). AP, Apr 16, 2004. Go to TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
Court OKs roadblocks to hunt criminals (motorists open to cop interference, unreasonable invasion of privacy, motorists will be trapped, a victory for law enforcement). Yahoo! Jan 14, 2004. Go to 21.Crimestop & ANIMAL FARM DOGS
MONSANTO PRICE FIXING WITH AGRI-GIANTS (seeds of world being given to handful of corporations who are going to own all food production). Guardian, Jan 7, 2004. Go to WORLD FOOD BANK & ANTI-NATURE IS ANTI-GOD
Hunger & homelessnes increase in USA (unemployment, low paying jobs, & high costs for housing, energy & utilities). AP, Dec 18, 2003
Disease outbreak threatens UK potato crop (ring-rot would be a catastophe). Telegraph, 11-13, 2003. Go to 14. Scientific Experimentation & FOOD CONTROL
GM crops mean world hunger (4 multi-nationals control food; Monsanto-Syngenta-Bayer-Dupont). Independent, May 28, 2003. Go to ANTI-NATURE IS ANTI-GOD
Meal-in-bottle hits shelves (drinks by Snapple-Coke-Pepsi to replace solid food). National Post, Feb 17, 2003. Go to 15.Life in Oceania & 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Canada approves nuking food (to kill cow manure e-coli that seeps from factory farms). National Post, Jan 24, 2003. Go to FACTORY FARMING COVER-UP
Death to the superstore (high price to pay for cheap food). London Times, Jan 14, 2003. Go to 9.Keeping Masses Down
Irradiated food in schools (causes internal bleeding etc). Boston Globe, Oct 27, 2002
MONSTER vending machine sets up (secretly owned by McDonald's). National Post, Sep 14, 2002
Cloned animals being fed to humans (drugs built into meat, milk, eggs..). Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 22, 2002
Human sewage spread on fields (5.6 million tons causing disease). Rense.com, Jul 31, 2002
Starving Zimbabwe rejects USA corn (GM contamination will destroy them). Washington Post, Jul 31, 2002. Go to FOOD CONTROL
CANADA PUTTING WEED KILLER IN WHEAT (conducting GM research with Monsanto). Rense.com, May 19, 2002
WCB smoking ban violates rights, Financial Post, Aug 22, 2001.
'Synthetic meat' mogul and Criminal Justice Dept share prison meal deal. Financial Post, August 8, 2001
Feed live cows with dead cows? Yuck. National Post, March 20, 2001
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~