APPEARANCE & AUTHORITY

 What haunts me the most after watching Minority Report and finishing George Orwell’s Ninteen Eighty Four in the same week, are the many different appearances of authority. Orwell’s book was written in the year 1949 and warned the Western world of a Totalitarian Rule. It speculated in a clear way the mechanisms in which the Big Brother would control our thoughts and actions. Similar to that of Philip.K.Dick’s 1956 short story Minority Report that Steven Spielberg adapted as a film states the very possibility of being able to preempt a thought and control actions through the pre-cogs.

I don’t want to write about the many incredible thematic of these classics as they have been much discussed and is available for us to dig deep. My own pre-occupation lies with what constitutes the idea of authority? Who is the authority or the big other? What is my peculiar relationship or non-relationship with the notions of this authority? This probably is the basic element of every ideological edifice? It has two contradictory aspects on the one hand of course the big other controls the secret order of things, divine, regions, faith, law & order etc which is controlling our destiny, our actions but it probably is also the least interesting aspect of the big other. It is an agency which governs the meaning of what we are doing, much more interesting is the agency of ordering appearances…many things which are prohibited are not simply prohibited…but they should simply not happen for the big other.

A supreme example of this as the agency of the big other appearance, is the representation of O’Brien, one of the most fascinating aspects of Ninteen Eighty Four is the manner in which Orwell veils an explicit portrayal of a totalitarian world in a brilliant way. While Orwell gives the reader a close look into the personal life of Winston Smith, the reader’s only glimpses of Party life are those that Winston himself catches. As a result, many of the Party’s inner workings remain unexplained. This sense of mystery is at the centre of character of O’Brien, a powerful member of the Inner Party who tricks Winston into believing that he is a member of the revolutionary group called the Brotherhood. O’Brien inducts Winston into the Brotherhood. Later, though, he appears at Winston’s jail cell to abuse and brainwash him in the name of the Party. During the process of this punishment, and perhaps as an act of psychological torture, O’Brien admits that he pretended to be connected to the Brotherhood merely to trap Winston in an act of open disloyalty to the Party. This revelation raises more questions about O’Brien than it answers. Rather than developing as a character throughout the novel, O’Brien actually seems to un-develop: by the end of the book, the reader knows far less about him than they previously had thought. When Winston asks O’Brien if he too has been captured by the Party, O’Brien replies, “They got me long ago.” The novel leaves O’Brien as a shadowy, symbolic enigma on the fringes of the even more obscure Inner Party.

This precisely is the figure of the big other a shadowy character who seems fictional almost, yet we will resort to maintain our appearance in front of it because it is our need for stability. This is precisely the function of the big other to control our appearances so we can retain our requirement of stability.

Winston imagines O Brien as a listener but who cannot be trusted anymore, similar to that of Chief John Anderton who believes in Director Lamar Burgess and here lies the tragedy of our predicament, in order to fully exist as individuals we need the fiction of the big other, there must be an agency in which we register our issues, an agency in which the truth of our self will be archived, accepted, an agency to which we confess. But what if there is no such agency. Jacques Lacan, a French psychiatrist and philosopher claims there is no big other, there may be virtual big other to whom you cannot confess, but there may be a real other but its never the virtual one…we are alone.

Yashu

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