Four days after the election of Donald Trump, sales of 1984, the dystopian novel written by George Orwell, rocketed (Note 1), and it became a No. 1 bestseller. Clearly people were unsettled by the election of an obvious demagogue, and the puzzling resonance he found in democratic America. What may also have prompted this interest was the immediate manipulation of facts, which took place. For example, there was the extraordinary claim, made by his press secretary, Sean Spicer, that Trump’s Inauguration crowd was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe”. Photographs showed that this was demonstrably false – the audience was relatively small – but the lie was compounded by a subsequent interview with Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, when she asserted that this description was true, it was simply “alternative facts.” (Note 2).
USA, Autocracies and Truth
With a President who is a congenital liar, partly indicated by his sun sign ruler Mercury square Neptune, USA is now a country where truth has become a relative matter, no longer something objective and provable. Alternative facts can now prove anything. Probably this tendency to play with facts has always been a facet of national character, partly because of the foundation chart (July 4th, 1776 at 17.11 Philadelphia) has itself Mars in Gemini square Neptune (a country that talks peace and democracy, but is involved in conflict worldwide), and partly because Mercury is retrograde in the 8th house opposing Pluto – the fascination with secrets and conspiracy theories, and the manipulative power of the moneyed elite.
As USA’s Mercury is at 24 Cancer and Pluto is returning to USA’s natal position, we can expect an extraordinary upheaval as actual, provable truths surface during 2020, not least when Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn oppose Mercury in the early months of the year.
For powerful people and institutions, the truth is not something that has first priority. What is more important is that supporters embrace their world view. The people around Donald Trump support, at least outwardly, the statements he makes, and for him this is a reassuring proof of their loyalty. His lies become “alternative facts” and he measures his power by the number of people who back him up. It is quite normal in autocracies for “alternative facts” to be propagated and believed by rational and intelligent people. Nazis promoted the idea of Arian superiority which was backed up by theories that were clearly pseudoscience, but it did not stop them making advanced scientific discoveries. People have the capacity to compartmentalize their minds into the rational and non-rational.
How else could you explain Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is clearly an intelligent man, making the extraordinary statement “The Truth isn’t the Truth” when comparing Trump’s account to FBI director James Comey’s account of a conversation? (Note 3.) George Orwell would have loved this. In Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, there were three major slogans: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength. By believing and repeating these statements, the population confirmed their loyalty and adherence to Big Brother, just like Giuliani sold his allegiance to Trump. Born on May 28th, 1944, Giuliani has the same Sun-Uranus conjunction in Gemini as Trump, but his Mercury is in Taurus square Mars/Pluto in Leo… his communication is weaponized. The truth is not the truth, and everything is subject to lawyerly discussion.
Orwell would have been particularly impressed by Trump’s appropriation of the expression “Fake News” and turning it against authoritative newspapers who originally used it to describe Trump’s dance with facts as well as Russian interference on his behalf in social media. In late July 2018 – this was the time when Mars was retrograde in Aquarius square Uranus in Taurus (a loose cannon) – Trump went into his usual diatribe against the news media saying: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” (Note 4) Those who were familiar with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four were reminded then of the line: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
The Life of Eric Arthur Blair
Orwell, whose actual name was Eric Arthur Blair, was born in India in a colonial family, and returned to Britain for his education. Aged only 8, he was sent to boarding school, which he thoroughly hated. His family was well-connected but not well off, but with the support of family friends he later went to Eton, where his natural writing talents were encouraged. At the age of 19 he travelled to Burma as an officer in the colonial police. There he got ill, and returned to Britain five years later.
Orwell was a man who lived his beliefs. He spent long periods as a tramp to get material for his book Down and Out in Paris and London, and even got himself arrested, so that he could write about what life was really like in prison. He worked down a mine to better describe the appalling conditions of miners, and in the mid-1930’s he travelled to Spain, newly married, to fight on the Republican side against Franco. He was a committed socialist, but in Barcelona he experienced first-hand the monstrous machinations of the Soviet Union, who exported their ideological purges and executed socialists and anarchists alike, completely undermining the Republican cause. Orwell got shot in the throat but recovered quickly. What was more dangerous is that he got on the list of Soviet undesirables, and he ultimately fled the country. His highly-acclaimed books Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were in many ways exposés of the shadow side of Communism.
The Horoscope of George Orwell
Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four whilst seriously ill with lung disease, living on a remote Scottish island. The book came out in 1949 and one year later he was dead only 46 years old.
George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) 25th June 1903, 14.30. Motihan, India. AS 5.18 SC.
Orwell was born with a new moon in Cancer conjoining Neptune and the 9th house cusp, which reflects his committed idealism and instinctive identification with suffering populations. His Saturn is strong in Aquarius in the 4th, which partly shows his upbringing abroad, and his sense of responsibility towards society. This is what he wrote about – Mercury is strong in Gemini in the 8th house – and he was obsessed with exploring the shadow side of society. The fact that Mars forms a grand trine with Saturn and Mercury gave him the resilience and determination to deny his physical needs in the interest of uncovering facts. As his Ascendant ruler, Mars, conjoins the 12th house cusp and the North Node in Libra, social justice was what motivated him.
In his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main protagonist is Winston Smith, who works in the Ministry of Truth. His job was to rewrite the past, so that it corresponded with what was happening in the present. If a Party leader fell out of favor (i.e. “vaporized”), then every reference in past news had to be edited. The Ministry of Truth was a huge building with thousands of workers constantly rewriting the past. With no evidence of anything having existed in the past contrary to Party propaganda, there was no longer anything which could be considered as objectively true. In this way history, and memory, was obliterated.
The dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably indicated by the opposition of Uranus in Sagittarius to Pluto in Gemini from the 2nd to the 8th house in Orwell’s chart. With Jupiter making a T-square to this opposition, we can see the recipe for ideological terrorism which Orwell was such a keen observer of. He was writing after 50 million people had been killed in Soviet purges and Nazi ravages, so totalitarianism was a real and present danger. Mercury in Gemini and the 8th house conjoined Pluto, activating the T-square, so that is what he wrote about.
Writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1948, Orwell was amazingly prescient. Omnipresent in 1984-society were telescreens, which constantly droned propaganda. Telescreens could also see and hear you – so everyone was under constant observation, much like what surveillance cameras do today, and indeed what our smart phones can potentially do (when they are hacked). However, his concept of the past being rewritten is not what is actually happening today, despite the efforts of Trump and autocrats worldwide. What is happening is that there are so many sources of information, and that audio and video can be so easily manipulated, that people gravitate to the truth they choose to believe. Factoids are tailor-made to appeal to specific psychologies, which then becomes the chosen reality which people embrace according to their character, living in their own information bubble together with other people of like mind. In this way, it is hardly different from divergent religious beliefs of the past which different population groups embraced and fought over, (none of which were actually provable).
1984 in the 21st Century
Despite the best effort of the current US president, democracy is alive and well in the USA; in fact, it is more vibrant than ever. As autocrats are voted into power in major countries worldwide, mostly because of the deliberate arousal of deep-seated fears in the populace concerning employment and immigration, and the promotion of nationalism, there is an extremely active counter movement focused on climate and inclusion. Nevertheless, the danger is there, and as Orwell said, speaking of Fascism in 1936: “If you pretend that it is merely an aberration which will presently pass off of its own accord, you are dreaming a dream from which you will awake when somebody coshes you with a rubber truncheon.”
Rather than in the USA, the worst fears of George Orwell are coming true in other countries, not least in China. In Xinjiang, which has a large Muslim Uighur population, it appears that up a million people have been sent to internment camps to be “re-educated” and made into good Chinese citizens. This is a kind of cultural genocide, similar to the eradication or control of Buddhism in Tibet, which has been taking place with varying intensity since the 1950’s.
Rather more insidious in China, is the control the central government has over the media and the internet. China is of course a country with a collective (rather than individualistic) culture, like most Asian cultures, so the population is more sanguine about government control. However, the omnipresence of government censors on social media as well as the Great Firewall, is almost an exact parallel with the Thought Police in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Currently the Chinese Communist Party is implementing an assessment system of its citizens based on what they write, who they meet and what they do. In 2020, they plan to roll out their social credit score system. People with low scores – which can arise from bad behavior on social media, financial mismanagement, legal issues, and anti-social beliefs – risk not being able to travel, stay in certain hotels, or get the jobs they want. It is not unlike methods for assessing creditworthiness in the West, but extended to many other areas. The potential for misuse is obvious.
As we progress into a more digitalized world, with artificial intelligence systems making decisions which deeply affect our daily life, when we have little recourse to change things, populations will become more easily manipulated. This is something we seem willingly to accept. As a Facebook lawyer said in court: “There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy” on Facebook or any other social media site. Most people opt for comfort and convenience, and business systems are there to provide it. New generations brought up in this environment will breathe its air and will be familiar with the territory in a way older generations cannot. Digital power rests with them, and can be used equally well for good as for bad. In this transitional period, what is crucial is that systems are not hijacked by power-hungry populists who thrive on evoking anxiety in ordinary people. It’s a delicate tightrope.
Adrian Duncan – April 2019
1. According to an article in the Guardian by Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 198, published by Pan Macmillan
2. Alternative Facts by Kellyanne Conway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSrEEDQgFc8
3. The Truth isn’t the Truth by Rudy Giuliani: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CljsZ7lgbtw
4. What you read and what you see is not happening by Donald Trump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QPH0Q7ceR0