The first part of the INGSOC motto is “War is Peace.” The people of the bleak 1984 had this motto drilled in their heads daily especially during the “two minutes hate.” This is probably the hardest part of the motto, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength,” to recognize. We generally agree that war is not peace. Nobody wants a war right? Contention is bad. War doesn’t profit anybody. Are these assumptions true or are we lying to ourselves?
War is a part of our lives in the United States. For over ten years now the United States has been involved in constant war. Before that it was the Gulf War, before that Vietnam and Korea, and the Cold war, before that World War II, before that World War I, then the Civil War, then the war of 1812 and many other smaller skirmishes. To understand the phrase “War is Peace” a person has to actually dissect the consequences of war.
What are the consequences of war? One consequence is death: death for the “enemy” and death for “your guys” and maybe even death to uninvolved civilians. What other consequence are there? Families are ripped apart for deployments; families often have a hard time recovering from deployments. Soldiers come home with post traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes the “enemy” is better off for being invaded. Americans get swept up in pride for their country when they hear war news. Production is ramped up for war needs. We need more tanks, we need more planes, and that translates to we need more money. The companies making the guns, tanks, and planes get a huge influx of money when a war starts. What else does war do? It unifies a people. If it’s “us” against “them,” you’re either with “us” or you’re with “them.” When there is a war you have to take a side. Maybe the economy also gets a little better during a war due to all the manufacturing that has to be done.
So there are quite a few complex consequences of a war. Let’s look at the consequences that could be classified as “good.” First: Americans get swept up in pride for their country. This can be a very good thing for political purposes. If you’re country is the winner, you want to be a part of that. In between wars, and sometimes during wars, citizens tend to see things they don’t like about their government and speak out against it. If you’re a politician you don’t want your constituents speaking out about how much they hate the way things are run do you? You want them unified behind you. You want them to have pride in their country instead of apathy. If citizens have pride in their country they are more likely to buy those war bonds and enlist in the military. Second: Production is ramped up for war needs. What does this mean? This means money is being made. This also means jobs are being made, somewhere not necessarily in the United States though. So when there is a war there are more jobs. This was especially true during World War II. When the men went away to war, there were more and more jobs for women and the men left at home. This caused a boom in the economy. This was good. Third: war unifies a people, “us” against “them.” This is part of Americans having pride in their country, but it could apply to any country. If you have an enemy to be united against you won’t be going after other citizens or your government. Fourth: sometimes the invaded are better off for having been invaded.
So peace is technically the absence of contention. Many people will think of “the lion lays down with the lamb.” So why is peace being so misconstrued by INGSOC and Big Brother? As you recall from the book, they were always at war. In fact at one point they even change who they are at war with and then say they were always at war with that group. The citizens of 1984 didn’t know anything but war. Peace can also be defined as something that is comfortable and “normal” to a group of people. So citizens in the book were comfortable with war, war was their peace. In the book it is never clearly defined whether they were actually at war or not. All the war claims could have been lies by Big Brother, there may have never actually been one person shot in the “war.” This war could have been created solely for the purpose of keeping the people united and making them believe that this war was giving them “peace.” War became normal to them.
Has war become normal to us? Yes, it has. When we hear that so-and-so number of soldiers died today in Afghanistan or Iraq, do we give it any thought? Some might, but it’s such a common occurrence that many people are apathetic to it. Those people were someone’s sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters, but it’s become normal to know someone who has lost someone in one of our wars. We might give them a few moments of compassion, but after that we go about our days, because it’s normal.
I, for one, know many families who have had someone deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. I hear it so many times, that, yes, I’m concerned for a little while, but it’s normal. It’s normal for someone to be deployed into a war zone. I am at peace and therefore this war has become my peace. It’s not good that this is the case. People who don’t know, personally, families who have had someone deployed are even more detached from the war. The war is even more their “peace,” because they are going about their lives like nothing major is going on, although in fact the hundreds and hundreds of lives lost each year and the trillions of dollars being spent is a very big something going on. It’s a war, but because of our complacency has become our “peace.”
You may think, no, I’m not at peace with the two wars going on, but honestly how often do you think of it if you don’t know anybody in the military?
We are unified in an “us” against “them” very much so in the two wars. Most people never voice any protest against our soldiers dying, their civilians dying, and their tax dollars being squandered. There are those groups that do voice their opinions against the wars going on, but that group is so small, pro-war groups are able to write them off an unpatriotic and in some extreme cases “ home grown terrorists.” Once the United States got scared most people got united against the “enemy.” We made jokes about “getting Osama,” and we celebrated when Hussein was unceremoniously executed.
In regards to the pride that is created because of a war, does the United States have it? You bet it does. Those who say that they don’t approve of the war for whatever reasons, real, make-believe, personal, etc., are called unpatriotic and un-American and, yes, even terrorists. Doesn’t that contradict “freedom of speech?” Americans are so caught up in pride for “us,” that they disregard our traditional rights.
War also creates jobs, traditionally. After the advent of NAFTA and other trade agreements this isn’t as true as it used to be. Work is good and the economy coasts on this boom for a while after the war. People like the overtime pay and the things they can buy with that money. That money brought them additional peace. Peace in this sense as economic security. Do people make money off of war? There are definitely people who make money off of war and would prefer to have war more often than not to bring in more profits.
The United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. In some instances those people are better off, for having their governments overthrown. Schools are made, water systems are installed, and things of the like are done. These are good things, but the people who make the war decisions will choose to continue the war, citing that good is being done so we should finish, finish what? If good works are being done in addition to the death and family destruction, it’s not seen as such a bad thing; forty men died, but we built a school. Building the school changes the lives of the kids who get to go there forever, hopefully for the better, but those forty men dying change the lives of their families for the worse. These “good things” are used as enticement to keep people thinking that the war is more peaceful than it really is. These good works are still good works, nothing is going to change that, but words and acts can be twisted to meet various objectives.
So in regards to “good consequences” of war, you can see how those can be turned around to frame and mold people’s opinions into thinking that war is peace. All “good consequences” are not necessarily twisted in this way, but enough are to keep people complacent.
Bottom line, people can be made to think that war is peace and it is a reality right now. We have become complacent with our wars and they are now our “peace.”