Doublethink: A 21st century lifehack
Carlos Basurto | Thursday, September 7, 2023
Anyone who has had the opportunity to read Orwell’s ”1984” will be familiar with the concept of doublethink — the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s cranial bathtub.
To doublethink is to be aware of the truth and still tell carefully constructed lies. It is to be completely committed to two ideas without acknowledging the destruction of logic in the process. Political leaders throughout history have used doublethink to delude people into submission, but what one fails to consider is its social implications.
Doublethink demonstrates that humans can be contradictory. We are reasonable creatures that strive to become unreasonable, that employ rationality to find irrationality. Why? When one manipulates the truth, one controls reality and the world inevitably becomes their sandbox. Thus, idealism reigns supreme when we think about anything we care about. That is to say, we separate what is presented before our eyes from what we desire, the latter being much more pleasant even if it is not bound to anything but our imagination.
We have incorporated doublethink into matters of the heart in our daily lives for convenience’s sake. You pretend you are something you are not until you become it. Believe you are, whilst knowing you are not, both statements are equally true in the eye of the beholder. Be it confidence, intelligence or wisdom, we manufacture doses of power architected after illusions. Who would not wish for a braver leader? A smarter student? A stronger role model? But that begs the question: When these attributes are based on nothing real, are they still real? If so, how do we differentiate what’s rooted in reality from what’s not? Doublethink cares not, as long as you believe you benefit from it. Do you?
I’d make the argument that you should care. Think not of the origin, but the objective of social doublethink: to trick. Now, no one can disagree with the benefits of tricking yourself into bettering yourself, but I believe there is an element that dissociates itself from the doublethinker: identity.
When someone stands for two opposites, they hold no integrity, the self is lost altogether. In praxis, it is the equivalent of a person having two completely different, mutually exclusive personalities depending on the social group they find themselves in while having both equally real to who they are. Then, who are they? The former, the latter or something in between? Maybe none at all. Now, if the agent of doublethink knows not, how could the recipients? What about the members of these groups who believe in a farce? Who they believe to be their friend never existed at all. Would you call that relationship real?
That is the core of our issue, which is increasingly common as our society becomes ever interconnected, ever fantastical. For a relationship to be honest, it must be genuine, but being genuine is not convenient. Being genuine rarely advances your social, hierarchical interests for it does not offer a greater image of who you are. To be genuine is to renounce doublethink and embrace reality for what it is. Sometimes, at the cost of your social positioning.
It has become commonplace to expect a lie before a truth. Thus, we teach kids to lie. If not expressed, certainly implied. It is no coincidence people lie in their resumés and applications, in their Tinder profiles and Instagram bios and in their head to themselves. They know what they are saying are lies, but when one lives the lie daily, haven’t they faked it and essentially made it? Have they not succeeded? They have finally won the game of life. They became doublethinkers.
Humans are ever-changing creatures, transformation does not necessitate some sort of hypocrisy, but deceit does. The worst deceit of them all is the deceit of the self. What I propose is not to stop dreaming, but to never lose sight of the self. Exploration is imperative when experiencing growth, but we must not miss the forest for the trees. To lose sight of your identity is a violation of your human spirit by your own hand. Is it truly worth it? Why not find a way to make it without faking it? Life is complicated as is, why must you play a multifaceted zero-sum game in the midst of it too?
What I say, then, is that maybe there is no reason to lie, to deceit, to doublethink. Maybe, just maybe, you’re already enough.
Carlos A. Basurto is a sophomore at Notre Dame ready to delve into his philosophy major with the hopes of adding the burden of a Computer Science major on top of that. When not busy you can find him consuming yet another 3+ hour-long analysis video of a show he has yet to watch or masochistically completing every achievement from a variety of video games. Now with the power to channel his least insane ideas, feel free to talk about them via email at [email protected] (he is, tragically, very fond of speaking further about anything at all).
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.