Priestly Portions

Thoughts From Parish Life

From the Church to the world: Reflections and musings on community, culture, and Christian life.


Priestly Portions

Thoughts From Parish Life

From the Church to the world: Reflections and musings on community, culture, and Christian life.





  • jamespurdie3

Thought Limit 1984

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:38

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally be impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”- Syme, 1984

“How can you have a slogan like ‘freedom is slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness” – Syme, 1984

I share these quotes from scripture and George Orwell’s 1984 within a climate where attempts to limit free speech and deny truth are on the rise. Such attempts have been brewing for some time now, but with 1984 as a jumping off point let’s ask: How is speech being limited and the truth oppressed? And to what end do certain elements of our culture (certain socialist groups, Antifa, neo-Nazis, alt-right types, advocates of safe spaces, college campuses, segments the LGBTQ community, some abortion advocates, large sections of the media, social media, and so on) want to limit free speech? How is this happening and what is the endgame?

First, it is not so much that the government is making attempts against the first amendment, but rather a relentless pressure from our fellow citizens to curb speech in the name of “checking privilege,” “microaggressions,” “triggering,” putting down the “patriarchy,” being “woke,” or something along those lines. The efforts of such pressures are growing too. Fear is beginning to keep people in line from violating a new emerging orthodoxy of those who would limit speech and the expression of truth. What is worse, we all know it. We all know the lie when we hear it, but increasingly we swallow it out of fear. Afraid of being publicly shamed, fired, denied a position, denied social acceptability, being left out, called a bigot, racist, Nazi, homophobe, shunned, and literally beaten by the new “woke” world. Many in the media are complicit in this. Even politicians are involved, perhaps not through law, but by using their positions of power to compel others or demean them. Many us ourselves are part of the problem whenever we take to social media to one-up the competition. That is how it is happening.

To understand how is one thing, but to know why is another. The culturally imposed limits to free speech will limit the expression of thought. The endgame may make it impossible to offend another because we won’t have the words to express offensive thought. Or we will make it so socially and economically damning for people to articulate their thoughts that few would risk expression. But what language and thoughts are offensive, and who gets to decide?

In the emerging orthodoxy you are incapable to deciding. You belong to and are so embedded in your tribe that whatever you say is not actually you as an individual speaking. When you speak, you’re nothing more than a mouthpiece of your group (race, religion, gender, political persuasion, etc.), which others have deemed unacceptable. You don’t have free speech because you’re not a sovereign free person. Your identity is solely determined your tribe. This is the endgame: to limit speech so you cannot think and offend, to categorize you neatly into a group or set of groups that have no legitimacy in the new woke world. This effectively works to deny you have sovereignty as a person. The goal is to categorize you according to your illegitimate group(s), so that your speech and expressions are in turn invalid and harass you when you do speak contrary to the new woke norms. Why? So that you won’t speak, or better yet, to stop you from thinking contrary to the prescribed orthodoxy at all.

Being limited and categorized in such a manner has the effect of weakening the idea and sense of personhood. Knowingly or not, taking a page from 1984, such weakening requires the new orthodoxy to sacrifice truth, even scientific findings that deviate from their vision are sacrificed. Today one may be taking a career risk in sighting legitimate scientific data that make not fit the narrative of the budding creeds. How would we ever know we are in the truth or even close to it if our ability to think and voice have been severely handicapped? How can we develop as persons, as a people under such circumstances? The new orthodoxy does not seem concerned with that, but rather with the progress of society as it alone defines progress. The purpose is to limit the seeking after truth, which for us is God.

“The fallacy was obvious. It presupposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a ‘real’ world where ‘real’ things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens.” – Winston Smith

Again, a quote from 1984 that seems to be manifesting itself more and more. These lines contain another element of the underlying philosophical structure of the new orthodoxy. In the book these words from the mind of Winston Smith acknowledge the party’s control over reality, because it also has control over the mind of individuals. It is the party that dictates reality, that says two plus two is five even when you as person know it to be four. Is that not starting to happen in our world? The collective believes something, promotes something, forces it, and makes it is true. Is this not the world we are allowing to be created?

Yes, it is possible we are being driven toward a similar, although perhaps unannounced, authoritarianism. Not a regime of single disingenuous party or of written law per say, but of unspoken rules and regulations codified by social media and memes that reduce complex issues to simple slogans, which have the veneer of intellect and truth, but are in fact false. A world where we are free only on paper. In this world to acknowledge a lie would be to invite ostracism and hatred. To be marked out and criticized, moved into irrelevance, and oppressed.

Mental gymnastics and a required denial and sacrifice of truth and scientific are necessary to convince us to believe and love the idea that two and two make five. If speech and thought are limited it becomes easy. But what does that do to a person, to limit their mental thoughts, to require them to deny truth? To be raised in a world where we must say and assert something as true when we know it is false, what does that do to a person, to a people? What will that do to us as individuals, as a collective, to consistently swallow lies until those lies become truth, become reality?

It requires a forfeiting of personhood and a denial of God Himself. When that happens, all that is left for us will be whatever the collective, in whose fold we been brought into, holds to be true and ultimate. It will be “impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the party. To look through those eyes demands an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will.” – O Brien, 1984. We must not it. We must not lie. We must speak and seek Truth.

Then again, maybe I am crazy.


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Fr. James Purdie

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