On Corrupted Language


“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

– George Orwell, 1984

Orwellian and Huxleyan Dystopias


Journalist Christopher Hitchens, who himself published several articles on Huxley and a book on Orwell, noted the difference between the two texts in the introduction to his 1999 article “Why Americans Are Not Taught History”:

We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression “You’re history” as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself.

By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Urand Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus.

Orwell’s was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley rightly foresaw that any such regime could break because it could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works.

This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.

Some years before that, the social critic Neil Postman had contrasted the worlds of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death:

  • What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
  • Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.
  • Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
  • Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
  • In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

The Scharff Approach to Interrogation


Perhaps ironically, the most effective approach to extract information from someone may be kindness. In 2014, Swedish researchers compared a common, direct interrogation—where the questions are direct and specific—to the Scharff Technique, named after the highly successful German interrogator Hanns Scharff.[1]

Scharff was not a typical Nazi interrogator. Unlike the infamous Klaus Barbie, he did not believe in using physical violence. Instead, Scharff got prisoners to spill their secrets through kindness and cunning.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” ― Voltaire

According to Pacific Standard magazine, he even used to share his wife’s baked goods with allied fighter pilots. Once, while strolling with a captured allied fighter pilot through the woords, Scharff claimed that American tracer bullets left a white instead of red smoke due to a chemical shortage, the pilot jumped in to correct him, saying the white smoke was a signal to pilots that they were low on ammo. Thus Scharff was armed with the information he sought. Contemporary researchers are now beginning to put his techniques to the test.

In the Swedish study, participants were given a story with 35 details and interrogated by phone, Scharff’s approach not only resulted in more (and more precise) information, but those being interrogated thought they gave up less information than they actually had, while those being interrogated directly felt they gave up more than they actually had. Kindness is not the only key ingredient to the Scharff Technique; having a “know-it-all” attitude compels information-disclosing corrections, as in the case of the pilot correcting his “friend.”

“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ― George Orwell, 1984


[1] Oleszkiewicz. S., Granhag. P.A., Montecinos. S.C. (2014) The Scharff-technique: eliciting intelligence from human sources.

Plutocracy versus Oligarchy


In both a plutocracy and an oligarchy a relatively very small group of people wields all the power; majority rule, if it exists, occurs only in token form. Furthermore, both governmental systems do not require a parliament nor a constitution, although these are not obstacles either. There are, however, a few nuanced differences between the two governmental systems:

Oligarchy is the system in which a nation is governed by a few powerful people. The basis of this power is unspecified but sticky; it can be passed on by means of elections as well as inheritance.

“A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors.”  ― George Orwell

Plutocracy is the government of the wealthy, who are powerful because of their wealth. As opposed to oligarchies, plutocracies usually enjoy elective successions – in one way or another.

‘Reagan’s story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control — a Jeffersonian ideal at the roots of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and license to buy the political system right out from everyone else.’ ― Bill Moyers, in his “For America’s Sake” speech (12 December 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 17

Orwell on Orthodoxy


‘Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’

– Orwell. G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four London, Great Britain: Penguin Books (2008) p. 56

International Condom Day


International Condom Day seeks to promote the use of condoms as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

It is an informal observance celebrated in conjunction with Valentine’s Day. The holiday is also promoted by the AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV through safe sex practices.

The simple fact is that scientific research demonstrates that condoms are an effective and important tool in the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. Let’s consider some interesting nuggets of that large body of research:

  • When it comes to HIV, using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer than not using a condom. – Carey, Ronald F., et al. (1992)
  • There is no medical reason why someone can’t use a condom. Even people with latex allergies can use them — there are latex-free condoms made of polyurethane and polyisoprene. – Hatcher, Robert A., et al. (2007)
  • Condoms have been around a long, long time. The earliest known illustration of a man using a condom is a 12,000–15,000-year-old painting on the wall of a cave in France. – Parisot, Jeannette (1985)

Who binds with chains the poet’s wit,
The navvy’s strength, the soldier’s pride,
And lays the sleek, estranging shield
Between the lover and his bride.”
― George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

  • Condom availability in places of need around the world is increasing significantly, with 25.8 million female condoms provided through international and nongovernmental funding sources in 2009. Condom distribution increased by 10 million between 2008 and 2009. – UNAIDS (2010)
  • The condom is one of the most accessible and inexpensive forms of birth control available. The cost of condoms is as low as $0.04 per unit. – UNAIDS (2010)
  • Only 39 percent of American high school students are taught how to correctly use a condom in their health classes. Programs that teach young people about abstinence as well as contraception help youth to delay first sex and use condoms and other forms of contraception when they do have sex. – Kirby, Douglas. (2007)

“Staying in Africa, I think it will one day be admitted with shame that it might have been in error to say that AIDS is bad as a disease, very bad, but not quite as bad as condoms are bad, or not as immoral in the same way.” – Christopher Hitchens

And consider these other quite interesting facts about condoms:

  • An average condom can hold a gallon of liquid. (The average healthy man over 24 produces a tablespoonful of 15 millilitres of sperm in a single ejaculation.)
  • The oldest known condoms (that is to say, as in the oldest ones physically found) were discovered in a toilet in Dudley, England and were made from fish and animal intestine. They were dated around 1640.
  • The term used by medical professionals and safer sex educators to refer to the phenomenon of decreased condom use is condom fatigue.

“Use a condom. The world doesn’t need another you.”
― Carroll Bryant

  • 5 billion condoms are used every year, worldwide.
  • The Chinese hold the world record for creating the largest condom. During the celebration of the World population Day in 2003, the people of Guilin, China, made a 80 meter x 100 meter condom and placed it on top of a hotel.
  • The formal Danish word for condom is Svangerskabsforebyggendemiddel; whereas the Greeks employ the beautiful word προφυλακτικό.

“It’s the strange thing about this church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, […] it’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.” – Stephen Fry

27/ii mmxiii


Immediately after George W Bush’s election victory in November 2004, Canadian immigration authorities experienced a six-fold increase in inquiries from US citizens – from 20,000 to 115,000 a day.

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the cor...

George Orwell in Hampstead.

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known as George Orwell, was born in Bengal, where his father was a government opium agent. He ran the village shop in Wallington, Hertfordshire. On top of that, 23 publishers, including T.S. Eliot, chief editor of Faber and Faber, rejected Orwell’s manuscript for the novel Animal Farm before it was finally published.

In ancient Greek, paignia dorkalidon meaning literally ‘antelope playthings’ are dice made from the vertebrae of a gazelle.

Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, and George Eastman, founder of Kodak, were originally bank clerks. They both died in 1932.

A survey in 1976 found that a third of British students had never heard of DNA, and that two-thirds had no idea it was a double helix. By 1988, 80% of the interviewees were able to answer quite sophisticated questions about genetics, but two thirds of them thought that radioactive milk can be made safe by boiling.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts