Lunch Break at Learning-Factory 17

In the low-ceilinged FacClub canteen, deep under ground, the lunch queue jerked slowly forward. The room was already very full and deafeningly noisy. From the grille at the counter the steam of stew came pouring forth, with a sour metallic smell which did not quite overcome the fumes of Equality Gin.
‘Nex’, please’ yelled the white-aproned prole with the ladle.
Winston and Syme pushed their trays beneath the grille. Onto each was dumped the regulation lunch—a metal pannikin of pinkish-gray stew, probably some tofu preparation with the appearance of vomit, a few moldy kale chips, a hunk of gluten-free bread substitute, and a milkless cup of fair-trade Equality Coffee.

‘There’s a table over there, next to the telescreen,’ said Syme. They picked up a gin on the way, dispensed from a grimy hole in the wall. They finished their lunches in silence.

‘How is the Newthink curriculum getting on?’ said Winston, trying to be heard over the din and clatter.

‘Slowly,’ said Syme. ‘We’re working on the adjectives. The personal pronouns have been pretty much completed. It’s fascinating. I’m starting on the abstract ideas now.’

Syme was working in the Cultural Studies Department of Learning-Factory 17, formerly know as a ‘university’ in Oldspeak. Winston could only partially remember its old name, UofZero he thought, but could not be sure. Cultural Studies, or CultStud, governed everything in LearnFac17, even in departments little connected with CultStud. The Fizzix Department, under a cloud until recently, now taught that the law of gravitation unfairly discriminated against the gravitationally-challenged as it exerted greater force on their bodies.
One fizprof, having inadvertently referred to a dead white fizzisist named Nyutun, had successfully avoided denunciation by claiming that the law of gravitation was fully sensitive, as all bodies were accelerated equally in a gravitational field. Winston, even though he new very little of fizzix, had silently congratulated him on his brilliant reposte. But, as Syme reminded Winston, the law of gravitation was only a prejudice of white civilization.

‘We’ll soon be getting it in its final shape,’ said Syme eagerly. ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of ideas. Of course, the great wastage is in the ideas of freedom, politics, consitutional government, republics, ideas of liberalism, socialism, fascism; the human vices and virtues that the ancient philosophers agonized over for thousands of years. What use are they now? Why clutter students minds with these when they are all hate speech anyway’?

His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and become almost dreamy.

‘They are still referred to now as socpol, fascpol, commpol, libpol, but even these terms will be redundant when Newthink is fully in control of the Edyukashun of our youth.’
‘The Party knows this and the newprofs in LearnFac17 are fully in agreement with our views. They know that when these ideas are finally expunged from the curriculum, thoughtcrime, now undesirable, will be impossible. Of course, we owe it all to PC and Boy Leader,’ he added as an afterthought.

A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s face at the mention of Boy Leader. Nevertheless, Syme detected a certain lack of enthusiasm.

‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newthink, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you prepare your lectures, you’re thinking in Oldthink. I’ve noticed that you still call them lectures, instead of speakthinks. You haven’t been brought fully up to date yet. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of ideas. Do you realize that Newthink is the only educational curriculum that gets smaller and more limited every year? As ideas are destroyed, and the range of consciousness shrinks, students will have fewer means to fall into the errors of thoughtcrime. Ideas are divisive, Winston, and divisions give rise to opinions. This is not desirable. Has it occurred to you, Winston, that in a few generations, no students will be able to understand what you are saying now’?

‘Except—‘, began Winston doubtfully, and then stopped. Syme, however, had divined what he was about to say.

‘Oldprofs are animals,’ he said carelessly. ‘They will be reformed or vaporized. Some time ago, LearnFac17 was led by one of our Outer Party members, I forget his name, an odious dwarf, but no matter, he served our purposes well. All he had to do to suppress undesirable ideas was to write sanctimonious letters to a visiting speaker and the students dutifully threatened violence and mayhem! All without any wasteful debates.

Currently, there is a woman in LearnFac17 being brought before one of our Social Justice tribunals for thoughtcrime. Don’t think we are violent people, Winston. There is no need, yet, for people to be taken to camps in boxcars at night. The communist Red Guards in China in the 1960s may have killed millions, but that is unnecessary history, best forgotten. Now we shame, intimidate, insult, and threaten. We demean freethinkers, as you used to call them. We will not defend thoughtcriminals, Winston, in fact, all our resources are for the accusers. The idea of defense is Oldthink. We do not want to destroy our enemies, but to crush their minds and fill them with ourselves. All the while, Boy Leader and the Party are smiling over our land.’

Syme continued, ‘And what use will be the Party slogan, Diversity is Conformity, when there is no diversity of ideas? Students will not be conscious of such things. They will then be orthodox— and unconscious. Then, we will have unity.’

‘And don’t think that any revival of Goldsteinism in a country nearby will give any give any help to the Oldthinkers. A flick of Boy Leader’s raven locks will generate endless adulations on Stateradio and will ensure our safety.’

Unquestionably Syme will be vaporized, Winston thought again. He thinks too clearly, lacking discretion and a sort of saving stupidity. Despite Syme’s orthodoxy, Winston felt sure that one day, arriving at LearnFac17, Syme’s name would be missing from the approved profs and their speakthinks.

He went outside for a vape before the afternoon’s speakthink.

Rebel Yell