He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasion as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same lie - then the lie passed into history and became the truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak 'doublething'.
Part 1, Chapter 3, 1984, (published 1949).
This excerpt really stepped straight off the page into my reality when I read it. It really gets to me, this disturbing little idea - the past can be rewritten. It's not impossible. It's been done. In history, 'reality control' has literally been pulled off, in Ancient China for one at the very least. In Ancient China, emperor Shi Huang-Di ordered all books (save those which would contribute to the nation's economic growth, religion and physical health) were burnt and "Anyone referring to the past to criticise the present should, together with all members of his family, be put to death" - Shih chi, Memorial on the Burning of the Books, 87:6b-7a. (I study Ancient history.)
It just GOT me like a little pinch on the bum, and I realize now, just how awful it is.
What things have really 'got you' so far? I am completely convinced that nobody could have made it so far into this book without being HIT by something like a ton of bricks.