In George Orwell’s most famous book 1984, the rulers of Oceania have imposed a new, hyper-controlled language on the population. The language is called Newspeak, and it’s not only the language they use to communicate with each other, but the language they think in.
Newspeak was designed to restrict the reasoning and limit the imaginations of the citizens of Oceania, rendering them incapable of exploring certain concepts and ensuring their self-preserving support for The State.
It’s crucial to note that their inability to consider these concepts is not due only to lacking names for them, but also the movements of logic beneath the thoughts that they are capable of that block them reaching these forbidden concepts as a natural consequence of any critical thinking.
This is a pretty accurate encapsulation of what I mean when I talk about languages of thinking. It’s less about the words and symbols we use to think in, and more about the function and direction of our thinking in general.
Some years ago, I decided to confront any potential contradictions in my own thinking in order to overcome them. At first, I got hung up on the kinds of words I was using to define my concepts, and that didn’t lead to much further insight or resolution at all. In fact, it just made an even bigger mess of things. It was when I went beyond the words and started tapping into what I meant by these words that I was able to get some of the real work done.
I was quite confident in my position that humanity would do well to acknowledge whatever it takes in order to bridge arbitrary division and come together as a unified species. And personally, I could easily speak words of unity, however, the language of my thinking was completely at odds with that. At the time, I was incredibly ideologically-oriented, identity-oriented and with a real romanticised view of belief in general.
But what I was failing to recognise is that, for every ideology, there’s an opposition. It’s a fairly simple and widespread insight, but I hadn’t applied it. This ideological framework instantly draws an “us and them” mode of interpretation. Whether I wanted it to or not didn’t matter — it’s weaved into the very language of ideological thinking.