Saturday, December 26, 2020

George Orwell

The year was 1975. I was in Mrs. Belk's 10th grade English class when she assigned George Orwell's classic 1984. I read it with fear and trembling. It was, after all, just nine short years before Orwell's predicted D-Day.

The story freaked me out, but I wasn't really worried it would come true. After all, it felt so dystopian, so. . .impossible. I couldn't imagine a government so intrusive that it would interfere with my life. I couldn't fathom my movements being monitored by electronic devices or my speech being censored on social media. In other words, it all seemed too far-fetched. Great fiction, sure. Reality? Probably not. 

Boy, was I wrong! Kids these days read Orwell's classic and, instead of seeing as a dystopian sci-fi thriller, say, "Oh, wow. All of this stuff is actually happening." This begs the question: "Was Orwell a prophet?" He wrote the book in 1949 as a warning of what the world could one day be like. And now, as we roll into 2021, we have to ask ourselves, "Was he right?" 

Consider the Themes of 1984 Power for Power's sake:

In 1984 the party "seeks power entirely for its own sake." A government that cares only about its own power and not the will of the people is totalitarian, not democratic. Orwell envisioned such a world and it's easy to feel like we're now living out his fears. Many times, we watch our elected representatives and wonder: "Are they in this for the power trip, or are they really in D.C. to speak for me?" It's hard to tell sometimes, isn't it? And it's equally as difficult to know who to trust. Consider this quote from George Orwell: "Perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface, its cult of strenuousness and self-denial simply a sham concealing iniquity." No doubt you've felt like that a time or two while watching the goings-on in Washington.  

Complete government control: In the book the government controls what the people say, where they go, what they do, what they believe. If you look at what's happening to conservatives on social media, you'll see that we're not far away from the picture Orwell painted with his words. We, too, are being controlled through manipulative techniques meant to sway us. 

Big Brother is Watching You: The government controls what we say, how we say it, and where we say it.  Through our smart devices, advertisers monitor us and sell us as products to companies. Big Brother really is watching us, whether we want to believe it or not. 

Physical control: In 1984 the government took control of the bodies of its citizens. They would love to do the same today. Government mandated healthcare will eventually lead to the government deciding who receives medical treatment and who does not. It's a slippery slope, one we need to avoid. 

Doublethink/Newspeak: We live in the day of "fake news." We can't trust the mainstream media to tell us the truth. Instead, they gaslight us, trying to make us feel that up is down and wrong is right, that good is bad and bad is good. Orwell predicted this in his book. He believed we would one day reach the point where a new language would be required of citizens. Their words would have to match the narrative of the day. The party believed that "The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect." Sound familiar? 

Control of history and information: Orwell envisioned a time when the government would control the narrative—not just of the present, but the past, too. History books would be rewritten. Statues would be torn down. Oh, wait. That's us, sorry. We're the ones rewriting history and tearing down monuments. So, once again, Orwell got it right when he said: "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past." You need look no further than your child's history book to see just how true this has become. 

Breakdown of the family: In 1984 the children belong to the party, not the parents. You might argue that your children are your own, but when they spend eight hours a day in a government-controlled classroom, they're bound to receive indoctrination. Add to that the many hours they spend online and it's easy to see that their little heads are being filled with propaganda, not unlike that found in the book. 

I'll be honest: I liked 1984 better when I thought it was fiction. Now that we're experiencing it first-hand, I'm less inclined to recommend it. 
"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
― George Orwell

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