Topic Tuesday #105 2014/07/22 "Orwellian"
War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
1984, written by George Orwell and published in 1949, is the quintessential dystopian novel. There are some fascinating political concepts that are critical to the work. Manipulation, omnipresent surveillance, perpetual war, historic revisionism. Thoughtcrime, as a concept, was not new to Orwell. Nor was the concept of Big Brother. It's easy to make parallels to historic events, people, places, and the story itself. As we approach the 30th anniversary of this novel, we have sadly seen many of the concepts put into practice.
For instance, the NSA prevalent global surveillance efforts exposed by Edward Snowden.
We can look to North Korea for a Big Brother figure in their Supreme Leader.
The United States has technically been involved in a state of conflict (even if WAR was not declared, the body count sure continued to escalate), since it declared independence from Great Britain, with an exception during the extreme isolationism of the Great Depression in 1935-40. To be conservative, 21 years have had no "real" war like activities since 1776. Highly debatable.
The working poor have always represented a form of indentured servitude in the world, especially when we look at fully socialized systems that Orwell was involved in. The wage slaves are free to make their narrow range of choices.
And the ignorance... Oh the ignorance... It is amazing how so many people believe whatever is served up by their favorite talking head pundit about world events, economics, and what to buy. It is remarkable how similar the world we live in now is to the Orwellian existence of Winston Smith.
Don't forget the oxymoronic and yet fitting Ministry of Peace (War), Ministry of Plenty (Rations goods), Ministry of Truth (controls information and edits history), and the Ministry of Love (which monitors, arrests, and tortures/alters dissidents.) The theme is continued in the language of Newspeak combined with Doublethink and Doublespeak, where words have dual meanings that are not only contradictory but exist and are meant simultaneously.
The work is so iconic, it took on a life of it's own in the term, "Orwellian". As an adjective it describes it's targeted noun with looming official deception, secret pervasive surveillance and manipulation of the facts by a authoritarian/totalitarian/all powerful state government/agency.
In a world (this one by the way and said in the movie trailer voice), where we can predict many behaviors (and may be approaching the ability to read minds) the godlike ability to read your mind and rout out "thoughtcrimes" becomes a real fear. When all your email is read, calls are recorded, movements monitored, and certain agencies rewrite history books for our children, it is not difficult to make comparisons and think that someone has been using the novel as a playbook, and not the warning that it clearly was to a rational person.
1984 has another great thing going for it. It has been on banned book lists and legally challenged for being "subversive" and "corrupting". This makes me smile, as it is ironic, given the content of the book.
Remember kids, read your banned books!
Big Brother is watching.