George Orwell’s 1984. It’s the internationally acclaimed dystopian bestseller that some say depicts a prophetic view and a chilling warning to us all. Between the pages of ’84 are the dire consequences for man when propaganda is at its height; for when a government rules with an ironclad fist.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The three phrases printed within the first few pages of chapter one echo across today’s current state of chaos.
George Orwell – The Author
From a modest background, Orwell was educated at St Cyprian’s on a partial scholarship until a place at Eton became available. He served for a short time in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then in the Spanish Civil War, and later he often wrote political essays and articles for a barely-paltry living.
Experiencing communism, and labeled a fascist supporter, Orwell drew on his experiences with various governments and walks of life. At one stage, he experienced the streets of London as a tramp and experienced poverty first hand, recording the hardened truths of a social class in Down and Out in Paris and London. It was then the name ‘George Orwell’ was invented, not wanting to embarrass his family with the publication.
But Nineteen Eight-Four held a mystique unlike other books Blair published under his George Orwell pseudonym. It followed his acclaimed post-war era Animal Farm novel, and was published in 1949. It was written at a time when Orwell primarily worked as a journalist and propagandist for the BBC, usually focusing on political content, and at a time when his health was failing him. By early 1950, George Orwell had succumbed to tuberculosis.
War is Peace
In a world of perpetual war, where governments concoct enemies and seed society with fear and propaganda, Winston Smith, the protagonist named after WWII PM Winston Churchill, holds a job with the Ministry of Truth. Rewriting historical documents to levy up with current propaganda, and memory holing facts to ensure the government doesn’t trip itself up, Smith craves his freedom and dreams of rebellion. He secretly hates the ministry and is all too aware of the forgeries of documents, the dehumanization of society and the abject disintegration of history.
Reflecting on today’s world, Big Brother is a term well understood in all its complexity. But it isn’t a term we should heed to the forefront.
The term War is Peace insinuates the necessity of a perpetual war to keep its citizens governed. If the citizen has something to fear then it has something to unite and work against, to achieve, and to believe. If the citizen is fearful, then the government has total control. For the government, an endless war means a perpetual peace with its sleeping sheeple-people.
The Industrial Military Complex of today’s real world is closer to Orwell’s and Winston Smith’s world than first glance grants us. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea, Iran and the problems in the South China Sea are slung onto our media platforms as we develop immunity to the ceaseless ISIS campaigns of the past and the concocted ‘War on Terror.’
The government continually reinvents the war-wheel and perpetuates crisis after crisis to keep the citizen herds distracted.
Freedom is Slavery
For the government, Freedom is Slavery. Fiction and non-fiction alike, the parallels between 1984 and 2020 are difficult to dispute.
When 9/11 occurred, the face of the world changed. It was the pinnacle of what was to become an era of security, terrorism and surveillance. The War on Terror facilitated the government’s need to watch everyone, every moment from every street corner.
1984 chronicles Winston Smith as a slight man, miserable and all too aware of the screen (CCTV) watching his every move. He rents out a private room in hopes of escaping the glaring eyes and flapping ears of Big Brother.
The paranoia Winston feels in 1984 is akin to our existence today and only seem to be growing.
Ignorance is Strength
Is the government dumbing us down on a daily basis? Were we prepped for the current crisis at hand? From a sub-standard education system to the left versus right, the cancel culture, the ‘woke’ culture, doublethinking, memory holing ‘fake news’, the list of 21st century dumbing-down tools is endless. But what about basic language skills?
1984 has multi-layered meanings hidden within its pages, the most obvious being “Newspeak” and “Thought Crime.”
Newspeak: A controlled language, set to restrict and avoid ambiguity. Its aim is to reduce the need for words, and is designed to control the citizens. From Newspeak we see free thought lessened, suppressed and the individual becoming part of a collective governmental cog. (Mainstream media, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) There is no individuality and most certainly no room for self-expression. Holding an ‘alternative view’ is akin to conspiracy theory. In one word there is censorship. In another, it is manipulated conformity.
The very essence of these three slogans is “Doublethink;” a byproduct of Newspeak, where two beliefs are held true, though contradictory and designed to confuse the masses.
Thought crime and the Thought police are also much of what we see today in our fearless albeit ridiculous leaders of censorship. Suppressing the freedom to think and the ability to verbalize it (Political Correctness, anyone?) risks attack against your own ideology. It assists with the government governing and dealing with unorthodox actions (dissidents and the dreaded ‘conspircy theorists’, anti-vaxxers that aren’t, and the uneducated that happen to hold doctorates or who are well-read). While we remain ignorant of optional ideologies, the governments of this world remain strong. Divide and conquer, they say.
Not long ago, Twitter boasted the ability to track protestors down, depending on the hashtag they used. China has established pre-crime as a genuine means to arrest citizens before they commit ‘the act.’ Australia just recently tried to introduce something similar in the Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill.
The glimpse Orwell gave us over 70 years ago rings truer today than it ever did in the past. Rather than prophetic, Orwell, through his years of life experience, serving in war, experiencing poverty and class war, and seeing dictators rise to power; his understanding of man and the intricate nature of the government provided a prolific writer with the means to document the future hangings on the wall.
If Orwell were alive today, one wonders how the world would find a way to silence him.