Since the onset of the United States, Americans have always viewed the future in two ways; one, as the perfect society with a perfect government, or two, as a communistic hell where free will no longer exists and no one is happy. The novel 1984 by George Orwell is a combination of both theories. On the “bad” side, a communist state exists which is enforced with surveillance technology and loyal patriots.
On the “good” side, however, everyone in the society who was born after the hostile takeover, which converted the once democratic government into a communist government, isn’t angry about their life, nor do they wish to change any aspect of their life. For the few infidels who exist, it is a maddening existence, of constant work and brainwashing. George Orwell’s novel was definitely different from the actual 1984, but how different were they? 1984 starts out with a so called “traitor to the party,” Winston Smith, walking through the streets nervously observing the video cameras that are watching his every move.
He makes his way into his apartment and produces a journal from his coat pocket. He thinks that even this simple act of attempting to keep track of time and history could get him vaporized. This scene portrays the strong grip the government has on its patrons. A person either obeys them, or is killed, or put into a forced labor camp. After Winston starts an illegal affair with a younger woman he gets careless and “the party” finds out that he has committed what they call “thought crimes”. A thought crime is the intent to do something illegal but not actually doing it.
In Winston’s world a thought crime is just as severe as a physical crime. They arrest him and his girlfriend and torture them until they realize what they did was wrong and that they love “the party” and will never do anything to hurt it again. Since the publication in 1949, Orwells novel has consistently trigured heated debates about whether or not our society has become like Oceania, how accurate Orwells predictions were, and which political parties philosophies most resemble Ingsoc. The political right and the political left have both used 1984 as the vasis for any number of attacks upon their counterparts.
One should remember, however, that Orwell never tells us whether the Partys genesis grew our of the right or the left. The Party name of Ingsoc bears no more resemblance to socialism than it does to facism. Even the old man in the bar cannot remember whose fault Ingsoc is. To tell you the truth, it really doesnt matter. While both the right and left have hailde this novel as exposing extreme intentions of the other olitical part, the fact of the matter is that Orwell was a very smart man and recognized that dictatorship is dictatorship- regardless of what poliical creed the government espouses.
Never once in the novel do we hear mention of the Partys uplifting the workers struggle or saving individual rights from desecration by the Huns. There simply are no politics in Oceania. In todays society, everything is politcs. Its all about who you know, and who can get you what you want. Today politicians in America are concerned about the struggles hard working Americans face each day. But critics feel that the central idea that Orwell tried to get across is the fact that Oceania can spring up from any society or government.
Orwell places the capital right in the heart of the nations that most represent freedom and individual rights, the United States and Britain. From a historical context, Orwell looked at the ravages of World War II that had yet to be repaired, and he saw the great poers ready to do glovbla battle again. Orwell shows us that life in Oceania is dreary agony. The people have been reduced to a lower level of cicilization; they have become little more than urban savages. The war that is supposedly being fought with jEast Asia or Eurasia is mirrored by the war between individuals within the Party.
The greatest pessimism expressed in 1984 is that war will be endless and that society will not recover its humanity. War in many ways has become the worlds biggest pastime. Newspapers, radios and televisions are constantly bombarded with stories of war and rampage from around the world. The world we live in resembles Orwells depiction of Oceania in many ways. We lack humanity and in many ways fell that violice is the only solution to oru problems. Orwell is a socialist at heart, and he was a zealot for democracy in spirit. 984 is a call for individualism and independence from a governments structural control and social organization. There must be a check on unbridled power. One cannot count on the goodness of people. This quest for total power by “The Party” is an excellent dramatization of Lord Acton’s famous apothegm, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” “The Party” seems like it won’t stop until it controls the minds of everyone under it’s power, and has complete physical and psychological surveillance on all people at all time.
This is exemplified in the fact that the government can look back at you through your television, or telescreen as it is called in the book, and the governmet has set up telescreens almost anywhere you can go. While they don’t have telescreens in unpopulated country sides, they have gone through the trouble to place hidden microphones disgused as flowers in those areas. and while there are real no laws, the thought police can spy on your thoughts at anytime, and can arrest and kill you on a whim. This policy is mythical.
It is not really used for punishment, but to scare everyone else into being good citizens. 1984 offers us the proposisition that the government excludes each and every member of its society from one another. While the same has been said of our country, the best example of this condition is Russias choosing to oppress its pople by economic privitation, police intimidation, and surveilance. The worst criticism that can be made of our own government is its choosing not to do enough for its poor. This fundamental difference is however real and important.
There are finite bounds on what a government can and cannot do. If this sounds like a tirade against the Soviet Union, it is meant to be; there are an estimated four million people in the Gulag Archipelago prison work camps. Many felt that rulers of Soviet Russia were doing what was best for its citizens, but history portrays a different story. Our own society, of course, is not without its faults, and it will probably never be perfect. But, foremost, 1984 was meant as a warning to all of us what life can be like if we cavalierly forget what civil and human rights are and what precious privileges they are.
Orwell was amazingly accurate in some of his predictions. His perceptions about global political ships and the emergence of permanent zones of war have proven to be all but too correct. He foresaw a nuclear arms buildup, grossly biolent movies, and the use of helicopters in warfare. On other issues, he was partly right and partly wrong. He envisioned the deification of political learders in the West, and he predicted that television would become the principal means of communication to mass audiences. He underestimated, however, its curbing effect upon audiences expossed to live footage of wars.
Such footage has tended, increasingly, to make war less glorious. And Orwell completely micalculated his prediction that science would stagnate and technological advancement would stall. Some of the more interesting creations in the novel include: the Two Minutes Hate, letters which can be checked off instead of written, and speakwrite (which has just been invented). Orwells use of acronyms and short-form names for complex ideas and devices, however, shows us how rapidly we have become to rely on new abbreviations for new concepts which we accept as commonplace today.
But we have not sacrificed old words to replace them. Today the names of agencies such as the Federal Burea of Investigation, North Atlantic Trade Organization, and the Central intelligence Agency have become mere initials (FBI, NATO, CIA). The chief concern of todays readers is directed to the feasibility of the society of Oceanian itself. Can that happen here? The technology of Ingsoc is already here with us today. Indeed, we have surpassed it. The internal mental mechanisms of doublethink, blackwhite, and crimestop are the real glue that hold it all together.
We use variations of these concepts for everyday occurences: Ill pretend I didnt see what I thought I saw and If he said its true, then I believe him. These illustrate that we use self-control devices similar to those in 1984 to alter our perceptions or stop us from doing things we shouldn’ do or think we shouldnt do. The difference is that our government does not train us to use this practice everyday concerning our political opinions. Nor are these psychological devices directly used to control our political behavior. But they very easily could be.
Human beings are extremely susceptible towards certain media, and we tend to believe whater is said by the media. Many studies show that our politcal opinions are developed from opinion leaders- peers whose views we accept and take as our own. In our complex society, we are forced to rely on these others in the media for information. The risk which we run is that our best interests are not always the foremost concern of those who supply us with the information. There are some who take the posistion that we already live in Oceania and that we are being controlled and ordered about by the powers that be.
Others maintain the opposistion posisition and hold that we as, individuals, control our own fate and destiny. Obviously, there is room for innumerable views between these two extemes. Evidence supporting both views can be found co-existing practically anywhere. We are free to stand on the street corner and criticize the government,but if we become too rabid or noisy, we will likely be areested by the police. Somce members of our society, because of dress, race, or physical charactersitics, bear a presumption of being dangerous. People in three-piece suits are seldom arrested for distubing the peace.
The dichotomy of freedom and authority is pervasive in our society. Ideally, there should be a balance for the peaceful resolution of these conflicting demands which would preserve our current system. Orwells vision is pessimistic, and its plausibility makes us all the more squeamish to look full-face at tis possible fulfillment. We look once in place, cannot be reversed. Once we make our great mistake and forget our duty to act for ourselves and watch those whom we set to watch for us, the boot will stamp down upon our faces-forever.
Oceania relies upon control of reality to maintain its control of reality to maintain its control over the populance. This control is made possible by denying people of Oceania access to the truth. Thus, no one has any idea what is really going on in the world. In the middle of Hate Week, which is realy a perverted St. Valentines Day, a speaker changes from one enemy, Eurasia, to the other, Eastasia, in mid-sentence. His actual speech never changes in substance or form; only one word is substituded for another. Yet everyone accepts the change within minutes.
The Ingsoc maxim He who controls the past controls the present,a and he who controls the present controls the future is shown to be devastingly effective. As Winstion writes his journal, he is not even sure whether it is 1984 or not. It is important for him to prove this fact, one way or another. Yet he daily aids, and sometimes he derives great pleasure, in fabircating lies. His grip on reality is a tenuous as his grip on the glass crystal. The truth has been altered beyond all recgnition. As memories fade and written records are destroyed and altered, all touh with truth becomes permantly lost.
The Partys truth can be fosisted on the populace because there is nothing remotely cohesive or accurate enough to compete with it. Thus, it is no surprise that Julia believes that the Party invented the airplane; in a few more years, the Party can even claim that the Party has always existed and no one can prove them wrong. Winston and those who try to remember have no proof and, if they rebel, they are destroyed. Adolph Hitler once boasted that if you tell a lie enough times, people will accept it as being the truth. Truth is a very delicate thing.
It is subject to an individuals own perceptions and the perceptions of society at large. In the 1400s, it was not wise to profess to believe that the world was round; that view considered to be heresy, and heretics were tortured and burned at the stake. There are many people today who do not believe that Neil Armstrong ever walked on the moon. Truth can be espoused by many sources, and each person chooses his own sources in which to believe. Orwell demonstrates the danger of having only one outside source for ones information and facts.
The populace comes to rely on that one source as being right no matter if every word of it is false. The Party will go to any lengths to enforce its version. Since there are no laws or even any objective concern as to what the Party is doing to its own people, the monopoly on truth is unchallenged, and it, in turn, evolves into a monopoly of power. Truth is an important tool in the hands of the Party. It is thecenter fro controlling the populace and enforcing its desire for absolute power on the people of Oceania.
There can be no resistance to such a system, for the very idea of resistance cannot be formulated. People are forbidden to communicate or are afraid to do so; therefore, any possibility of rebellion is doomed at its inception. The Inner Party members are as badly deluded by their lies as the most stupid Outer Party members. They wont change anything. The proles know nothing and wont change anything either. Worse yet, since the only way to fight these lies is to totally disbelieve them, prospective rebels in a non-existent Brotherhood finally fall into the hands of the Thought Police.
The erosion of factual truth is an extremely dangerous quality in our society. Potentilally, our values and knowledge become undermindend, and we risk having a truth impose upon us by an OBrien or his party. Living in a society with limited freedom of expression is not, in any case, enjoyable. A Totalitarian society is a good example of such a society, because although it provides control for the people, it can deny them a great deal of freedom to express themselves. The fictional society in George Orwell’s 1984 also stands as a metaphor for a Totalitarian society.
Communication, personal beliefs, and individual loyalty to the government are all controlled by the inner party which governs the people of Oceania in order to keep them from rebelling. Current society in America is much more democratic. It contrasts with Orwell’s society of 1984 because communication, personal beliefs and the people’s loyalty to the government are all determined by the individual. The story of 1984 reflects a society that totally contrasts with America today.
While Orwell’s objective was primarily written to exaggerate the Totalitarian/Communist and other conditions of society surrounding him, 1984 presents an important guide to life for modern Americans. Just as a major objective of learning American history is to ensure that we do not repeat our mistakes, 1984 can give warnings to both government systems and individuals regarding how society should not be controlled. It is scary to think how close the world could have come to having a society like the one in Nineteen Eighty-Four.