Byon September 26, 2008 8:00 AM
In 1949, George Orwell, a British national who had lived through two world wars and a hideous economic depression, lacked any real faith in the future of Humanity. Or at least, it would seem that was the case, considering that the author completed his career with Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eight Four. Both paint humanity, and it’s future, in a highly negative light. In Animal Farm, the allegory regards the willingness of the few to take everything from the many, and the willingness of the many to simply hand it over.
Nineteen Eight Four takes the allegory further, painting a dystopian world where a small group of people (actually, three small groups), control almost every aspect of a larger, but still relatively small group who does all the dirty work of the Party. Below them, making up the majority of the population are the unwashed masses, the factory workers, the garbage men, and so on. The numbers are not so different from global society today, as far as hierarchies go, but the level of control exercised by the Inner Party (roughly 5% of the population), is frightening.
There are many who feel that the story of 1984 is one that we are still moving toward. Many of Orwell’s contemporaries joined him in writing these Anti-Utopias, which painted a frighteningly depressing view of humanities future. After the events of the early part of the 20th century, who could blame them.
Frankly, the last seven years have shown more movement to this world of completely supervision than any period of time. And technology has progressed to the point where Orwell’s vision, wasn’t even clear enough. Unfortunately, people have short memories, and where fear is involved, logic is often in short supply. In many ways, that was the most frightening part of the world Orwell created. The Inner Party did everything they could to keep the masses afraid, so that the masses would continue to let them do what they were doing, because it seemed that they were trying to help.
Fear is a powerful motivator, but the problem with motivation by fear is that it can be easily manipulated, and turned into something far more self-destructive.
I find some irony in that the English Socialism (Ingsoc) of the world of 1984 seemed to center around England, both because of England’s bent toward socialism politically, but also because England, far more even than this country, have taken steps toward universal surveillance of the populace. Just like Animal Farm before it, 1984 is a cry against the evils of Socialism, but it also paints a compelling image of why Socialism may be unavoidable.
The problem with Socialism is that it sounds good. It always has. But often, the people most vehemently speaking out for Socialist goals, have the least intention of living by them.
Because of Canada’s Socialized Health Care, the only Canadians who can get timely and good health care, are those who can afford to come to the US.
Al Gore told the world that they needed to cut down their energy production, while he and his family were using 20 times that of the average family. He buys ‘carbon credits’ from a company he owns himself. I’ll spare the continuing rant about that scam.
Socialism doesn’t work, not on a large scale. It never has. It never will.
For me, the worst part about the story, was the way that Orwell masterfully told of Winston’s (the protagonist) increasing understanding of the flaws of the system. His unhappiness at his understanding of the situation, and his desire the set things right, to break down the Party. The first two-thirds of the story do an amazing job of making us feel like there is hope. Like the world, which was allowed to get this way, can still be saved.
Perhaps that simply wouldn’t have fit Orwell’s needs. Perhaps he really believed what he wrote. In many ways, I think it was the latter. For Orwell, the society he wrote was beyond saving. In the end, they break Winston down so completely that there is absolutely nothing left of the man who hated the Party. The man who wanted the world to change. And that’s the danger. Using fear, misinformation, guilt, hatred…we can be manipulated. We can be changed.
We aren’t there yet. Society, though it has slipped in recent years, has not yet slipped that far. In some ways, I wonder if we are savable. Just two weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my parents, where my mother actually uttered the phrase, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about.”
My own Mother. An educated, professional woman. Such is the battle we face. If freedom is to be preserved, we must all do our part to show people why they should desire it, before they lose it completely.
I’ve spoken about Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother here before. If you’re in Australia, copyright has run out on Orwell’s works, allowing them to be distributed freely. I’ve already had my mother working on Little Brother.
I try to have hope that the world will be different, better, tomorrow. Some days that hope wanes, and all I can see is the is the face of Big Brother. Do some reading on your own. Remind yourself why freedom is important. Maybe then you’ll understand.