In 1949, George Orwell wrote a fictional book simply titled 1984, with the intention of warning the western world about how a totalitarian government destroys societies. His concerns were based on what he witnessed happening in Spain and Russia. The cruelty and oppression that he saw prompted him to do whatever he could to prevent it from reoccurring, due to the ignorance of those that had never experienced it first-hand. At the time the Soviet Union was considered to be an example of a great moral experiment, and western countries were supporting the idea of communism. The title of the book shows that Orwell felt that if totalitarian governments were allowed to continue ruling, in a relatively short period of time the negative effects of communism would be overwhelming.
Fortunately the majority of the ideas that Orwell attempted to predict have not become a part of our society. There are some that have taken root, however, such as:
1. Constant Surveillance – In 1984, the citizens of Oceania were always being watched by ‘Big Brother.’ The entire population was observed via a ‘telescreen’ which was present in every household.
The majority of countries in the western world are now being monitored continuously by means of cc-tv, tapping into personal phone calls and emails, and most of the population voluntarily keeping a ‘telescreen’ on them at all times… our mobile phones.
2. Never – Ending War – As demonstrated in Orwell’s book, constant war keeps the majority of the population poor. Instead of finding ways out of the poverty, people concentrate on hurting each other by supporting the war.
The most influential countries in our current society always seem to be at war with either one, or more, powerful enemies.
3. Children being taught to obey without thinking – In the novel, parents were terrified of their children, family values were non-existent and the youth were encouraged to report their parents if they suspected them of free-thinking.
Many school and government systems, always with the child’s best interest at heart, encourage the students to ‘report’ their parents. In many cases it does help to discourage child abuse, but good parents are also afraid to discipline their children for fear of punishment by the law.
4. Misleading the Public – In 1984, the news was always reported in a way that made Big Brother and the Party seem like the heroes. The government was protecting its society and those that opposed them, would need to be taken down in the nation’s best interest, of course.
In our modern day culture the way in which the news is reported is often done in a very biased manner, based on the belief that the entire nation is expected to share. Many times ‘enemies of the state’ have been executed before the possibility of trial, to public applause and appreciation without question. This blind agreement by the majority of society certainly does bring to mind the question of whether communism and capitalism might not actually have more similarities than differences.