Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell-Prophecy or Blueprint for Inner Circle?

As a conspiracy queen I have heard of and used phrases such as Big Brother and thought police knowing that they came from the famous book 1984.  The book was written in 1949 and takes place in the future or 1984 which of course is now our past.  As Orwell says, "he who controls the past controls the future and he who controls the present controls the past."
Winston, an outer party member and employee, works for the Outer Party government in the fictitious region called Oceania.  Winston lives in former London.  His apartment comes complete with a state-run camera and microphone that monitors every move he makes.  Banners of Big Brother, a man with a moustache and glasses, are hung all over the city.  Oceania is always at war with one of the two regions in the world-Eastasia or Eurasia.

Winston's job at the Ministry of Truth involves changing newspapers, reels, books, or anything that contradicts what the Party aka government with the goal of leaving no evidence behind when the government lies.  He doesn't understand how people can so easily forget who they are at war with-one day it's Eastasia, but then the next day it's Eurasia.  When Oceania switches enemies, Winston and his co-workers work overtime covering up all speeches and news about the previous war which is erased from all forms of history.  Winston starts to question why the government wants to change the past.  He also doesn't like being watched.  Against the government's rules, he gets a journal and begins to document his feelings and events with his back to the camera.  Most Oceania residents would fear that the Though Police would drag them off in the middle of the night, beat them into confession, and then encourage them to kill themselves.

Winston soon finds a woman at his work, Julia, who feels the same.  They have a secret affair.  It has to be in secret because Big Brother/the government does not approve of romance and love.  They have a secret room where they meet to have sex and talk in private.  The room is above a shop in the seedy part of town where the Proles live.  Proles are the masses or the proletariat (Marx)/worker bees of the world.  Big Brother issues a hate speech each week about an underground organization called the Brotherhood run by Goldstein.  They don't know if it exists, but make a move to find out.  On a whim, Winston hints with another co-worker, this one is a big shot who works in the Inner Party, about wanting to revolt with the Brotherhood.  O'Brien invites him into the world of conspiracy.
English Socialism

As the story moves on, O'Brien is not the rebel that Winston thought.  He and Julia get arrested, tortured, behaviorally modified, and then brought back into society.  They never get back together and Winston ends up a lonely alcoholic.  In the end, Big Brother wins and society is helpless.
My Review:
This book is a classic for a reason.  The writing was preachy and speechy at times, but the story remains a dangerous warning of a modern day totalitarian state.  Censorship and alteration of the past are a must for control.  Machiavelli wrote about it long before Orwell.  But Orwell goes even further.  
Cameras and microphones listening and watching every second of your life is not just in this novel, it is very possible, and some (Edward Snowden for example) even say it's practiced on a regular basis.  Think about it-our phone, the Internet, emails, intersection cameras, GPS in our cars, credit card purchases, medical information, all of it can be found by a layman let alone a powerful government.  We don't have the "Thought Police" but we do have the "Politically Correct" media who are willing to insult if not destroy us for our "offensive" phrases.  To me, political correctness is the first form of censorship.  As far as altering the past, Hollywood is really trying its best.  For example, Noah and Exodus of the Bible were revised for reasons I can only imagine.  
Orwell uses the phrase "doublethink" as one of Oceania's key practices.  Doublethink is when you accept two contradicting view points as truths.  Religious freedom is brimming with doublethink.  Sharia Law's no rights for women and freedom of religion/women's equality seem to contradict each other in principle.  Political correctness and freedom of speech immediately come to mind as well.  I could ramble on all day about doublethink. 
One of my favorite parts of the story was the constant war-sometimes with Eurasia and sometimes with Eastasia and then the propaganda that followed how each region had always been the enemy.  Reminds me of our fickle alliance of many Middle Eastern countries in recent years.  Iran comes to mind-once an ally and then an enemy.  Hussein doesn't seem that bad compared to ISIS.
Orwell believes that socialism will bring upon this kind of control.  Ingsoc stands for English Socialism.  He even uses Marxist phrases such as "Proles" or proletariats.  The government's elite is called the Inner Party.  I wondered if he was also referring to the Inner Circle of New World Order conspiracy.    
Last but not least, is Orwell's phrase Newsspeak.  This idea was one of the  most fascinating ideas in the whole book.  Orwell clearly believes that if you get rid of the bulk of the English language, then you can get rid of a lot of thoughts and ideas.  Newspeak gets us to an oversimplified means of communication, blurring meaning and ideas, turning talk into a generic means of filling our basic needs.  
The hierarchy of Orwell's world reminded me most of New World Order conspiracy theory where only a handful of people, the elite, really know the truth and engage the rest of us in doublethink and Newspeak.  I, for one, wonder how much we are lied to via political press conferences and the media.  Every country seems to have discovered the many uses of propaganda.  Was Orwell a writer or a prophet?
This is a 5 star no-brainer.  Please leave your thoughts and views.

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