May 25, 2015
The following words, from the song penned by Bob Dylan, The times they are a-changing, describe perfectly, and poignantly, that some writers have the ability to see into the future and foresee a disturbing outlook for the masses because of the dark influence politicians have on society.
“Come writers and critics,
Who prophesize with your pen,
Come senators. Congressmen, please heed the call,
Don’t stand at the doorway, don’t block up the hall.”
George Orwell, the great novelist, wrote in his paper Politics and the English Language in 1946, “In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. Threats to the freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”
These provocative and interesting thoughts are most certainly reflected in Orwell’s great but cautionary novel Nineteen Eighty Four, in which he suggests that the control of language is arguably the restriction of not just the spoken word, but the restriction of everyday actions and thoughts by people who dare to act independently with the intention or threat to rock the political boat and act in a way that is deemed potentially detrimental to the ‘will’ of the government. This definitive aspect of the novel is conveyed through the concept of Newspeak, which is a governmental attempt to control language, an absolute law created by a totalitarian regime that dominates Nineteen Eighty Four, which is utilised as a tool to limit the freedom of thought. Freedom of thought is of course, an aspect of the human condition that one would take as private and impossible to infiltrate as long as thoughts are kept concealed. However, thoughts are infiltrated in the novel by weeding out the rejection of totalitarian principles by utilising telescreens (Big Brother) to measure facial expressions, reflexes and movements deemed unacceptable by the government on the flimsy premise that these could indicate a refusal to accept their policies and potentially defy their regime.
On page 292 of the novel, protagonist Winston verbalizes explicitly how he views the political regime that dominates the novel, “You don’t give a damn what they suffer, all you care about is yourself.” In this particular instance, “You” and “They” are the government and the masses they manipulate and torture by distorting their true political agenda. Winston is speaking to the character of Julia about the threat of torture, his choice of words indicates he is challenging the government’s intention to come across as a protective, nurturing leadership, all of which are seen and judged by the telescreens. Winston’s words arguably reflect how today’s political parties and their leaders feed on the anxiety of the masses and ultimately work towards their own selfish needs in their quest for absolute power and dominion over the masses.
Many of today’s political parties preside over their citizens in a disturbingly similar manner to the ‘Party’ in the novel. For instance, in modern political history there was the brutal totalitarian regime that Adolf Hitler introduced to Germany and the world in 1933. It is pure conjecture but nevertheless feasible to suggest that social commentator George Orwell was more than aware of Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933, which may have shaped, influenced and provoked his political beliefs and opened his eyes to the idea that the ‘modern’ world was beginning to enter a state of complete control over the people, by creating and enforcing laws that would legitimately allow governments to manipulate and dominate society, ultimately bringing democracy to an end. Hitler ruled with definitive force much the same as the ‘Party’ did in Nineteen Eighty Four.
To substantiate this idea, Orwell wrote an insightful reply to Noel Willmett in May 1944, who was a British citizen interested in Orwell’s opinion on the rise of totalitarianism. Orwell mentions Adolf Hitler several times, saying; “If the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great super-states which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the Fuhrer wishes.”
I am sure the reader will agree that it is astonishing how unerringly accurate Orwell was with his prophesy of a future arguably moving towards a totalitarian state.
After the horror of the twin towers atrocity in New York 2001, the US government passed the Homeland Security Act in 2002, which was and is unquestionably an attack on the civil liberties of the people of the United States of America and a step closer to an Orwellian society in America. This ‘law’ grants the government the right to reduce the privacy of the masses. This of course leads to increased government control over its citizens by allowing them to become a surveillance state of total information awareness.
In 2002, Nineteen Eighty Four’s “Big Brother” became frighteningly real for the people of America. Despite the incredible imagination of Orwell in his construction of Nineteen Eighty Four, technology used in real world surveillance systems was imagined in the novel and is without doubt intrusive, sinister, and unforgiving in its portrayal of what world governments see, how they interpret what they see and hear but more importantly, how they act on this information.
In Britain, a top chief constable in the Greater Manchester Police force believes the British governments attempt to impose their will on extreme, politically challenging public ideas concerning political ideology in the UK could give rise to a ‘police state’. Chief Constable Peter Fahy said, “If these issues (defining extremism) are left to securocrats then there is a danger to drift to a police state. There is a danger of us (government officials) turning into a thought police.”
Peter Fahy’s warning indicates that he wants British citizens to become more aware of how influential surveillance is becoming in modern day society. With this in mind, the character of Winston Smith echoes Peters’ warning with a fictional warning in the novel:
“Until they become conscious they will never rebel.”
Like Winston, Peter is suggesting we, as a mass of people, are not completely conscious of the modern world regressing into an Orwellian world. However, it is becoming ever more obvious that the general public are being subjected to a total global surveillance program, a program that is virtually worldwide. Satellite systems, mobile/cell phone tracking, credit/debit/bank card usage, social security records, medical records, police records, dental records, local council records, GPS, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail records, mail recording, television license records, bank loans, Skype usage, wordpress, the list is becoming endless as to the numerous ways the governments can track and influence how the mass of people can be ‘watched’ for the ‘good’ of the world governments.
Conceivably, the world has been becoming a place where we are facing or unknowingly facing our worst nightmares, in effect we are living in a global Room 101. Nineteen Eighty Four’s Room 101 takes advantage of population fear and worry to tighten its grip on society by utilising psychological warfare to influence judgment and decision-making. Taking the character of Nineteen Eight Four’s protagonist Winston Smith into consideration, the novel states that,
“He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party.”
Does this sound familiar? On the whole the majority of people obey the various political parties who run their countries, parties that influence the masses to vote for them. Yet, many people develop a hatred and distrust for the laws and systems of the parties they employ. Strangely, as every election year passes, the masses make the same ‘mistakes’ and ‘choices’ that lead us to a total control state, an Orwellian state.
Political parties have the ability, the power and the knowledge to appear to be idealistic visionaries. However, their political agendas nearly always result in negative consequences for the masses who vote them in. This is extremely ironic in that the people who suffer are often the ones who have been influenced into voting for the political parties in power. How do they do it? Arguably by mass mind control or more accurately, mass public persuasion, which ultimately leads to political power and total control.
In Nineteen Eighty Four, one of the most recognized quotes express this thought precisely, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake, power is not a means; It is an end.”
Interestingly, Winston self-consciously makes the decision to hand over his rights to the Party in the novel in a way that reflects how the general public make their judgments that result in the government surreptitiously taking away the freedom of the people who vote for them. “Winston tries to make himself believe in Party slogans, to learn to be stupid.”
To learn to be stupid is of course extremely harsh on the general public, but there is no doubt that the parties they elect into positions of power manipulate the masses into believing what the parties stand for, which leads to the relinquishing of their rights as citizens because they are swayed by the language, political expressions and the promises that are made. The following quote from the novel illustrates the mindset of political agendas’ perfectly; “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies.”
Winston Smith was disillusioned in Nineteen Eight Four just as the masses of peoples around the world are politically and socially disillusioned in modern day societies. Winston knew that he was right to question the authoritarian state he existed in, but he was ultimately helpless to impose his will on the ‘Party’.
The mass of world citizens have the right to question the decisions that political parties make on behalf of those who vote for them. George Orwell once wrote; “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe in Nineteen Eighty Four will necessarily arrive, but I believe something resembling it could arrive.”
I believe that the brief arguments presented in this essay go some way to illustrate that the world is slowly turning into a watered down version of an Orwellian society. Who knows when our ‘Telescreens’ will start holding conversations with us and maybe passing on information to government agencies that are intent on ‘weeding’ out members of society who refuse to obey the rules and powers of ‘Party’ policies.