1984 Novel By George Orwell And Issues Of Today’S Society

A controversial topic to discuss is the idea that everything you say and do is being received and sold to a wider audience who are analyzing your movements purchases and communications. Are you concerned that you are being observed, that your digital and physical footprints are being tracked, recorded and used in turn to influence your life and surroundings? It is not inconceivable that our own governments would wish to track us, spy on us and attempt to influence our lives, when considering that they spy on so called ‘allies’ and ‘comrades’. Power has always been the dividing line from the beginning of time those who have power control those who don’t and, in our world, it is the governments and large corporations who hold the power.

The original insight to this philosophy is found in the novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell. When, ‘1984’ was released in 1949 no one at the time thought that this absurd world –with telescreens and undercover government agency spies - would one day come to fruition. However, it has to be asked today, does that dystopian Orwellian world and our own share some sinister similarities and could we be heading towards an Orwellian world. If so then has Orwell failed in warning people of the dangers of socialism and totalitarian rule? Or are we simply ignorant and happy? This eerie world depicted by Orwell is controlled by 3 global superpowers, all of which have their routes in socialism who believe that the only objective of the populous is to fulfill the parties needs and succumb to the party's propaganda and brainwashing. The United Kingdom is under the control of ‘the party’ which follows the principles INGSOC (English Socialism).

This unquestionable belief that the party seeks is being achieved through propaganda and the adaptation of speech and thought through 'Newspeak', the language of Oceania (Britain). The final goal of this language is to simplify speech to the point where individual thought and the ability to rebel against the party or conceive independence is pulverized. An example of this is found in the party's motto ‘War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength’. This use of filtered speech as a means to stifle an opposition is one of many commonalities found within Orwell's World and our own. As the party filters speech and adopts new measures to tear apart free thought and speech, so too does certain political powers of our World. With the number of people in Britain being arrested for “Online harassment” increasing every year, with Canada enacting anti-discrimination laws to protect “gender identity or expression” to its criminal code and with Russian censorship since the early 2000s. We can see similarities with so called ‘hate speech’, civil acts being outlawed, banned and severe consequences enacted for those who do not abide by the ill-defined speech laws. All of the above examples are very different but all dovetail with the realities of 1984.

To begin with Russia, any and all opponents to Vladimir Putin have in some way been silenced, arrested or have disappeared with little explanation. This is very similar to 1984 in the sense that anyone who commits a ‘thought crime’ will be taken by the thought police sooner or later and ‘reintegrated’, or will simply ‘disappear’. Both Britain and Canada are very different examples but they both still relate to the lawless and ill-defined line on which not to cross with new speech laws. As in 1984 a gesture or an expression can incriminate someone today in Britain online “harassment” or “bullying” can result in an arrest, which if led on far enough could result in jail time and fines due to unclear and unprecedented speech laws. As for Canada this new law being used to protect or ‘shelter’ certain individuals could result in arrests and prison time for people simply not addressing someone (possibly a stranger) in the manner they prefer - as to not cause offence, discomfort or ridicule. It is unlikely, however, there is still the chance that if certain groups go unquestioned and unreprimanded they could achieve their political goals. Meaning that we could be going down the rabbit hole towards a socialist totalitarian future without any freedom of thought, speech and expression.

Another point to discuss is the mass surveillance committed by the party of Orwell's world. With its intent to trace every moment of your life from morning coffee, to social interactions at work and meal times. The idea is shown throughout ‘1984’ with Winston, the main character, selecting his actions - in accordance to how it would be perceived by the thought police as well as other party members - so to fit in with societal norms. This instinct of fitting in and adapting as to remain unnoticed and inconspicuous is just as common in our world as it is in Orwell's with social media and new ever evolving technology influencing everyone's lives with the somewhat instinctive desire to fit in.

The mass surveillance carried out by the thought police in 1984 is blatantly obvious and is almost impossible to escape, the fact that you are being watched from the lens of a telescreen is, resented in a way but, ultimately accepted as a part of life and something that is unavoidable. Yet in our world we welcome this porthole to our lives in the form of mobile phones, computers and tablets where our messages, calls, location, camera, microphone and internet history can be accessed at any time by anyone in a high enough position of power - or by someone with the capability to hack into any of those devices. We welcome this intrusive device into our life no questions asked, we accept its ability to monitor our lives at the cost of being branded as an outcast. All while it would be unethical, for governments or large corporations, to monitor the public.

Many large companies continuously sell our personal and private information to advertisement agencies and political campaigns. So, it's not inconceivable that our governments would try to do the same, as it has happened before with recent inquiries into Google's targeted advertisement campaigns and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook was convicted for selling the private and confidential personal information of over 50 million people to political campaign agency Cambridge Analytica. It was said that this information was used by campaigning parties in the run up to the 2016 American Presidential election. Nevertheless, the possibility that our governments are tracking your every movement is highly unlikely and unrealistic due to the cost and manpower required to do so, as well as the high chance of whistleblowers emerging from the huge number of staffs needed. Yet, they do possess the capability to monitor us and target individuals if need be, so why wouldn’t they. In conclusion Orwell’s 1984 opened up a plethora of thoughts for its readers and critics to discuss. Orwell was trying to warn against what he thought was a socialist revolution resulting in totalitarian rule - and not true socialism - however Orwell never granted solutions he only gave way for more questions.

This discussion allows matrix thinking and the reader is taken down a path of thought in which they can discuss and consider several serious issues. I believe that the same thinking could be attributed to a number of issues in today’s society. For example, with the Brexit process, people are making predictions of what might or might not happen without any clear or even fathomable foresight. Was this what Orwell planned - more prophecies? More suspicion? I consider that a utopian world will not come to fruition as we have history to learn from, we have all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips (thanks to technology) to foresee such deceitful attempts at world domination or of submission of free thought and speech by the masses.

15 April 2020
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