I’ve just finished this book (in it’s audio version – something to do in the car). I can’t remember if I’ve read it before, but I do remember seeing the movie. If I’ve read it it was before seeing the movie. Anyway. All I could remember from the movie was the Rats, Big Brother and the prisoner who crosses his arms.
My first thought about this book, is that it’s as scary as it’s relevant. Which is very scary and very relevant, if you should be in doubt. Now, books has a tendency to get a life of their own in other books and other media. 1984 is one of these books – in most cases it just boiled down to a mention of Big Brother, probably in connection to something about privacy and surveillance. You’ll hear people say things like “we are living in a Big Brother society” when the talk comes around the the ever present video camera. But, what strikes me the most about this is that the surveillance part of 1984 is the least of it. The least scary part.
The really scary part about 1984 is the alignment of thoughts and NewSpeak. Video camera’s can be avoided and they are. All the time. And not only that, but we (the people) get better and better tools for keeping our conversations and thoughts secret all the time (think encryption – why do you think they tried to control it and something still try?). But are we any close to NewSpeak today when we where in the good old days of yesterday? Do we have more alignment of thought? I’ll treat these two issues as two sides of the same coin, as they are connected.
Yes and no. The languages of the people are rich and still have their own life. Music, books, theater. I see lots of life here and the arts are just a mirror, an enhancement of the life of the people. I see a bigger problem with the politicians and the news. Now I don’t watch much international news. I mainly watch the local Danish news programs, but I’m guessing that politicians are politicians from Brazil to The States to Denmark.
And here an alignment is evident. Parties are keeping a stronger and stronger leach on party members. Think like the program! When confronted by the media, answer with the party line. Make the party seem united. If you have any strive or disagreement with the party line, do not go to the media. Keep it behind closed doors. That may seem like the sensible thing to do, in an election. But when it becomes permanent election time. When policy is always to make the party seem as strong and united as possible. To make the leader seem as much in control as possible, then we are loosing something important. Public debate. We become, sheep to be feed the latest slogan. “War is peace!”, “Slavery is Freedom”, “We are good – they are bad”, “We are good – they are Evil”, “God loves us, God hates them” – “Love the party”. Within the political parties 1984 may be even close today, than anywhere else.
Now that doesn’t mean that we are getting any were close to a society like 1984. Not at all. There a some scary similarities, like the constant need for an external enemy. The way the War against Drugs (which is really a war against everybody that dare to not follow the law of the most ) and the War against Terror (with it’s fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan) just keeps going with no end in sights, seems eerily familiar to that wars in 1984. There’s no really progress and they are just a constant blanket of fear and pain that everything real gets hidden behind.
I will, for now, leave it as an exercise for the reader why we are not living in a world like 1984, but I’ll give you a hint: The kind of control needed and exercised for a world like 1984, a lot of long term planning and for-though is needed…