If these statements are reminiscent of Big Brother watching over its citizens, right out of George Orwell’s novel “1984,” you wouldn’t be mistaken. We seem to be living the prophecy in that book written all the way back in 1949, 35 years before the date on its cover. It is now 67 years later, since 1949, and the sheer foresight behind that book is remarkable. That foresight goes a long way in explaining why it has seen many reprints and is now back on the best seller list.
When the novel first came out it was deemed a kind of bizarre sci-fi narrative about a country named Oceania controlled by an overbearing paranoid government which insisted on controlling every aspect of its citizens’ lives; a sort of North Korea nowadays.
I read the novel when I was in college in the 60 and thought I’d never see its prophecy come to pass. I was wrong. It is now still on a shelf in my studio. As I peruse it I couldn’t but be surprised by the similarities between the reality of the story and our reality in 2017, the era of what I call “the Caligula Presidency.” Quite similar to the world of 1984, the one we live in now is not too far off.
One of the main features of the society described in the novel is that of a deteriorating standard of living for the vast majority of people while their government insists that it is one of the highest. In the world as set up by Big Brother, the world of double speak, truth is falsehood and falsehood, or alternative facts, is the truth. This indeed has been going on since the 80, the era of Raegan and Thatcher, when middle class wages began deteriorating and stagnating while the rich tripled and quadrupled their income.
How was this accomplished? Partly by muzzling the press, blocking information and monopolizing it as propaganda, so that the people could only rely on the information supplied by the government. This operation is now called “brainwashing,” so that a false reality is created and if the government tells you that 2+2 = 5, it is so. History is rewritten to corroborate the lies. Sex is not pleasurable and it is only for the purpose of procreation. The only thing a citizen can love and feel passionate about is Big Brother. Of course, dissent is always met with harsh punishment. You may end up being “vaporized,” which is to say, you could be taken away and nobody would ever see you again.
One may ask: and what are the parallels between “1984” and the times we live in today in 2017? There are at least four that can easily be identified:
1.The Erasure of history, accomplished by mind manipulation of the people. As Churchill aptly put it: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. Invariably this creates a gullible and dependent society wholly dependent on subjective feelings having nothing to do with the reality of the facts.
2.The regulation of every aspect of life, even the size of one’s soda drinks, the pleasures of life which are taxed, the rationing of energy and the modification of food. Especially important is the manipulation of distributive justice so that the rich keep getting richer and the poor stay where they are.
3.Savage uncaring market capitalism, subordinating personhood to impersonal market forces and the making of money followed by the brainwashing of one’s citizens into believing what Big Brother says about its version of government in order to maintain a high standard of living. But the mantra continues to be: we never had it so good.
4.Thought Police: this is very important in the novel. It is extreme censorship. Dissenters need to be infiltrated and identified so that they can be punished for thinking in a manner Big Brother doesn’t approve of. Spies abound. It becomes important to keep one’s mouth shut and allow oneself to be muzzled even in the face of scientific facts. Big Brother determines what is true and what is false. Therefore Big Brother may need to spy on billions of e-mails of ordinary citizens via the NSA and free speech needs to be sharply curtailed. Big Brother determines what is a fit argument for debate. He, and he along has all the alternative facts.
Perhaps the above survey may motivate the reader to pick up Orwell’s novel which now can be read not as science fiction but as history; for indeed, those who don’t know their history may end up repeating it, and the second time as a farce.