Are we living in Orwell’s 1984?

Are we living in 1984?

I mean the novel by George Orwell, not the historical year. If we were in the year, I would go buy a bunch of stock in Microsoft and then pick up all the G1 transformers, mint in box. That would be totally tubular.

But I’m talking about the 500lb gorilla of dystopian visions, the thrill-ia from Oceania, the novel that made “Orwellian” a word, the Big Brother Book with the little name: 1984.

I keep hearing that someone’s turning this book into a movie, but I’m doubtful that it will translate well to screen because there’s so much that goes on underneath the surface. It gives us a future in which advanced technology isn’t used to share information, but to control it, and in so doing controls even the thoughts of its citizens.

Big Brother packs a one-two punch of paranoia and propaganda, which makes this novel a warning that has come perilously close to being true numerous times since it was written.

East Germany was most notably Big Brother-esque during the cold war, when just about every citizen was given the part-time job of spying on every other citizen… and they were reported on if they didn’t report. The government even kept secret libraries of bottles containing stolen scent samples (old socks, for example) so that if you made a break for West Germany they could put the dogs onto your trail right away.

That’s freaky. Just plain freaky.

That level of crazy-pants propaganda has also cropped up over the years, most notably in North Korea, where the citizens are taught in school that their leader does not excrete urine or feces.

Seriously. I wish I were making that up.

 

Could it happen here?

Before you get all “home of the free” on me, consider what government video tapes it’s people most frequently. It isn’t China. No, it isn’t a warlord state in the Middle East or Africa, either.

It’s England. Yeah, that’s right, the British government has more security cameras on the streets of London per capita than any government in the world. These are our English-speaking allies, the country probably most similar to us in taste and language, and most closely allied to us since WWII. And New York citizens aren’t so far behind Londoners.

Maybe it isn’t a matter of national ideology about Freedom, maybe it’s simply a matter of technology and opportunity.

The Patriot Act is the Big Brother Bugbear for privacy advocates in the United States. It even has provisions that grant investigators the right to inspect your library records without you knowing about it—and if that doesn’t sound like Fahreinheit 451, then I quit.

The technology to create Big Brother has certainly now advanced to an undreamed-of level. If Google knows what your backyard looks like and Facebook knows your favorite restaurants, what might the government know?

Conspiracy theories abound about the CIA’s “Carnivore” computer that reads every single email sent in the world. Wilder theories also exist that they can spy on you through your webcams and eavesdrop on you through your phone—even if it isn’t on.

And in the cyber-warfare effort that produced viruses like Olympic Games, what’s lurking on our hard-drives that we DON’T know about?

 

Your conversation is being monitored by the U.S. Government courtesy of the US Patriot Act of 2001, Sec. 216 of which permits all phone calls to be recorded without a warrant or notification. For more information, visit www.crimethinc.com
By david drexler (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For realsies?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone is spying on us, but it isn’t for a lack of desire. It’s because of the strenuous efforts of watchdog groups such as the ACLU, who help society find the right balance point between “catching the bad-guys” and “Big Brother.”

Right now, we seem to be doing all right at avoiding a 1984-style dystopia, although we might be at a point where certain corporations are better able to spy on us than our government.

But this doesn’t mean that we can just relax. We need to remember that it CAN happen here. Just because it hasn’t happened yet (maybe) doesn’t mean that we can become complacent. Orwell wrote that novel because that’s the future he didn’t want to happen. It isn’t a thing of the past, but it isn’t inevitable, either.

No matter what we’re told, slavery ISN’T freedom, war ISN’T peace, and most importantly, ignorance ISN’T strength.

 

Thank you to @ceebeemc for inspiring this conspiracy lit kick I’ve been on for the past month!

Next time I’ll look at something lighter.

About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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