Thursday, September 15, 2005

George Orwell, Big Brother and 1984


There are probably few people in the western world who have never heard of Big Brother. Television seems to packed with references to this term; starting with the reality show with the same name to the Simpson’s episode where Flanders spies in people’s homes with mega screens and brainwashes rebellious citizens.
On the other hand if you were to mention 1984 you would probably be met by blank faces or references about the swinging eighties. The link between George Orwell’s novel and the term “Big Brother” seems to be lost on the majority of television viewers.
One would think that at least the participants of the famous reality show would have asked themselves at least once where the term came from but, somehow, I doubt the vast majority would be able to answer.
This complete lack of culture is typical of our superficial and mostly ignorant society. I have noticed that always fewer people have even the most basic knowledge about literature, history and even science.
The fact that 1984 is so generally ignored seems even graver considering the world we live in. In the last fifty years or so we have seen society, especially in the US, move towards an Orwellian super state which tries to controls us, spy us and indoctrinate us with its propaganda.
It might seem that I am being a bit too vehement, that my description of society is somehow exaggerated. I do not mean to portray an Orwellian society scheming to imprison the will of the people. One cannot compare our modern lives to the horror of “Big Brother” and the thought police. After all, society is formed by its members, all of us. It would be somewhat ludicrous to believe that there are evil men somewhere at the top which deliberately spurn the people’s will for their own amusement.
However, I am remarking on the similarity between the novel and the our current strafe against a homogenized societal identity. We are not subject to torture and fear, but to a more subtle “high-jacking” of one’s identity
It seems to me that the aim of the media is not really to “brainwash” us in to having identical opinions, but to coerce us into excluding various choices. We are not taught what we must think but, instead, are told what we must never think. We are free to believe what we want as long as it respects the current moral and psychological limitations.
We are constantly told we are free, that we have, for the first time in history, absolute liberty in deciding how to lead our lives. We hear our political leaders endlessly reminding us about how it is essential for our current society to thrive in order to provide us with this freedom. Yet, they fails to note one important point. We are everything but free. If we do not conform, if we choose not to take part in this economic rat race, we are alienated from society, we are quietly pushed aside. There is a phrase, which I no longer remember where I came upon, which touched me profoundly:

“The 21st century pharaohs have the slaves begging for work.”

There is in each and every one of us the beauty of individuality, the potential for uniqueness, and yet we are asked to sacrifice this. We are expected to betray the only thing that really sets us apart from everyone else in order to benefit society. We are pushed into becoming sheep, clogs in society’s machinery
Very probably it is true that fundamentally this society we live in is one of the most tolerant in the history of mankind. It is quite plausible that we enjoy more freedom than any other humans in time. Yet, what our society lacks most, I find, is individuality. We are given absolute choice in life but we are robbed of it’s significance. We are given freedom but at the expense of identity.

“The absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar in to the heights, take leave of earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.”

7 Comments:

Blogger Sheila said...

Well said.

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very touching.

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Blogger xiphoid said...

very well written.

2:08 am  
Blogger Mike said...

I love this post. I linked to your blog from the comment you left on mine (thanks, by the way) and am very impressed.

I love the ambiguous tongue-and-cheek sarcasm of the firt half. Of course we have leaders in place who are participating in precicely the activities thar Owells leaders were participatin in! Our current fear-based society was predicted in about half of all the science-fiction books published over the last 100 years. Just look at the more famous works of Huxley, Heinlein, and Bradbury. You are absolutley correct about the blinders we wear, and the freedom we lack. In addition to everything you have said here, I also wish that more people could see the propaganda for what it really is.

Well that is my $0.02. I like what you have here. I will visit often. Peace.

2:58 pm  
Blogger Wonko the Sad Clown said...

Thankyou for all the nice comments!

Mike: I agree and think that in many ways our leaders remind me more of those in Brave New World (Huxley) then those in 1984. Our society has that edge of enforced hedonism that was also present in Huxley´s work.

6:32 pm  
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more coming soon

11:33 am  

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