It is 2017 or 1984

1984 is flying off of shelves as of late, which is to be expected considering the time period we are living in. To say that we are living in the world of Oceania, though a stretch, may not be completely wrong. In order to best understand why it is climbing its way back to being a bestseller, we should first look at the reason as to why George Orwell had even written such a book to begin with.

Eric Arthur Blair, or as we know him, George Orwell, is known as the conscience of his war-torn generation. Unlike most scholars who had written from a place of lush living, he had faced his fair share of struggles, whether it be as a policeman for the Indian Imperial force or as a soldier during the Spanish Civil War. It was through these struggles that he had found the very ideologies he would come to both embrace and question because if you should know anything about Orwell, it is that he is not afraid to criticize.This curiosity and tendency to question authority arose when he was still a student. As an intellectual from a middle-class family, he was pushed harder than most students in the English prep school system, but for all the wrong reasons. Beat, humiliated, and brainwashed, little Eric found himself constantly mistreated by both the prefects and the schoolmasters; convinced that he was doomed to live a life of barely scraping by unless he followed their stringent rules. He “had a profound conviction that he was no good, that he was wasting his time behaving with wickedness and ingratitude” (Orwell 22).

That idea of blind acceptance of authority is not one that is unfamiliar for both Winston Smith and us as civilians. How often do we accept the stripping away of our rights, the constant surveillance of our actions, and the punishment- without question? The original title of 1984 had been The Last Man in Europe and for a very good reason. He, as the last man to be able to think for himself, despite fighting with his rebellious thoughts surrendered without an uttered word. And while we may complain all we want today over social media when it comes down to action few of us actually take it.  Unfortunately, his experience with corruption and prejudice did not stop at his childhood, for even after his days working under the Imperial Police, he continued to witness the frightening conditions of the struggling working class of miners that would eventually motivate Orwell to join the left-wing government during the Spanish Civil War. His hope for socialism was severely tested once the government turned its back on the party, outing them as the scapegoat when the Communist Party came to victory. The betrayal he felt can be echoed by the secret Brotherhood organization founded in 1984. It was during this time that Orwell developed his hatred for both communism and totalitarianism (of the government); inspiring what would later become Animal Farm.

The inspiration of 1984, in turn, can be traced back to not only his previous life experiences, but also by dictators like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin who fueled his hatred for political authority. He denounced the iron curtains they put into place, suppressing freedoms and controlling actions; rending the masses unable to unify and rebel. Technology only further expanded the breadth of said iron curtain, helping tyrants monitor every individual. The act of turning against their own citizens and instilling fear through mass torture and imprisonment were hidden behind the media; which based off his time as a BBC correspondent proved to serve purely as propaganda. Purges and eliminations of so-called political dissidents and outcasted minorities in both the Soviet Union and Germany served as cover-ups for their governments’ failures. These sacrifices were deemed as necessary and acceptable to the public because of their ignorance and desire for a false sense of security, thus making it easier to manipulate the masses. In writing 1984, Orwell had hoped not to prophesize some sort of dim future that awaited us, rather he hoped that it would serve as a warning to mankind that there is an imminent threat in taking away an individual’s right to reason and think.

One must always be able to question their own teachings else they fall prey to a system that clearly favors one over another based solely on what the authority determines as correct. Take for example the structure of the society of the dystopian that Orwell has created. The only one allowed to reason and decide on anything is their omnipotent leader, Big Brother. Everyone else has traded their right to think freely for a sense of security in a world where they believe they are in a constant state of war. The common enemy that has been singled out by those in authority are people founded within their very own country -which sounds familiar.Through this manipulation of the news and the past, there becomes a distinction between the fact and the truth. “Some Fascist German leaders… boasted that if you tell a lie loud enough and often enough, people will accept it as truth” (Virador 9). The manipulation of information goes far beyond just the media. It originates within the language of Oceania itself. Known as Newspeak (as opposed to Oldspeak), the goal of the language is to control thought and through extension, control action. Does this not remind you of a certain threat made recently by a newly instilled world leader who threatens those who are meant to tell us, the people, the truth? That some things we know to be true are simply alternative facts? Who is to say two plus two must equal four when our leader tells us it is equal to five?