Some wouldn’t consider 1984 to be a science fiction novel. After all, there aren’t any rockets or ray guns here. Still, no 20th century novel has had more of a far reaching impact on modern culture. The book should be compulsory reading in public school. It still scares me when I realize just how many people have never read or even heard of this work, or think that “Big Brother” is just a television show. It makes me wonder if the horrors of Orwell’s dictatorial utopia are nearly upon us, or have already come to pass. Many people I’ve talked to believe that since the year 1984 has passed successfully, we are free and clear. Not so… Orwell may have aimed his dark satire along with the parable Animal Farm, at Stalinist Russia, but concepts like “double think” and “thought crime” still ring true in today’s modern politically correct era. For example, when politicians talk of “the free world”, it refers to countries aligned with us, not necessary those that are democratic. Prime double think! I hear the voice of Orwell when I hear such statements as “the War on Terror may go on for another 50 years.” One could argue that it has in fact been going on for the past 50 as well. I remember such passages from the book as “Eastasia is our enemy; eastasia has always been our enemy…” When I see the news sound bite being replaced with the virtual sound bark, I think of the “three minutes hate” where our emotions are properly manipulated to suit the state.
This book was also made into a very excellent, if hard to find, movie in the early 80′s. What was brilliant with the movie is that the author’s vision was nearly left intact; I’m sure there was a strong urge to “modernize” the tale. Doubtless, it was an independent production and not a Hollywood blockbuster. Its definitely worth digging up!
Opening Scene from the movie…(Credit: 20th Century Fox/Virgin).
Orwell also anticipated what technology unrestrained would do to personal freedom and privacy. It wasn’t a coincidence that the book was written directly after World War II; at the time, the use of propaganda in media was just in its infancy. At the time, there was no model for what the intertwining of information and humanity might produce. Orwell gave us a grim, cautionary tale, a warning to heed. But its dead line wasn’t 1984; if we forget the tale, 2024 might do just fine!