Stop comparing our time to “1984”. Every time someone says drones, Google, Facebook, NSA, Amazon, so on stop saying “Big Brother is watching us.” Every time you hear about AT&T and Verizon letting our numbers out stop claiming totalitarian state. Our world is not even a shadow of the horrors conjured from the Orwellian imagination.
Telescreen VS Television
In 1984 the telescreen is in every citizen’s room with optionless consent. It blasts only what the dictatorial government wants, typically cover-up propaganda droning on about the grace, wisdom, and victories of the party. It watches every citizen not allowing a corner to dress in private. Every morning the telescreen forces the prole out of bed to exercise. It constantly reminds people Big Brother is watching lest they even consider stepping out of line. Conversely, TV’s are in our homes by ready and eager purchase. We strive to have large sound systems and huge screens. Our smart TV’s have cameras, however we are more than welcome to permanently cover them. Even if we don’t, we have more to fear from citizen hackers and con artists than the government. We choose our variety of propaganda. MSNBC or FOX. PBS or MTV. We choose what we want to influence our world view. Personally selected propaganda is entertainment. The TV is a form of lounging and never made us exercise or get out of bed. Most of the entertainment we choose are people living extravagantly, outside the law, and utterly without limit. Not the other way around. The TV and telescreen are completely opposite in purpose and function.
In 1984 the party takes an enormous amount of interest in children restricting who can have them, when, and how many. Once of age they’re inducted into the Junior Spies. From then on parents live in fear of their spawn. Children rule the house as their parent’s kowtow to their whims and tantrums hoping not to “disappear”. More often than not the children are able to report something causing their parent’s demise. In our world we can breed totally recklessly and without means or forethought, if we so choose. Parent’s dictate the level of involvement and control they exert (as much as is possible with children) and while the government surely takes some interest in churning out functional citizens so as the GDP doesn’t sink too low, many kids are left to whims of their various cultures. The idea of parent’s living in fear of their children is frankly ridiculous.
1984, written before computers as we know them, uses inventive and complex mechanisms to watch and control its populace. Microphones and cameras hidden everywhere. Public transport is the only means of conveyance and the party’s helicopters whir through the sky keeping the proles in line. I concede drones are watching us and there are many cameras on ATM’s and buildings, but we the citizens carry cameras and own UAVs on a massive level. We speed about in our very own cars, captains of our personal routes and destinations. We are far more responsible for the watching of our fellows than the government. We buy GoPROs and IPhones rabidly. By the cart load. Upload our images with utter impatience and tweet our every thought with reckless abandon. The amount of content collected by our personally purchased devices, uploaded on billed data plans, and hosted on pages we create far outweighs what Orwell ever conceived.
Unspeak/Newspeak is one of the most brilliant and original of 1984‘s psychological controls. Orwell surmised if you controlled one’s ability to express one’s self you limit the ability of the structures and ideas that person can formulate. The party systematically did away with language forcing people to cater to the latest version of Newspeak without exception. In our world the government pays teachers to ensure we all speak and share a common language. They teach it far more fully than most of us ever use it. We are the ones who created “ain’t”, “I seen”, and “on fleek”. We take the full and rich tapestry of etymology and language structure and shorten to “BRB”, “ROFL”, and “WTF”. Not arguing the against the merits of short hand, but clearly we create and use unspeak much to the chagrin of the government paid English teacher.
One of the most glaring motifs of 1984 is sexual repression and monitoring. Winston, the main character, is almost immediately painted as sexually frustrated. The first mention of copulation between Winston and his former wife is awkward, forced, and highly unpleasant. It is portrayed as “disgusting” and “a political act”. Julia, Winston’s later love interest, is wearing an anti-sex sash when she is introduced. While this sash proves to be farce everyone is dressed in drab formless garb utterly unstimulated by each other due to self denial propagated through fear of the thought police. Conversely our culture oozes sexuality. From beer to flowers to rice, sex sells. We strive for perfect bodies in rooms full of windows or mirrors. We strut about shirtless in spandex. We design clubs around the mating rituals of grinding and twerking. Our celebrities sing about ass and abs. We have HiDef porn on our phones. The government rarely attempts to publicly meddle in our parade of curves, sweat, and gyrations. We are sexually liberated to a fever pitch every Saturday night if we so choose.
Its only fair to grant many of our freedoms are growing tenuous and under threat. We are watched, data collected, and subjugated through debt. However it is ridiculous to compare it to a totalitarian state, especially the nightmare of Orwell’s imagination. We take the pictures. We upload the video. We supply Google, Facebook, and Twitter with our families names. Our place of work. Our place of birth. Favorite movies, books, and music. Our phone numbers, addresses, hopes and dreams. We pay Verizon and AT&T to collect data on us for the use of their services. We know they are doing it. We know every picture we post and Tweet sent is in the cloud. We click “I agree to terms and conditions” without a second though. We want all our stuff out there. They are more than happy to accommodate for a fee. So the next time you think Big Brother is watching you, it’s only because you said “Look at me! Look at me!” Please stop comparing our world to Oceania. It’s foolish. Rather, remain vigilant so we never know that terrible existence.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.