“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”
- George Orwell, 1984
It’s been over 5 years since I last read 1984 and I still find the storyline as horrific as ever. It's terrifying to think of a world in which your own children are spies for the government and can turn you in, where cameras are watching you 24/7, where one could be accused of committing a "facecrime" or having an "ownlife", a world in which we live nervously worrying about whether the sensitive machinery that is watching you will pick up an increase in heartbeat that may incriminate us.
When I first read this book I imagined a similar dystopic world taking place in a Communist country or perhaps in a dictatorship like the one so many of my relatives were raised in. Now I realize it could just as well take place in a so-called democracy under several guises, and that’s the scary part. My mind did wander quite a bit while I was reading this book, thinking of the eerie possibilities, trying to find parallels between what I was reading and what I was observing in society. We are witnessing so much propaganda which may not be as obvious as some of the hilarious pro-Stalin and pro-Mao posters that I’ve seen online and in history books, but it’s there in an often subtler form.
I think one of the scariest parts for me was seeing how language can be used to manipulate and control: “All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.’ Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’
Language is definitely becoming more simplified and some of the words that are making it into the dictionary are just laughable.
I kept thinking about the following Virginia Woolf quote while reading this book: “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Freedom of mind is something I take for granted. We all want to believe we’re untouched by all this propaganda but are we really? Yes, this is definitely a cautionary tale. I wonder how many are listening.