Monday, 15 September 2008

1984 in 2008




Let me start off by saying that my love of literature is only a recent phenomenon. I was never an avid reader in school and generally I am more likely to feign intelligence by paraphrasing information gleaned from eavesdropping on smarter my friends (Thank you Sam & Ian) than actually having any first hand knowledge myself. The following feels like an original thought but I am quite certain that is an unconscious regurgitation of something I read elsewhere and if this does prove to be the case, then I would like to thank the anonymous thinker who did so well to raise my consciousness.

So.... I recently got my hands on the audio book of George Orwell's classic 1984 and soon realised that terms that I had already been using to describe the GFW such as “Thought Police” and “Big Brother” were attributed to this marvelous work of not-so-fictitious fiction. I was aware of the cultural and political climate in which this book was written but not being a history boffin either, I really did not know a great deal about the World War, the Russian revolution or the rise of Stalinism to really appreciated all of Orwell's social commentary.

A quick peek at Google informed me that much had been written about the similarity between Ensoc and the Nazi Germany as well as the rise of Communist Russia but what my mind kept thinking about was not just the Nazi Youth or even (given that I live in China) the similarity between the image of Big Brother and Chairman Mao. My mind kept thinking about the correlation between the war on Eastasia and the Bushian War on Terror.

Perhaps it is because the passing anniversary of the 9/11 but I could not help but think that the second act of the War on Terror that was staged in Iraq was a tool to control hearts and minds, a strategy that bears uncanny resemblance to the War on Eastasia. The underlying platform for Ensoc's power in Orwell's Oceania, was a post war government that used the fiction of an perpetual war to maintain control over it's citizens. 

Another frightening similarity is the language that both Bush and Orwell use to describe Emmanuel Goldstein and Eastasia in the book, and Bush's choice of language when he referred to Saddam and the North Korean government. Perhaps a term that Orwell could have employed in his book is Axis of Evil since both Bush and Orwell portrayed the enemy as doers of absolute, unwavering and perpetual evil. If not for Winston Smith and his contraband hand written diary, it is possible that none of these doubts would never see the light of day and sadly in both 1984 and in real life it is often those who represent the voice of reason that are silenced.

My mind is not unlike Smiths in that it is a jumble of information snippets and half truths, but if I think deep enough in the the recesses of my childhood memory, I seem to recall that once upon a time, Iraq was not only an ally to the US but was a buyer of US made biological agents such as antrax and bubonic plague. Iraq once acted in the best interest of the US to hold down the evil on their Eastern border. I feel that it is probably worthy of mention that somewhere in these recesses of my completely unreliable memory I have the strange memory of reading that OBL was first trained by the CIA.

Citizens of Oceania lived in obedience because of the underlying threat of the evil that lay both within and beyond it's borders and therefore falsely necessitated the existence of the totalitarian regime. With that I leave you with the age old question with a slightly new slant. Is 1984, which was written in 1948, an example of art imitating life or life imitating art?

1 comment:

Alex said...

Great blog... Orwells 1984 is a great example of how literature increases our ability to think. I recommend Orwells 'Animal Farm' too.