Friday, 7 November 2014

1984: A Comparison between the Book and Now


By Patricia Garcia-Marquez (undergraduate FIGRI student)

Recently there’s been a new trend that has gone viral worldwide: the Ice Bucket Challenge. That’s why, for many days you saw many football players, actors and actresses take the challenge for a good cause. Like this trend, there have been many others during the last couple of years all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; in fact even the Arab spring originated through these channels. Therefore it is impossible to deny the influence that social media, and of course the Internet, have in our common life: as a way of interaction, to check the news and even as a work tool.

However, do we really know who’s watching or monitoring everything we write on Facebook? How many likes have we given to this site? How many times have we googled this word? Who do I follow on Twitter? It is undeniable that we are constantly observed by our governments. In fact, when Edward Snowden, a former system administrator for the CIA, leaked the documents that proved the existence of numerous global surveillance programs with the cooperation of telecommunication companies everyone freaked out. Then, following this, a common question pops up in my mind: Are we living in George Orwell’s 1984?

For those who haven’t read the book or watched the movie, 1984 is a political satire of a totalitarian state “tightly controlled by the ubiquitous Big Brother”[1].  It was written by George Orwell in 1949 and tells the story of Winston Smith, a low ranking member of the ruling party in London, who feels frustrated by the domination the party has over people.

For starters, one of the main topics of the novel is the endless war on a global state.  “In Orwell's book, there's a global war that has been going on seemingly forever, and as the book's hero Winston Smith realizes, the enemy keeps changing. One week we're at war with Eastasia and buddies with Eurasia. The next week, it's just the opposite.”[2]. Currently there are numerous little wars happening all around the world: Ukraine vs. Russia, Israel Vs. Palestine, the bombings in Iraq, etc. It seems, as the book says in one part, that the world powers want to keep the masses in perpetual fear and anger. 

Another thing in common are the telescreens. “In the novel, nearly all public and private places have large TV screens that broadcast government propaganda, news and approved entertainment. But they are also two-way monitors that spy on citizens' private lives.”[3] As I said before, we are constantly observed through our Facebook and Twitter pages, and it is easy to know where we are through our mobile phones’ GPS. Right now, in the UK, there’s one surveillance camera for each eleven people.

Finally, “the fictional, stripped down English language, used to limit free thought. OMG, RU serious? That's so FUBAR. LMAO.”[4] We are destroying language little by little.  Conclusively, it is undeniable that what Orwell wrote 60 years ago is a reality right now. We are being watched and that makes us all suspects, and even if theoretically that should make us more secure, as we can see, we are ever more insecure.

[1] We’re living in”1984” today. August 3, 2013. CNN [Online]. Took from the 13 of August 2014.
[2] . Ibid.
[3] Ibíd.
[4] Ibíd. 

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