Excepting that the meme says instructions not instruction, the point is still well made. My first thought was that this was meant for those who still support Donald Trump, despite the fact that the guy is mentally unsound. Now, though, I can see it in a much more all encompassing light. Having read Jeremy Scahill’s brilliant and completely disturbing book Dirty Wars, a society like Oceania doesn’t seem that remote. Already in this day and age we let so many different companies into our business voluntarily. And we definitely have a Big Brother component to our society, when corporations and the government itself can take things said on social media as grounds for disciplinary action. Doesn’t the right of free speech count for anything these days?
1984, King of the dystopian novels, focuses around Winston Smith and his willful defiance of ‘The Party.” Published in 1949, 1984 was written during the Cold War, when the Soviets were a perceived threat, as a nation, and Communism was an idealistic threat. By the year 1984, the English Socialist party (Ingsoc) had taken over and used its power to control all aspects of government and society. They created Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace and Plenty, all of which were responsible for the opposite of what their names implied. Every party member had to be on the lookout for the thought police, coworkers, colleagues and even their own family, who might sell them out in a second so they could improve their position, or protect themselves from being taken away.
While the threat of Communism to western and westernized countries has faded to almost nothing in the twenty-first century, the fact of technology makes the threats of this novel all the more real. Sure we, normal citizens, are not at this point being taken away for mere thoughts. We are not carted off to room 101 if we decide to support the left-leaning parties versus the right-leaning ones. Not yet, but don’t think that this isn’t a possibility. Read Jeremy Scahill. How many people in the Middle East have been taken away for questioning or killed by drones without any legal ruling to do so. Sure, one can make the argument that the U.S. government’s actions are justified because they are engaged in a war, but it is a slippery slope and our footing is unsteady.
The thing about literature is that it stands the test of time, and 1984 is easily one such book. The title alone could suggest that the story is outdated, and the idea that Communism or socialism was a real threat has largely passed, but that has not made Orwell’s work suffer. In today’s age of social media and the Internet, we are not safe from predators or the government even behind our own locked doors. Walls do not keep us safe, therefore 1984 seems more relevant today than it might have been even twenty years ago. It does one well to read this book, though a work of fiction, and keep these things in mind when our governments that are supposed to represent us, start to overstep their bounds. In Canada we are even more susceptible to this because of the level of power wielded by Ottawa.
Remember the mantra: War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is strength? If we are not careful, that could be our mantra. Right-wing propaganda on television and radio has already proved the last of these statements. If we look again to the Americans as an example, they are really trending towards the first two as well with their never ending wars in the Middle East, and their moves towards restricting voting rights, and many other rights for women. If that isn’t a scary taste of life imitating art, I can’t tell you what is. Again, 1984, not an instruction manual, but a destruction manual. We must act in the defense of our society. Your homework is to read it before you throw it into a memory hole. Aaaannnnddddd go.