Little Big Brother (or Is Orwell`s 1984 Today?)

                  Photo: Brent Evans

We are the dead. When George Orwell wrote this sentence in his book 1984 over 60 years ago, it was a premonition of fascism and wrongly interpreted communism. But who would have guessed that our own ‘liberal’ twenty-first century would be approaching his saturnine novel with every day.  No wonder that a ‘reality-show’ called “Big Brother (is watching you)” is the admired symbolic headline of our time.

Ignorance is Strength

We live in a world where ignorance of the individual becomes the strength of the masses. The journalist Jean Seaton wrote: “Bankers, journalists and governments had succumbed from a contagious, and near lethal case of ‘group think’.” And this ‘group think’ is not merely restricted to the boards of big companies, but a ‘collective solipsism’ that infested brain cells in every stratum of society.

In the book the ‘fiction department’ distributes free pornography to the prols. The same takes place in our world, solely that the fiction of cheap and ephemeral sensual happiness is being distributed to all of us. It stares at us from titillating magazines, billboards, TVs and every other medium that understood to manipulate humankind by its animal instincts. Today, like in 1984, every real exchange of love and affection becomes “a political act”, as it already once did in a remote place called Woodstock.

Orwell observed correctly that the print (and broadcast) media made it easier to manipulate people. Edward L. Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, put it in these words: “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.”

Even if history is not altered in the West to the extent it is in the book, there are other ways the past as well as the future are changed to the convenience of a few. Nick Davies gives in his book Flat Earth News an insightful account of how many research groups are founded and funded by companies in order to serve their interest.

Not to mention the PR news which contribute about 54% of UK’s news. Other information is left out completely, while certain things are over emphasized in order to create a small but convenient picture of the world.

Freedom is Slavery

Franz Kafka once wrote that all freedom is useless, if one cannot do anything with it. It is the same case with our alleged growing freedom here and now. They claim that due to advanced technology we are free to do everything and go everywhere, but they forget to tell us that the most important journey is the one inwards. They tell us that the plethora of commodities gives us freedom of choice, but they ignore that too many choices will make you not choose at all.

The religious god and any form of spiritualism is substituted by a novel god, who pretends to be the reflection of ourself, but is indeed solely a dominating ideology masked with our primordial needs.

In times where individuality becomes a religion, they preach that we are free to be who we want to be, and they know that this provokes the opposite: a collective – from the true self alienated – agglomeration of lost souls seeking for something which is actually so close. A blind Leviathan eating its own tail. Consume-monades devouring their stories until the unctuous salvia of lies drips out of the mouth.

And it is this “collective solipsism”, as Orwell calls it in his book, that blinds out the real world and the candid humane. How symptomatic that the speaking tube of our time, the TV, our window to this world, shows us constantly so called “reality shows”. They symbolise our world profoundly: they pretend to be reality, but are the opposite.

They know that reality is being created in the mind and that is where they work. Like Brentano said: “Truth is not to be searched, but to be owned.“ They try to tell us that “four plus four is five“, that more material makes you happier, that more cameras and surveillance make you saver, that this way of capitalism benefits all equally, that there is a perilous enemy out there, whom we have to destroy.

Winston, Orwell’s protagonist, is truly British in his philosophical idea of reality.  He opines that reality is something objective and empirically provable to everyone. Initially, he argues that common sense cannot be defeated all together. He says: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

Like Winston, you might think the ‘Thought Police’ can solely get you physically and not mentally, but they can, they do it every day. It is the ‘Ministry of Truth’ that scans our souls with google, watches us with over four million CCTVs in the UK alone (or ‘Telescreens’ as Orwell might have called it) and takes our biometric data until we are reduced to mere numbers – soulless bar-codes.

They praise their ‘new’ freedom and tell us to move to the Mecca of liberation: the metropolises. But they do not tell us that this superfluous ocean of ‘individuality’ is in truth the drift sand of the anonymity of mass society where you will drown slowly but certainly. The metropolis becomes a necropolis.

The same estrangement from human nature, whether it is the interaction with other people or the detachment from real nature, takes also place when it comes to language. In 1984 Orwell christens the new prosaic as well as expressionless  language ‘Newspeak’. It is a thought-dead language, which “had been devised to meet the ideological needs” and to avoid “thought crimes” against the state.

The same occurs in our world where the language of sms and e-mails serves the demand of modern velocity but forgets thereby altogether the need of human expression. In other cases language itself is “under arrest”, as the Maldivian president and former journalist Mohamed Nasheed writes. Under the rule of the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who distributed a “dictatorial narrative” that assured the “stability” of the nation and annihilated words like “peaceful protest”, language became a political weapon. Indeed language is always political, whether in the media or in society itself, where language is a label of the stratum you belong to.

War is Peace

You have to fight for your peace. Really? Like in 1984 they indoctrinate us that we are under constant threat of attacks and in a war for our believes (or their believes?). They tell us that there are terrorist among us, so that they have the right to discriminate and humiliate us publicly on a daily bases. They tell us that we have to kill people in other countries in order to give them our  ‘new’ freedom with all its precious values.

Not only the securing of resources are responsible for these inoculation of fear, but their knowledge that fear controls people. First and foremost, a shared concept of the enemy always creates ‘stability’ and unity among the group. Next, the constant fear makes it easier for the suppressed people to hand over their right and power to the leading people, since they are ostensibly able to protect us.

In 1984 the fear and its little big brother hate are ensured by a daily doses of  “two minutes hate.” We can see the same hate, in a more subtle form, every day in most mediums we encounter.

The journalist Naomi Klein describes in her book The Chock Doctrine, how war is also implemented to distract the population from the real problems in their own society. For example Magaret Tatcher, who went to an unnecessary war at the Falkland Islands to distract from mass protests and disputed privatisation policies at home.

Finally, Orwell writes that war is needed to destroy surplus, which is created by the labour power. This is simply done in order to keep the structure of society in place. Today, a more important reason for war is the flux of money and power that is redistributed to the stratum of the already powerful. (See: Bush and his relation to the arms industry) Orwell writes that if all ‘machines’ were used for productive things no one in this world would have to starve. The same applies to the money spent for wars.

I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY

The philosopher Bertrannd Russell  wrote in his book Power that the pursuit of power is ingrained into the human being. He understands power as being in control over our own wishes. In 1984 Orwell writes “power is an end.” And this end is what it is all about. It is about keeping the structure of society in such a way that those in power will remain in power or even gain more power. (See: gap between rich and poor)

Orwell summarizes the somewhat extreme version of the Platonic tripartite class structure like this: The upper class want stay where they are, the middle class wants to become the upper class and if the lower class wants anything than to abolish these structures. Since the middle class cannot overthrow the upper class alone, they promise the lower class to improve  their conditions and eventually do nothing for them at all.

That is what happened when the archaic feudalistic system was abolished or when one tried to abrogate these structures altogether in the name of Marxism.  Today these places (e.g former soviet union) are the unhappiest places to live in, according to statistics. The UK might be better, but still not comparable to Scandinavia. Why? Because, as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue in their book The Spirit Level, equality and therefore the deconstruction of the class society is beneficial for every one in every way.

Winston thinks: “If there is hope it lies in the prols.” Here and now the so called prol is not existing in that way any longer. We have a lower class that has to compare itself with the other classes (not like in 1984) and which is thus more and more anxious about the conditions they live in. Consequently, they burn police cars and loot shops. Then we have a middle class that largely replaced the lower class and which is either preoccupied with masturbation in front of their own mirror image or numbed by antidepressants.

There a solely a few, but increasingly more, who know that something is not right. And it is for these people to show the others the direction of a better society. The most important point is, however, to alter the value system before taking any further steps. Otherwise history will be repeating itself. On the day, when rioters protest not in order to steel the newest sneakers, but burn Nike shoes (these symbols of consumerism) instead of shops and homes of honestly and hard working people, then we are ready.

We will never have anything to sustain us, except the idea, the idea of a better tomorrow. We have to overcome or defeatism and become idealist again. I do not agree with what Winston believes in the end: To die hating them is our their freedom – because that is what terrorist do every day.

But Winston was right that a society build on fear an hatred will not endure, because something must stop ‘them’. And that something is humanness,  which will – at least I believe so – always be existing, even if it seems almost invisible at times. In 1984 the big brother says that society had to choose between freedom and happiness. That is a lie: freedom is happiness and happiness is freedom. We are not dead as long as we have a remainder of humaneness and ideals in us.

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5 thoughts on “Little Big Brother (or Is Orwell`s 1984 Today?)

  1. Hey Krisha, thanks for sharing. I am in the library now and took a break from my own reading to see your blog. I absolutely love the socio-philosophical approach you undertake to categorize your writing. I took also read “Little Big Brother (Or is Orwell’s 1984 Today?). The piece is innovative and reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s critical perspective. Both Orwell and Huxley are right in their futuristic portrayal of the world. I do question, although, whether these things haven’t always already been in existence and that advancement in modern technology is what makes the wider difference. Similar concepts with the buss word “Globalization” and “Transnationalism.”
    In any case, one thing I find interesting also is to look at the person (Oneself). Orwell predicted that we will be controlled by cameras and televisions watching our every move. This is true in so many ways. But the opposite, which he so left out is equally true. But I think you alluded to this in your article because by (the self) watching T.V we also allowed ourselves to be controlled, stricken, and manipulated. So in a sense, we are not victims alone without choice. We express our human agency be allowing ourselves to sit through hours of t.v shows and what have you.

    • Hi, yes I agree with you. I know the article does not even touch the surface. The topic is very exhaustive and I did not go into depths. By the way, I wrote an article on the freedom of choice issue. Have a look.
      All the best

  2. Pingback: Creation, destruction, and maintenance « Triptychon

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  4. Pingback: Happiness as the sense of life « Indo-German Philosophy by Krisha Kops

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