light yourself on fire – liamm

1984 / Modern Day Surveillance

Posted in University by lightyourselfonfire on December 29, 2008

For my essay proposal I plan on discussing the relationships between 1984 and modern day surveillance.

George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 was written in 1948 and was fantasized as a conceivable future. The story follows the downfall of individuality through the constant surveillance by “Big Brother”. Winston Smith is the main character of the story and resides in London (or known in the book as airstrip 1) which is part of the super state Oceania. In 1984 the world consists of 3 countries that make up the entire planet: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. All 3 of the super states are totalitarian societies led by Big Brother, which observes and amends its citizens behavior, even distorting their thoughts. Smith has hatred for his tyrannized life and furtively wishes to join the mythical Brotherhood, a suppositional gang of citizens bound on overthrowing big brother and the government. In the story Smith meets Julia who is at first thought a proletariat to which he falls in love with and they have an affair, which under Big Brothers eye is considered a crime. In the book, Smith engages with the character O’Brian, an inner party member who gives Smith his address. Smith had eye contact with O’Brian earlier int he book and had dreamt about receiving the impression that O’Brian was a member of the Brotherhood. As Julia hated the Big Brother as much as Smith did, they ventured to O’Brian’s house togethor where they were introduced to the fabled Brotherhood. O’Brian however is actually a loyal comrade of the inner party and sets a trap for Smith, a trap that he had been putting in place for several years. Smith and Julia are condemned to MINILOVE (the Ministry of Love) which is a rehabilitation center for criminals accused of thoughtcrime. It is there, Smith was separated from Julia, and tortured until his beliefs coincided with those of the Party. Winston disregards everything he had previously believed in, even his love for Julia. After his rehabilitation he is released back into the public where he wastes his days at the local public house drinking victory gin until his punishment of death.

There are many points to take away and discuss from 1984 which are ever apparent in todays modern society. Its possible to see the usage of “doublethink and the constant shift in war (reasons?)” used today in each party’s talking points. A key example of this in modern society is the invasion of Iraq, firstly it was made apparent we needed war to disarm Iraq from weapons of mass destruction (Which we then found they had none); the party, in this case labour then stated we needed to “Plant Democracy” before bringing our troops home and then finally we were led to believe Saddam was a man of evil and needed to be rid off. All of these issues are apparent in 1984; Saddam represents Emanual Goldstein too which all of our hate is directed, the reasoning and ever shifting idealogies behind the war in Iraq are those similiar to that of the shift between allies and enemies in Eastasia and Eurasia and the fact the vast majority of the general public put their beliefs into the party to sort out the situation in the middle east.

Despite the disregard of individual freedom and lackluster quality of life, a key point noted from the book was how the party/government succeeded in staying head of state. The party managed to do this using total control. If for example a party enforced complete power over its citizens similiar to that of the party in Oceania did, its not possible to see the party collapsing on its own. North Korea is a prime example in which we can liken this situation too. A piece in which I came accross online is that of Nicolas Kristof’s article which commentates about the propaganda radio broadcasts which start early in the morning, he also talks about images of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Song which occupy a wall in every house.

Another relevant point taken from 1984 is how the children are brought up as civil spies for the party, “it was my little daughter, she listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next dat. Pretty smart for a nipper of Seven, eh? I dont bear her any grudge for it” quotes Parsons in regards to being questioned why he had been captured by the Thought Police, the reason being his daughter heard him quoting “down with big brother” in his sleep (pg 245). This relates to the advertisement campaigns which are being implemented at this very moment by the Labour Party in which they ask any persons too report suspicious behavior which may denounce somebody as a terrorist, this situation may have played a role in the killing of innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes. Example

Another startling oxymoron which we can relate 1984 to modern day society is the fact government legislation tell us that we must give up some of our own individual freedom and earnings to the state. The point up for discussion is we must enhance our authoritarian state, raise taxes, raise oil prices, and the most relevant of all, keep the Eurasians and Eastasian refugees out; in our case illegal immigrants, Freedom is Slavery.

In 1984, MINILUV (The Ministry of Love) enforces the citizens of Oceania to show loyalty and love towards Big Brother, they enforce this upon its citizens through fear, torture, and rehabilitation or brainwashing. The MINILUV has no windows and is protected by barbed wire entwinings and guards of the party armed with “jointed truncheons“. Internally, the bright lights are never turned off. In 1984 its significance is played down by the Party, but its function , unbeknown to the citizens of Oceania, make it the main ministry in the superstate, by controlling the will of the population.

“There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometre of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.”.

This characterization of MINILUV is equal in many ways to the security measures that have been implemented to the Houses of Parliament, that being concrete defence blocks have been placed all around the buildings, x – ray and metal detecting devices are inside, plenty of armed police within the buildings perimeters including sniper like hideouts and a mythical wonder as to what goes on within its doors.

Its also apparent here the fact that, the United Kingdoms “Ministry of Defence” is engaged in a foreign invasion upon the middle east which is a complete and total opposite of the meaning behind defence, this then gives the phrase “Doublethink” a more true to life meaning rather than assosciating it with fiction.