Today is the 71st anniversary of George Orwell’s 1984, and every year, scholars and essayists wonder if society is to become like Oceania, or if it already has.
It would be an understatement to say that 1984 hasn’t significantly affected our way of thinking. We’ve been introduced to the concepts of Big Brother, Newspeak, doublethink, and 2+2=5. Even the author’s last name now has connotations of secret surveillance, and deception coming from the top.
Our political and social climate has become increasingly belligerent and uncivil, with many thinking that the current resident in the White House is a one way ticket to totalitarianism, if we aren’t there already. Fears about this were not put to rest, when ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ became political and social vocabulary. Sales of ‘1984’ skyrocketed soon after.
Was 1984 a prediction or a warning? Surely, if we were living in a totalitarian society, we wouldn’t be allowed to read it at all. Not that it hasn’t stopped schools from trying to ban it. Make no mistake, there are some eerie similarities, but with Orwell’s dystopia, the problem was excessive authority controlling the only source of information.
Today, with social media and information (true or not) at the push of a button, a precedent has been set where there are too many sources with too much information. From that, there is division on almost every level, with everyone having their own thoughts and prejudices sway what the facts are.
That being said, 1984 is an essential read for a reason. I know everything looks like it’s gone to the dogs, and we seriously need a reboot of 2020, but if we stay true to what is right and work together despite our differences, then hopefully we won’t ever again have to ask the question: Are we living in 1984?