George Orwell’s “1984” was so successful and so influential that he was seen as something of a prophet. This dystopian novel was considered a cautionary prophecy of what would come to pass if future generations ceased to be vigilant in the guarding of their freedom.
Someone to claim us, someone to follow
Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
Someone to fool us, someone like you
We want you Big Brother, Big Brother.
—David Bowie (“Big Brother,” from the album Diamond Dogs)
Seventy years ago, as George Orwell was in the midst of writing 1984, the real world in which he found himself must have seemed almost as dystopian as the future world he was creating. During his own forty-five years of life Orwell had witnessed new technology being unleashed in two horrific world wars, heralding the age in which weapons of mass destruction, the deranged fruits of a wicked cleverness divorced from wisdom, had caused carnage on a scale utterly unimaginable to previous generations. The twenty years of so-called peace between these two great wars was marked by the rise of secularist ideologies which unleashed political machines of mass destruction as deadly as the wars themselves. Millions were murdered by the man-mutilating machine of communism in a new secular fundamentalist empire known as the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in Germany, communism’s equally wicked alter ego, National Socialism, boasted of its Master Race and the Thousand Year Reich that it was destined to rule. Both systems believed that big problems required big governments to solve them, and both systems swallowed up small nations and peoples in the manic pursuit of transnational empires.
As if this nightmare scenario were not bad enough, the Second World War had escalated from blitzkrieg to the doomsday scenario of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—from bombs to the Bomb. Man, at last, in his progressive “enlightenment,” possessed the power to destroy himself in an instant, not in the individualistic way in which each man had always possessed the power to commit suicide, but in the technologically collectivist way in which one man, with immense power, could cause the collective annihilation of his whole species. And even in the throes of this nightmare, as world war lurched into Cold War, most men continued to believe that man was progressing from darkness to light, from an age of religion and superstition to an age of godless enlightenment.
This was the world in which George Orwell found himself as he sat down to write 1984. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he did not see a bright future in which man would be liberated by technology but a future in which he would be enslaved by it. In the nightmarish future he envisaged, individual nations would be crushed by globalist empires. And just as national sovereignty would be destroyed, so would the sovereignty of the individual. In Orwell’s vision of the future, individuals would lose their liberty and their privacy as those in power used the latest technology to monitor their every activity. Language would be dumbed down and simplified so that old concepts could not be discussed or even contemplated. History would be silenced or rewritten so that people could not learn from the past or see the present from its perspective. Eventually, so Orwell prophesied, people would be so dehumanized and demoralized, so brainwashed and psychologically reprogrammed, that they would accept and embrace the tyranny that had enslaved them. They would no longer fear Big Brother but would admire and venerate him.
Orwell’s dystopian novel was so successful and so influential that he was seen as something of a prophet. 1984 was considered a cautionary prophecy of what would come to pass if future generations ceased to be vigilant in the guarding of their freedom.
That was then but this is now.
Orwell and his prophecies have been forgotten. We are living in the future. We are seeing the destruction of national sovereignty as the world lurches towards globalist tyranny. We are living in a world in which government continues to get bigger and further away from the people. We are seeing the decay of democracy as political and economic structures become too big to control. We witness the erosion of individual liberty and privacy in an age in which even our own phones are spying on us on behalf of powerful sectional interests. We are experiencing the systematic dumbing-down of language so that we no longer possess the ability to read the works of Shakespeare, or, for that matter, to read anything written in the past. Our vocabulary is so impoverished that we do not possess the words to explain ourselves to others or to explain others to ourselves. We have been rendered wordless and are therefore speechless. We lack the tools that make articulate thought possible. We can speak only Newspeak which speaks only of what is new.
History is no longer taught and therefore no longer known. How else could huge numbers of millennials boast of their sympathy for communism? How else could they believe that socialism or communism have the answers unless they are ignorant of the millions of people killed by communist and socialist regimes in the past century?
Perhaps we have arrived at the nightmare scenario that Orwell prophesied. Perhaps people have become so dehumanized and demoralized, so brainwashed and psychologically reprogrammed, that they are ready to accept and embrace the tyranny that has enslaved them. How else are we to make sense of those who marched on the streets of London recently demanding their right to remain shackled to the secularist corruption of the undemocratic European Union? How else can we make sense of those millions of millennials who believe that socialist Big Government can deliver freedom and justice? We are indeed living in an age when people no longer fear Big Brother but admire and venerate him. As David Bowie suggests, Big Brother is no longer resisted but wanted.
So be it. Let’s be content in the knowledge that we are merely getting what we deserve. It is all part of the Divine comedy, the Divine symmetry, in which bad ideas are seen to have bad consequences, and in which pride precedes a fall. This is as it should be. Those of us who are not invested in the world and its vicious vacuity can smile as we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fashion. We can laugh in the face of Pride and its foolish disciples. We know that we do not have to destroy the proud because they are always in the process of destroying themselves. We only have to worry about the end of the world, which comes at the end of each of our respective lives. It is then that the fullness of life begins and that true justice and peace is attained.
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The featured image is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.