The phenomena of governmental control, omniscient authorities, and creation of artificial reality are the dominating themes in the work 1984 by Orwell. A fictional government in the given novel conducts constant surveillance over the citizens of Oceania, manipulates their consciousness and distorts both the past and the present. The evident abuse of power is revealed through the itemized depiction of reality in a particular province of the country, namely, Airstrip One. The protagonist of 1984 is known as Winston Smith. The character symbolizes impeccable skillfulness and implicit unacceptance of the ultimate values propagated by the Party. The Party has an authentic leader referred to as Big Brother. Such a reference reflects the tradition of brotherhood and sisterhood adhered to in Oceania and at the same time, it disembodies the personality and leads to an assumption that the Party has no living leader, but only functioning politics, which emerges while watching the movie. The following words from the book confirm the above assumption: the Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power” (Orwell 565). Such a fictional country designed by Orwell in 1949 and positioned in the alleged 1984 has become a reality in modern times. The contemporary world reveals incremental proximity to transforming into the fascistic regime.
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The period of the past 15 years became a serious challenge for the whole world. There is an opinion that the third millennium has altered reality. Nevertheless, it is mankind that alters the world either on purpose or unintendedly. The changes are inevitable in the course of the development of the civilized world, politics and overall progress in the global community. The level of progress achieved by the current generation is definitely significant and at the same time questionable in terms of safety and relevance. The present paper focuses on the comparison of the 1984 canvas and currently observed events in order to acquire an in-depth insight into the issue of proximity to the fascistic regime and authoritative form of state functioning.
1984 is a dystopia. It means an undesirable, scary and destructive type of society which may emerge in the future. The currently discussed novel is an evident opposition to the renowned Utopia created by Sir Thomas More which symbolizes a reality of a dream. Dystopian, or Orwellian world, is the world of manipulation, deceit, and ultimate devaluation of human freedom and dignity. The Party has several tools that contribute to the primary goal of manipulation over the consciousness for the sake of distortion of reality, history, and the key values. Such a strategy leads the Party to become more and more powerful. The citizens become identical in their thoughts, opinions, appearance, and habits. The whole day is pre-planned by the Party and dedicated to the Party. It is the Party that chooses clothes, food, words, and beliefs for each person in Oceania. Such a blind dedication and absolute identity form a solid background for the unquestionable authority of the Party and eradicate a chance for a rebellion. The aforementioned instruments were purported to achieve the ultimate power of the Party and maximal elimination of individuality and difference between people with the use of permanent surveillance, constant war, 24-hours propaganda, historical revisionism, perpetual fear, distortion of language, torture, and death in case a person lacks obedience or faithfulness to the Party’s rules and demands, as well as absence of Habeas Corpus. Such tools guaranteed incontestable power of the Party and progress of the superstate in the process of cultivating the generation of robots having all the crucial elements of their lives distorted and artificially adjusted.
Oceania is a superstate with an impeccably functioning surveillance system. As a rule, surveillance is conducted secretly in regard to the specific aspects of activity or opinion scopes and is based on particular patriotic reasons. Nevertheless, the fictional reality described by Orwell undermines all of such conventional rules. To be more precise, the Party watches every person 24 hours a day. Moreover, such kind of never-ending surveillance is not passive, but ultimately active. Inhabitants of Oceania receive daily news about the achievements of the army and the civil departments of the state purported to illustrate the triumph of Ingsoc, i.e., English Socialism (Orwell). Such news is transmitted via telescreens during meal times, special meetings, and citizens’ leisure time. One of the most striking examples of the constant watching and impact of Big Brother is morning exercises which should be adhered to in a compulsory manner.
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The use of surveillance is a major dilemma of our current reality as well. Nevertheless, the driving forces which are allegedly the reason for governmental control and monitoring of the citizens are not the power and total inspection, but rather the issues of safety and security of people all over the world. Such a premise for surveillance emerged 15 years ago after the tragedy of 09/11. The sinister threat of terrorism evolved and reached a scale of a globally vital issue. Nowadays the authorities claim that surveillance is conducted only for the sake of safety issues and is focused only on the issues which may be potentially related to the threat of terrorism. Nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence confirming that the governmental grip is imposed on all the citizens in the current course of time, and the private information is checked for different reasons one of which may be the same as in the case of the Orwellian Party – the power. There are numerous incidents confirming such a stance, and one of the most alarming and vivid cases is Snowden’s revelation. In fact, it has triggered a set of other revelations illustrating that the alleged concern for the safety and security of the citizens is transformed into evident abuse of power.
One of the major phenomena which are innate to Oceania is a state of constant war. As far as Oceania is already a superstate, it may be assumed that the reason of war condition is the issue of the new territories expansion. Nevertheless, the true reason is more complicated and manipulative. The Party needs masses with a particular state of mind, namely, the one that resembles the conceptual framework of war. Therefore, such feelings as “fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph” were cultivated by the Party (Orwell 416). Even those outside the war frontier were affected and educated by it regularly during the meetings and via telescreens (1984).
The nature and overall comprehension of the notion of war were considerably distorted by the Party. In fact, the ultimate purpose of the Party in the given context is the existence of war. Even its efficiency was not a major concern since “the splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal” (Orwell 416). The war-oriented society became cruel, easily manipulated and aggressive, which was vitally important for the Party, entirely devoted to Big Brother. Moreover, the state of war permitted the Party to demand more from an average citizen of Oceania as well as contribute to the actual creation of the history. This point is related to the next instrument, historical revisionism, which will be discussed further in the paper.
Hereby, what are the meaning as well as the purpose and role of the war nowadays? The world witnesses different kinds of wars, not the single defining one, but numerous ones in the current course of time. These wars impact our conception of the world we live in, the major behavioral patterns that dominate in our routine, and the adjustment of values and priorities. Wars are aimed at establishing the power and authority of a particular country and in such a way influencing the course of global development. In fact, contemporary mankind also lives in the epoch of perpetual war; the only difference is that the actors and stakeholders of the war occasionally change.
There are numerous miscellaneous and equivocal issues related to the permanent state of war, namely: the issue of safety and security as opposed to the ubiquitous threat of terrorism, which in its turn provokes more violence and aggression; the issue of aid in the military conflicts often disguises true motifs such as determination to monitor, control and even adjust accordingly the course of the conflict development; the issue of propaganda is a considerable concern as well, since manipulation via distorted and unjustified information is currently applied for the same purpose as the Party used it – for the sake of gaining control over the masses and eliminating the probability of rebellion or other forms of defiance. Along with this, wars are an effective tool for the reconstruction of the global population. The issue of overpopulation is a topical one nowadays, and there are particular extremist proponents who consider wars to be a natural instrument of dealing with the problem of the overpopulated planet. Moreover, wars conducted between two countries primarily involve many other parties of the conflict. Consequently, the issue acquires a global significance and simultaneously transforms into a serious threat to international peace. Nevertheless, peaceful arrangements are a rare solution to military conflicts, and there are several supreme powers that are observed to partake in such conflicts regularly striving for global influence and absolute power.
Constant propaganda has already been mentioned as one of the defining elements of reality in Oceania. Propaganda took a grip over people’s minds, intentions and beliefs. One of the most vivid examples of the absurdity of this propaganda is the case with chocolate: “It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grams a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grams a week” (Orwell 138). Such an apparent delusion was “swallowed” by Winston’s peers and the protagonist of 1984 admitted it as an ultimate form of animal stupidity (Orwell 138). One more example taken from the movie is related to morning exercises. To be more precise, a woman from the telescreen aligns the citizens’ life, potential and actual performance with the reality of those citizens who are at war. It serves as a particular motivation for people to be better, which in Orwellian world means to work skillfully, to adhere to Big Brother’s words and be an obedient, will-less and easily manipulated animal serving for the best interests of the Party.
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Propaganda becomes a drug that masses get addicted to. The peers of Winston listen to the news transmitted via telescreens and celebrate each accomplishment. The contemporary world may also be an interesting object for analysis on the issue of propaganda. In fact, modern mankind switches such telescreens willingly pay for them and lives according to them. The function of modern telescreens is performed by radio, television and the Internet empowering diverse forms of communication as well as surveillance and influence. To be more precise, the portions o information transmitted in the news blocks, as well as those reflected in the movies and shows, are deeply predetermined by the ideas the authorities prefer to appraise the modern generation. Mankind demonstrates apparently blind trust to the news revealed in the Internet space or on the television. Only a few tend to question the credibility of the acquired information, whereas the prevailing majority waits for the next part of the show or keeps surfing the Internet hoping to find out more. It may be considered to be the case of informational pollution. Authorities often attract the attention of mankind to the issues of little significance but a rather considerable scandalous value. Such a shift is a game in which people hear, see and learn what they are permitted to. Such an approach undermines the ultimate values that are allegedly the core elements in the modern globalized world, namely, freedom and democracy.
Historical revisionism is another crime committed in Oceania. The efforts of the Party to erase the past are a clear indication of a strong fear of the potential recovery of the citizens from the artificial world created to gain power. Revisionism is a vivid decision of the Party to focus the whole history on the establishment, development and current activity of the Party. Moreover, it is an attempt to make people devoid of choice, which alternatively refers to the elimination of freedom as an ultimate value of the democratic world. The overall revisionism process also contributes to the permanent focus of the workers on the Party’s history and significance. Hereby, there is passive propaganda in the given context as well.
Contemporary revisionism is more complicated and actually implicit. The distortion of history currently transpires as a questioning of particular events, decisions and attitudes as credible, relevant and the opposite. Interpretation of history is another issue that is also actively employed in some political and socio-cultural debates. The editions of books with a so-called novice vision of the historical facts are popular nowadays. Hence, the authorities may take these tiny steps in gradual historical revisionism.
Such an element of the policy of Oceania is strongly related to each of the points discussed in the present essay. To be more precise, perpetual fear is a compulsory ingredient of each recipe for power acquisition practiced by the Party, according to Orwell. Fear in Oceania is imposed via telescreens, war-related issues, torture, and the overall atmosphere in the province. Winston clearly sees that fear is viral and impeccably serves its function of paralyzing emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. The image of Big Brother watching each citizen of Oceania is the most impressive example of the tools aimed at imposing fear on a permanent basis. The eyes seem to look through the soul, and it seems to be impossible to hide illegal thoughts from it. Nevertheless, Winston manages to hide both thoughts and the diary, and afterward – the love nest nearby. Nonetheless, such deceit of the Party is temporary and has a huge price.
Nowadays, fear becomes a part of the socio-cultural sphere. To be more precise, despite all the claims about confidentiality, anonymity, safety, security, and democracy, the threats for an individual are numerous and diverse. For instance, recent incidents related to unsanctioned use of drones impose particular fear since there is no sufficient legal background to protect people from such an uncontrolled and hazardous phenomenon once it is used as a weapon or for the purpose of surveillance.
Distortion of Language
The phenomenon of Newspeak is a renowned symbol of the ultimate power of the Party. The unified decision of Ingsoc is that the language should be simplified as much as possible and that such alteration will contribute to the efficiency, well-being, and happiness of people in Oceania. Language is distorted, and occasionally this process reiterates since new editions of Newspeak are produced. Distortion of language may be regarded as another effort to change something and make it intrinsically Oceanian, while the real reason is more complicated. In fact, the Party attempts to limit and easily control the thoughts of all the citizens of the superstate in the given context. It is apparent that once the Newspeak is widely and permanently used by the citizens of Oceania, there will be minimal potential for extensive thinking.
Changes in language are inevitable if they are constructive and are predetermined by a particular course of development in society. Mankind witnessed numerous alterations in the scope of linguistics due to innovations, creative approaches and the formation of novel words related to the nomination of novice phenomena. The distortion of language due to clippings in the course of online communication is a questionable development as far as it may be perceived as a devaluation of linguistic potential, whereas, on the other hand, it may be regarded as a justified need for a comparatively new type of communication. Hereby, apparent intended distortions are not observed.
Tortures, Death Sentences, and Absence of Habeas Corpus
In case a person lacks obedience or faithfulness to the Party’s rules and demands, the executors had various tools for torturing and imposing Party’s will forcefully. The scene of Winston’s tortures is the cruelest one depicting the nature of Ingsoc policies. Trials were substituted by interrogations with active use of tortures aimed not only at acquiring the necessary information but primarily at imposing Ingsoc ideology. No fair decisions, no justification and no forgiveness for those who interfered with the core priorities and rules of the Party.
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The given issue is also a topical one in the current course of time. Actually, the allegedly legitimate tortures used by the contemporary authorities are a vivid example. There are numerous incidents when the detainees are kept in prison without a justified reason along with being tortured for the sake of eliciting the necessary information. Such approaches are illegal and alien to the values of a democratic society, yet they are actively employed by the official guards of order and law. Another vivid example is the UJA phenomenon. While it is not a globally accepted practice, it is exercised in many countries in the current course of time. Along with this, the tortures and absence of actual trial with witnesses and negotiations are the core features of UJA. Hereby, the authorities aim to eliminate the actual accountability for such actions and are ready to compromise their activity with such instruments as UJA.
1984 is a dystopian novel by Orwell which embodies the course towards fascistic empire via fictional superstate Oceania. The course of a profound analysis of policies, strategies, priorities, and rules of the Party resulted in the identification of the key ones, namely, permanent surveillance, constant war, 24-hours propaganda, historical revisionism, perpetual fear, distortion of language, tortures, and death in case a person lacks obedience or faithfulness to the Party’s rules and demands, as well as absence of Habeas Corpus. Alignment of these aspects with contemporary reality leads to the conclusion that the modern world reveals incremental proximity to transforming into a fascistic regime. The distortion of language is the only element that has no vivid and acute examples in the current society.