About a year ago, when I was still naive about the political life around us, I came across this book-1984. My sole purpose in diving into this fiction book was the enjoyment of reading one. But as I was reading it, I felt claustrophobic on thinking about all the possibilities stated in that book. George Orwell, one of the best dystopian writers, made me realize that utopia (a perfect world) is surely not possible but, dystopia, on the other hand, can be created.
So 1984, talks about totalitarianism (an attempt by the strong central government to control and direct all aspects of individual life through coercion and repression). But 1984 is hardly a form of dictatorial society, where the leader oppresses the mass whether they like it or not. But, here in 1984, he describes a society that is unaware of the fact that it was made to succumb to a government, an idea and a routine. Imagine how horrifying would that be. So basically, the citizens in that story love their government in spite of the withdrawal of basic freedom like thinking freely or having sex! Imagine how rigorous and gruesome the propaganda and different regimes would be to make that possible.
In reality, such a society seem quite unlikely. We would consider any citizen who succumbed to this quite stupid for not realizing what was done to him. This book was meant to be a fiction, not realizing in 1949 when it was written, that it could be turned into non-fiction, into a reality.
Let me elaborate for you some ideas that are shared in this book and let’s also see if we can find patterns of it in our real political scenario.
In the book: This was a language which was compulsory for everyone to speak. It had a dictionary of words which you were free to use, anything other than that was considered a crime. The intention was to limit the usage of words that can cause a revolution against the government.
In our reality: Language shortcuts used to more quickly communicate digitally often used to express entire thoughts are influencing literacy, cognition and causing divides between different segments of society.
In the book: Every house, roads, gardens, etc had huge telescreens that were always on. They monitored everything you did, and everything you thought! They recorded your expressions and if there was something ‘mysterious’ about it, gave a fearful warning. They stopped you from using anything but the newspeak. They watched you 24/7.
In our reality: The IT cells and online mobs are acting just like telescreen for us. They monitor every activity of ours online and thus they know everything we are browsing and buying to manipulate us into things they want us to do. They implant fear in us for going against the government terming us as an ‘anti-national’
3) Ministry of truth:
In the book: This ministry was part of the government, responsible for monitoring everything that has been published or will be published. It destroys every piece of history that does not favor what the government at present wants. Every book, every document that ever exists will be changed. There is basically no freedom of expression.
In our reality: Do we have a freedom of expression anyways? Defamation, sedition cases pile up into courtrooms way too often. 42 people got arrested because they spoke against Modi or his government in the past 5 years. Fake news is frequently spread, sugar-coating or fabricating the truth completely.
Government leaders have always attempted to fabricate the truth but now in the modern world, it seems that the reality is allowed to be altered by the leader, without effort to even conceal it any longer. When what is true one day is said to be false the other and vice versa, this could lead to a state of affair where ignorance is a new status quo.
As more and more information is made available to us in real time the chance that anyone will be able to verify the sources and evidence will continue to decrease. In our society logic is not used for debate but instead to spread propaganda. This way we will lose the ability to differentiate between reality and falsehood.
It is upon us to prevent others from influencing our thoughts and making us a part of their propaganda. We should insist on our leaders to not use fake news and alternative facts just for power. Our media houses must stop doing what they are doing. Leaders should have followers to lead. If we blindly follow individuals without demanding that they are worthy of our support, then we will be to blame for any further loss of truthfulness, privacy, and basic rights that could result. We are ultimately responsible for our leader’s words and actions, as we are the ones who must evaluate what they say and accordingly give them permission to act on our behalf.
Written by: Manasvi Shah