University High School
Instructor: Lee Fallon
In a society where individuals are expendable and are merely cells to the Oceania body—as in 1984—fear and hysteria are the only way to maintain control. While I understand Winston's (and Dr. Fallon's) belief that creating a place like 1984 is simply impossible because a civilization founded on terror, hatred, and cruelty would never endure. Likewise, a society that controls based pleasure would be far easier to govern. Taking another look, I could additionally see that communities of hatred and fear wouldn't always commit suicide and that society today is susceptible to a rule of constant fear like Big Brother. In 1984, the idea of solipsism was frowned upon. A party member is not encouraged to see things as relative because they come from their eyes and their respective mind—like a human projector—instead, they are encouraged to see through the party's eyes. The party is everything. The individual doesn't mean anything. The argument that a society based on cruelty and fear would not last loses meaning when the individual loses meaning. If each citizen dies at 30, it doesn't hold any value. The party holds the next-man-up mentality; there is always someone else. Because an individual being ground down doesn't mean the party is getting ground down; the party can keep up the hate. In other words, "death to the individual is not death. The party is immortal" (240).
That being said, both Brave New World and 1984 are based on the manipulation of the human race. BNW is based on genetic manipulation, while 1984 is based on phycological manipulation. In today's day and age, it seems that our society is primed for an authoritative leader to take advantage of us mentally, simply because we have already seen a glimpse in our past presidency. Through social media and our growing ignorance as a nation, all that is needed is an authoritarian leader to exploit our already primed society for power. Soon enough, 1984 will no longer be a fictitious civilization.
We, today, are not a happy people. According to an article published by US NEWS, our quality of life has been in a state of decline over the past decade. We are stuck in a world of illusions and the tools that are utilized as "coping mechanisms" are not so safe either. Former President Donald Trump serves as a perfect example of why our society today is susceptible to doublethink. I use Trump simply as an example of how quickly we can fall to an authoritarian, power-hungry leader. He implored doublethink through his actions, which is the idea that people must forget facts when in conflict with what a leader tells them to believe. By maintaining false claims of voter fraud, he engraved it into the brains of his followers. Even to this day, Trump rallies are still held where supporters refuse to accept his loss. Even when presented with logical facts, they will embrace irrational claims to support their beliefs. They refuse to accept the truth while living in a world of illusions. More importantly, they are living in a world of doublethink. Trump's presidency, at its core, was evil. He lied, repeated the lie, repeated it enough and with a strong tone that his followers blindly listened or would cower in fear. Strong words and bold actions make an intimidating combination that Trump took advantage of. This was remarkably evident through the insurrection on January 6, as well as the rhetorical war he constantly waged against the media. His whole intent was to delegitimize one of the few organizations that could hold him accountable for his lies. To go even further, "Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information (Postman), and that is what Trump is essentially doing. Simply put, by discrediting the media, he was clearing the path for his lies to flow, with no pushback, while building a dam where the true information was flowing. Yes, I understand that Trump is no longer in office, but his followers are not gone. Even after his four-year term of exploitation, just under 50% of eligible American voters attempted to keep him in office. In other words, just under half of the American voters tried to keep a leader that resembled Big Brother in office. These are the first seeds planted in the already fertilized ground of a 1984esque civilization.
Similarly, Mr. Carrington's bedroom above his antique shop that is used as a "haven" for Winston and Julia further illustrates that our society echoes that of 1984. The bedroom, initially, is seen and used as a place of freedom and a place to separate themselves from the miseries of the outside world. However, it ends up being a trap and a false sense of freedom. Today, this same false of freedom is seen in social media and our smartphones. Every move one makes while perusing social media is gathered and displayed. Social media is like Big Brother in the sense that even in places that seem safe —like the bedroom above Mr. Carrington's shop—it isn't. While at surface level, yes, our phones can be a distraction for the horrors of today's outside world, on a deeper level, this distraction and "haven" isn't so safe. Companies such as Facebook or "beta" as we know it now have faced numerous lawsuits over tracking/spying on what users liked, disliked, and their usual activity without written consent. While both BNW uses technology as a form of supervision, the way it is implemented in 1984 better resembles that of present-day society. Because we are already being watched; it merely lacks the authoritarian leader to exploit it for power.
Furthermore, the power the inner-party holds to keep the proles ignorant further illustrates my point that 1984 is more susceptible to today's society. "If there is hope," Winston says, "It must lie in the proles" (61). The only hope to rebel is to take the proles—who constitute 85% of Oceana's population—and lift them from their ignorance. However, the problem that plagues Winston is how to incite rebellion into a group that has lived their life simply unaware of their place and power. Even more so, 1984 truly illustrates how ignorance is bliss, so why would the proles even try? As Winston dreadfully says, "until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious" (62). The proles will never be conscious enough to rebel. Proles and slavery in the nineteenth century seem to be battling the same issue. Slaves faced the same problem that proles did and had not yet accessed the unconquerable disposition to fight for freedom. However, they differ in that key figures like David Walker, and Harriet Tubman vowed their lives to cure the slave's ignorance. In 1984, there was no David Walker. There was no Harriet Tubman. The Proles maintained the power within themselves but simply had no one to lift their ignorance of their current state and enlighten them of the power they hold. Instead, all the proles care about are saucepans or the lottery. Thus, Proles and animals are the only ones "free". The implication being is that they are animals. They—like the institution of slavery would be if they had not recognized their ignorance—remain a massive heard of labor to serve the party. Today, our society is turning ignorant. With the introduction to the internet, citizens have become tolerant of being in a state of ignorance because it can be corrected in an instant with a few clicks of a button. Furthermore, there is no need to remember most things we are taught because they are all easily accessible. Simply put, we are living in a world of assumed intelligence because everything is at our fingertips. With the presence of an authoritative leader, the already growing ignorance in the masses would be easily exploitable.
Through these examples, of the few, it has become increasingly more difficult to neglect the connection between Orwell's 1984 and society as we see it today. The seeds are planted; all that is needed is an authoritarian-like leader to water these seeds with hatred and cruelty. While in a few hundred years, yes, a world like that of BNW can take form, 1984 offers more of a threat to society today. Since birth, we are already put in a preset of conditions that primes us for psychological manipulation. When we are children, we live as human beings. However, when we go to school, we are fit a certain way. We are put into a certain preset and track and expected to follow the given steps of growth. Even in corporate American, we are expected to perform a certain way. In a sense, we are taught to conform to a certain identity. Similarly, in 1984, Winston was allowed to experience childhood but later in life, he was forced into labor at the Ministry of Truth. As a civilization living in the 21st century, we have already seen a glimpse of a power-hungry leader in our past presidency. Furthermore, through both social media and our growing ignorance as a nation, all that is needed is the mass that consists of almost 50% of the United States voter population to vote in another authoritarian leader to exploit our already primed society for power. Soon enough, 1984 will no longer be a fictitious civilization.