When a government institution spins command over its political and social system, it definitely has a variety of aims and special interests while many of its citizens turn their blind eyes on. More often then not, the citizenry may have been overcome with the belief that an allowance of free national elections and other civil liberties afforded to them is the essence of democracy. True democracy however “permeates every aspect of the society” where individual freedom affects the habit and attitudes of people (Peters, 1996: xv). When a system of governance however works to organize society as a way of life pathologically made possible through excessive taxation, the definition of democracy is impeded. Orwell’s “1984” examined to procure a definition of a harrowing totalitarian state which reverses the meaning of freedom. “London, as its chief city and a province of Oceania” is a society with a central theme on the power of the government to sanction force for a singular pattern of thought over every citizen (Orwell, 1990: 3). While Orwell’s futuristic novel is rooted in an imagery of Fascist Europe, it comes to mind how the probability of modern day American government’s persistent endorsement of so-called democracy works in several ways detrimental to the common good of the populace. Investigating the government’s behaviour and societal response in Orwell’s futuristic society endorses opinions of our present government in order for the system to derive lessons in good governance.
Big Brother in Oceania
The American government once endorsed the pop culture as a social phenomenon that saw business industries merging to support it return. Entertainment became a center of daily lives and consumption became a “figure of life” for an economically driven society. A consumer culture after the World War II prevailed and America saw a dramatic world of clothing, cosmetics, food and luxurious lifestyles. After seeing its success, excessive taxation was soon sanctioned as the government relayed how American freedom is being threatened by different forces. In the guise of securing justice, improving infrastructure and economy, imposing heavy tax measures worked purportedly to enhance the social capital for the common good of communities and its citizenry. In a stage set for a government filled with a variety of actors playing myriad roles under a central theme lodged on power and control, the society end up powerless. Orwell’s Big Brother and the Inner Party pursued the society’s deliberate “drowning of consciousness” where people are forced to “share a general delirium” (Orwell, 1990:16-17) of acceptance.
In many ways, the behaviour was well tolerated in the consciousness of people who looked up to “Big Brother” like the young women “who were bigoted adherents of the party” (Orwell, 10), mesmerized by the power of his voice “wrecking the structure of civilization” (p.15). With slogans scattered about London that support the “big Brother” ideology, everything is in fact controlled by the government whose guise of “restoring confidence” with “few words of encouragement” (Orwell: p.16) leads the people to adhere to a modicum of acceptance. Part of Big Brother’s measures to dispel social and political contradictions is in the constant monitoring of workers and individuals who are “grouped together opposite the big telescreens” which also exist in their homes (p.8). Several ministries in the government were also divided to work in an organized effort to monitor movements, encourage “Big Brother” ideology, and maintain law and order and economic control (p.4) relatively seen in current American society whose methods of control slowly encourage “Big Brother’s” thoughts and ideals.
Big Brother Control in Media and Technology
Journalism has faced numerous hazards as the media industry encounters constant scrutiny from their own institution and other socio-political forces. With the excessive power that media now holds over the public, most journalists also face pressures from the conglomerate that gives him his pay check. If propaganda works to secure mass persuasion and collective sentiment, the unique powers of mass media can easily be tipped towards the balance conglomerates and their backers wish to imply. Today, as the mass media’s apparent control is exercised by six giant corporations; a media monopoly is similar to “Big Brother” necessities of implementing a total lack of vision and truth. Many writers have been ordered “to rewrite their scripts and release inaccurate report” to gain public acceptance on relevant issues (Kick, 2000:1966).
In Big Brother society, many reports were far from the truth just as “Winston was enlisted with the rectification of the Times leading articles written in Newspeak” (Orwell: 44) and personal “thought crime means death” (Orwell: 28) for the journalist. In the history of technology and globalization, a social change is seen as a prophecy symbolized by the “omnipresent tele-screen” (Orwell, 4) and the internet presently takes the role of Big Brother’s ominous and harrowing monitoring system that strives to break in people’s virtual information stored in gadgets. People who strive to find the truth and defy “Big Brother’s ideas” were bound to be “abolished, annihilated and vaporized” (p.19), yet the truth and its evidence is always hard to find as Big Brother’s party like our contemporary media rulers provides you with “limited knowledge and principles of what they wanted you to say” (p. 44).
As America continues to display its dark side through wars and conflicts, the American populace believed at first that the democratic government intended to pursue the objective of safeguarding the economy and procuring safety and security for every American citizen. Acting as a protective “Big Brother” to everyone; America used up national funds to increase military spending and the fight against terrorist activities. While sending young American soldiers to die in battle, the citizenry are led to believe that such patriotism and bloodshed is for the good of every American. What we refuse to understand however is the fact that our democratic nation is in fact instigating attacks on foreign regimes in the pursuit of an American political goal for dominion and power. While Orwell believed that “violence against real or fancied enemies is justified by appeals to law, order and peace” (p.4) we begin to relate how the transformation of our cultural norms in fact encouraged conflicts. Big Brother had also envisioned and made everyone believe in the evils done by “Emmanuel Goldstein (whom nobody could quite remember)” and concurrently “hatching conspiracies, somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of foreign paymasters” (Orwell, 11-12). The lively characters Big Brother proposed have similar background of ideas that spun American attitudes towards wars against Osama and Saddam. The overall total effect “portrayed vistas of rotting 19th century houses, bomb sites and heaps of rubble” as men’s thirst for power is seen in his art of aggression (p.3).
In effect Orwell’s reverse utopian novel bears important lessons to the American public and political system. A country cannot claim a dual ideology that on one hand adheres to democracy while the other exercise a form of control to further its won political interest of control over an unknowing public. It is therefore every American’s duty to restrain the boundless powers held by the political system who work to impose social change in an approach to dominion.
Peters, Werner (1996). Society on the Run: A European View of Life in America. ME Sharpe.
Kick, Russ. (2001). You Are Being Lied to: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion. Disinformation Company.
Orwell George (1990). 1984. Signet Classic.