How Close Are We Now To 1984?

Film, Great Britain, Observatory

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Winston Smith existed in a living hell and was was retrained by the state when he failed to conform. ‘1984’ was the book I studied for my ‘O’ Level English exam, so I thought I’d run a quick check on it to see what’s come to pass.

In Smith’s world a tiny percentage of the population controlled everyone else.
The richest 2% of our world own half the world’s wealth.

The 1984 government is bankrupt because the economy doesn’t work.
The modern capitalist system is failing globally.

Winston Smith was watched by cameras wherever he went.
London has more CCTV than anywhere else (except maybe Monaco).

In Smith’s world bad news was buried behind fake productivity figures.
Newspapers take their information from government press releases and spin.

Smith’s leisure time was controlled, with limited state choices of entertainment.
Sky and Hollywood; more choice of the same things.

Smith could not speak out freely in public.
Twitter and Facebook are monitored for ‘anti-social’ comments. This week a black woman in Hackney was arrested for saying she hates white people, caught on the bus CCTV.

Smith worked in a mind-numbingly repetitive job.
Hello? Bueller? Anyone?

In Smith’s world rich and poor were segregated.
Gerrymandering – the practice of moving the poor from rich areas – is back.

War is waged perpetually to increase profit.
Iraq tenders were launched in the early stages of the war.

Smith finally becomes a docile member of the party.
The internet.

Big Brother leads to a sense of powerlessness.
Let’s not go there.

All other similarities received not gratefully but with a resigned air of depression.

10 comments on “How Close Are We Now To 1984?”

  1. John Howard says:

    How about:
    Bayant & May are the only boys for the job. Maybe thats the reason why they haven’t retired yet.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Dang! That appears to be My copy of 1984, which went missing years ago.
    Was looking for it a few years ago. And you had it down the back of your shelf all along.

  3. Mike Cane says:

    You left out Room 101. Which America has at Guantanamo and in several other countries.

    Is it fair to say Smith was also renditioned to 101?

    I wonder what Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death (who took Brave New World instead of 1984 as his basis), would make of today?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    On the surface the people in 1984 seem to be so much more fearful than people today, but my husband reminds me not to say anything other than “Canadian born” when we cross the border to the States, you have to be similarly careful when flying, especially if you have a common sort of name & get pulled out of the line, or you notice a new camera on a building. I do not feel secure near police officers and I watch what I say on-line (but that’s because things can be misconstrued. Oh yeah? !Says who?)

  5. Steve says:

    An Orwell quote that might just resonate with Admin:

    “Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.”

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    The two most intensive immigration and customs inspections I have ever gone through – read “horrible” – were Myanmar in ’64 (3 hours) where they chopped up all incoming electronic items: radios, tapeplayers, etc. with hackets, really, and then dumped the bits back in your suitcase. (I had just come from Hong Kong, too, on a Service passport. And in Israel in 2011, both entering and exiting, where the questions were exhaustive and tricky because all of their immigration questions are super safe like that. Luckily my German wife has taught at their embassy here in DC for 17 years and keeps in touch with her former students.
    Helen, I have in the past also claimed I was a Canadian, but not born there, in several tight situations when overseas on government business. “Where you from?” “Canada.” “Good, you’re lucky today. Today, we hate Americans and Japanese.” “I’m glad it’s the right day for me. Thanks.”

  7. snowy says:

    Mind you it has done wonders for the sale of tin foil hats.

  8. glasgow1975 says:

    Quite the sexed up cover for America wasn’t it?

    I fairly zoomed through Customs on entry here in Brisbane, was through before most of the natives!
    I even declared the huge bar of Dairy Milk for my sister (it doesn’t taste right there) after all those scary Border Patrol tv shows.
    Was through so fast they hadn’t even left to pick me up yet, so my speedy entry was all for naught, still had to hang around waiting on them picking me up 🙂

  9. Ken M says:

    Errors made in the standard TV drama – all cameras are accessible to all users and all cameras are owned by the same people. Often used as a dramatic shortcut on TV (especially NCIS for some reason).

  10. Alan Morgan says:

    The easiest customs I went through were at Germany way back when. There were only thirty or so of us making a change on to Berlin and there was some sort of flap on. Ahead of me and behind me people were being escorted away until only I reached the end of this concourse. A bit paranoid I offered my shoulder bag to the magnificent moustache that awaited only to be told to pass along. Oddly I was the only scruff there and boarded an otherwise empty of passengers plane where I waited for a good ten minutes before anyone else (other than crew) came aboard. I half worried I had been singled out for some sort of scruffy island.

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