“I do not believe that kind of society I describe (in 1984) necessarily will arrive, but I believe… that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere”. George Orwell,1949 The conception of the future portrayed by Orwell in 1984 is one of grim cautionary warning. The world of 1984 is vague enough to, still today, cause a feeling of dread at what might be.
The future of 1984 is one vastly different from many previous attempts to predict the future for it does not give the future the present’s prejudice about many things such as expected technologies or events. The world is recognizable using no outlandish inventions to give across the idea of a future; instead the future is represented by society and the individual. Orwell knowingly writes a future that could not be, that he knew would not come to pass as he had written it for the purpose of making it all the more enduring and the message all the more chilling.
I believe he exaggerates aspects of the post-WW2 world, trends he notices and makes a general outline of where the world was, or mayhap still is, possibly headed. The oppressive nature of communism and the totalitarian regimes which had caused WW2 are oft said to be the sole or primary basis for Oceania. While this idea holds merit, I believe Orwell to have written the novel in a more general manner, speaking of the world’s fate in a more general manner, encompassing both communism and capitalism.
He wishes not to denounce the future he expressed as a product of the communist powers only, but also as the same end where western society is headed. The warning he tries to get across comes into play in this aspect for though the democratic world believes itself free from all worrying aspects expressed like doublethink, and the devaluation of the individual into a tool, it suffers the problem as well. Doublethink is rampant in the bureaucracy of the Western world, where the opposition is wrong, and your side is right.
Another example is the way most people will defend to death their belief that drugs such as cocaine are illegal yet stutter when confronted with the fact that alcohol is a drug as well. In this note the prohibition of these substances is, in and of itself, a violation of an individual’s freedoms yet now it seems like it has always been the way it is an hence a part of freedom. Doublethink in action by the free world which could not ever end up like Winston’s London.
Dehumanization and the destruction of the individual are rampant, if underpublicized, problems, the inequality of man is growing at an alarming rate in an increasingly materialistic society; having materials as a measure for position creates and furthers the three groups of Goldstein’s book, the High, the Low, and the Middle with their respective goals. As stated the High wishes to remain high, retain their material power; the Middle to become the High and consequently have the material goods needed; and the Low wishes to abolish these distinctions.
The great magnates of the Western world are as efficient as the Soviet leaders in maintaining themselves where they are, resorting to underhanded tactics to prevent others from toppling them. What is the greatest difference? We are the free, and thus our actions are acceptable, yet they are the totalitarian and evil whose methods are unspeakably corrupt and unthinkable. I doubt he believed the world of 1984 would come by that date yet it is in the exaggeration that lies the warning.
It would likely have had little effect if the book spoke of a society resembling the present one, as said before the hyperbole is not in the technology and material goods but instead in the society. It seems preposterous that such a society could come to exist in the way it seemed preposterous to reach the moon. Something utterly alien yet, when analyzed well possible. What is it about 1984 that is so ghastly? I don’t believe it is the environment; it is merely a backdrop for the story of humanity’s struggle.
Winston is a lone leaf in a desert void of others like him, the barriers placed are so great it would not matter how many felt like him, they would all suffer his plight in silence and solitude. It is the triumph of the High, not a particular group of the High, but the Highs themselves. They have shed the vestiges of relations and bonding to certain groups which had before hampered them, they were free from the weight of individuals. In a way this is a forward projection of the now, where we are all controlled subtly, and not so subtly, by the media, the governments and many such factors yet don’t care much like the proles.
It is this, and other, logical conclusions of present events and tendencies which is so frightening. No aspect of 1984 is inconceivable or beyond the present in some way or another. The way the world of 1984 has settled into the routine of permanent warfare is mirrored in the present were if not outright wars, the production and importance of war related industries overshadow those of peace time activities. The military is decades ahead of conventional and public technology which translates to a decreased living standard compared to the optimum attainable were those technologies released and production rerouted.
The arms race is more dangerous than ever as bombs become more and more powerful. As technology advances older inventions slowly seep out, as evidenced by the general availability of computers more powerful than any three decades ago. As such, and though this is an incomplete analogy, it is possible for weapons before reserved only in limited quantities to powerful governments to become available to individuals. Even one nuclear bomb falling into the wrong hands could prompt a mass scare and retaliatory strikes.
Yet even though the dangers of the perennial arms race are huge it is necessary mainly because “the enemy” is also doing it and there’s no way those in the right would fall behind. More and more propaganda is being used to focus hate on particular targets i?? la Goldstein, as in the cases of Hussein and bin Laden. Restriction of information is also begging to occur as in the case of “sensitive” biological or chemical research were it could be potentially dangerous.
There is also the case of the teaching of Evolution where it is to be taught alongside Creationism, this act heralds the lowering of intellectual standards by allowing demagoguery to forgo science and rationality. Brought to their extremes these types of events lead to the grim world we observed. Orwell, however, does not seem to be a pessimist. The world where ultimately Winston falls and individuality is lost is not eternal. The appendix describing Newspeak appears, to me, to convey a hope that the human spirit will not be extinguished. It is written referring to the Party and Newspeak as past events which have concluded.
This is achieved by the usage of perfect tenses, particularly the past, as well as the past passive. This can not be ascertained, though, because it is unstated who wrote the Appendix or for what purpose. It can be gleamed that the Party fell before 2050 since it states Newspeak had not been completely accepted. It is with this hopeful note that Orwell lets us depart from 1984. The world suffered, but it appears to have survived, though it begs the question of whether the suffering was necessary that is what Orwell warns us of if the world is left unchecked.