A book written in a different time by an author whose mind raced ahead of his times. It was written in 1948, prognosticating what the world would be like in 1984. It traces the story of Winston Smith, middle aged man with a paunch and regular office job. George Orwell writes a descriptive account of Oceania in 1984. The state is controlled by the members of inner party who are just puppets to the Big Brother, whose existence is not even confirmed. People work as machines devoid of feeling any emotion like Love, Trust, and Friendship etc. The only emotion tolerable is patriotism towards the Big Brother, every other emotion to each other is a crime. The party runs by the slogans-
War is peace.
Ignorance is strength.
Freedom is slavery.
The work of each ministry revolves around changing the past and rewriting history as per the party. Newspapers, books, notices, journals, magazines are revised again and again until each and every word agrees with the Inner Party. It is a tyrannical rule where, whatever the party says is the truth even if it means accepting 2+2=5. People are monitored round the clock by telescreens and thought police who patrol each area. Where everyone has adapted themselves to Big Brother and the lies propagated by him, Winston Smith finds it hard to stop himself from putting a halt to his thoughts. He yearns to know the real history. Thinking different is considered a “thought crime” as per Inner party. The book encompasses his journey to uncover the history, his fight against the party and whether he succeeds in destroying the Big Brother or not.
WHY 1984 STANDS TRUE EVEN FOR 2014
The world has come a long way since getting freedom from the rule of monarchs to democratic rule. But even now the freedom of thought is lost somewhere. There are numerous instances where the rights of citizens were violated due to slight paranoia of government.
- Just like in 1984, all the books that had instances which contradicted Big Brother were called back and revised. Similarly, in India, in 2014 Penguin Publishers ordered to withdraw all the copies of “The Hindus: An Alternative History” as it was deemed hurtful to some group of Hindus. The problem is everyone gets offended so easily and the government tries to keep everyone happy even if it means violating the basic right of speech.
- Privacy of people is rarely protected. The recent case of a woman being tailed and monitored 24*7 in Gujarat and the allegations of Edward Snowden (NSA) about the surveillance carried by USA on American citizens via all electronic devices- mobile phones, e-mails, messages, online accounts etc. George Orwell was a far sighted man who saw what the future held for common man. The Big Brother exists now and is constantly spying on us.
The world predicted would be a nightmare for us to live in. The famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore will go like this-
Where the mind is with fear and the head is held low
Where knowledge is crime
Where the world is broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the Big Brother
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards slavery
Where the clear stream of reason has lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by The Ministry
Into ever-narrowing thought and action
Into that hell of slavery, my Father, will my country go to sleep.
LESSONS FROM 1984
1984 was written predicting the future to people living in 1948. But this prophecy has become a present for us and in future it will be the truth for us. We are heading towards that way and we are heading there fast. The world needs people like Winston Smith who should have the courage to take a stand against the government when it tries to suppress free thoughts and actions. Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Manjunath Shanmugam are few examples who exposed the wrong doings of government.
In the book, the inner party members succeed in changing the mind and heart of Winston Smith by constant torturing. But this is not the end we desire for the world. We want a free world without any thought police monitoring our thoughts, without any ministry banning the books, which state personal opinions, just because few groups of people are hurt by it. We want a world where we are not digitally tracked 24*7. Any thought or opinion which makes us stand out from the herd should not be considered suspicious. We should not be scrutinized, penalized, ostracized just because we disagree with the government.
Sadly 1984 is an instruction manual for us. If no changes are made we will end up like Winston, forced to love the Big Brother, forced to believe the lies and forced to forget the history. People like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are forced to seek ASYLUM for telling the truth, whisteblowers are killed at gunpoint in India, you can imagine the life ahead us. Sooner we will have nothing to stand for- no truth, no freedom.