Totalitarism in Novel "1984" by George Orwell

Categories: 1984George Orwell

To the naked eye, it might come across that our government is far from the totalitarian state that Winston Smith (the novel’s protagonist) lives in, but this is quite false. In 1984, Winston lives in the post war-country of Oceania, which is inhabited by a controlling and manipulative government. In Oceania, he works as a censor in the Ministry of Truth in a constant updating of history to suit present circumstances and shifting alliances in the war. Those he works with other members of the Party who, along with him are controlled as a mass collective by the all-seeing and all-knowing presence of Big Brother.

When a citizen intentionally or unintentionally chooses to rebel even with a thought, they are arrested and “vaporized” from existence. The regime aims to eradicate words and the ideas they embody to preserve their dominance. This horrendous reality is portraying a glimpse of what our world currently is. Due to our society’s developing technology, our minds can longer think for ourselves.

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Thus, George Orwell’s 1984 promotes similar ideologies that our government has today, such as the perpetual war, high level surveillance, and the “goodness” of socialism to distort our views on what’s real.

Throughout the book, there’s a global war that has been going on seemingly forever, and Winston comes to the conclusion that the enemy keeps changing. Today, this perpetual war is the War on Terror. Oceania’s enemy in 1984 shifts from Eurasia to Eastasia constantly. Winston attends the Hate Rally, which every member of the Party is required to attend and participate in.

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During the Hate Rally, the citizens passionately praise Big Brother and aggressively express their hatred towards the enemy. A speaker approaches the podium and discusses the war’s atrocities. He speaks on the massacres, bombings, lootings, etc. that Eurasia committed during the war. Screams were heard from the crowd, which further amplifies the hate. Soon, a messenger delivers a scroll stating that in fact they were at war with Eastasia and Eurasia was their allie all along. Winston recalls that the speaker continued on with his speech as if nothing happened: “Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different” (Orwell 188). With the enemies and allies switching constantly between the two countries, the population of Oceania is kept in a constant state of fear and hostility. This perpetual war is a tool the Party leaders use to ensure their citizens do not rebel against Big Brother. In this same way, the War on Terror is the modern day version of the war in 1984. The War on Terror is America’s ongoing effort to prevent terrorism. Since 9/11 occurred, our military has been fighting against these attacks in other countries. The war has been active for 18 years now and there seems to be no end in sight. Around the globe, other places face terrorist attacks as well further alluding that it will never end. An article in the New Yorker describes the trifling effects the War on Terror has had on the United States in the past month. President Trump has had some struggle dealing with the issues in Iran, with him pulling out of the nuclear deal awhile ago. However speculations arise as to the ties Iran has with notorious terrorist groups. The Authorization of the Use of Military Force states that the President can use any means necessary to go to war with any country if needed. With tensions about Iran and these other nations increasing, questions among people are rising as well (Ben Taud, “The Law That Makes It Easy to Go to War with Iran”, NewYorker.com). While the war on terror is an important effort, it is doubtful to say whether it is serving the purpose of making the U.S. get along with the rest of the world. Some have questioned whether the continued involvement around the world in this ‘war’ is more of an attempt to keep the American people focused on a common ‘enemy’ even if the enemy is many nations. The enemy is constantly changing from Syria to Libya to Iran. It’s easy to see why people feel this way as the United States never gets close to ending this war. Perpetual wars are used to unite nations against an enemy not actually be won. The war in 1984 kept people from opposing Big Brother. Today, the War on Terror can be utilized the same way by the government to focus our attention on it instead of other issues. Consequently, the government must monitor their citizens to ensure they do not rebel, if they discover truths that are being kept from them.

Naturally, surveillance can be seen as a violation of rights due to invasion of citizen’s privacy. In 1984 telescreens guard citizens in their every moment and omit the Party’s hideous ideals. The Thought Police scout out who they portray as a rebel simply based on a member’s thoughts/emotions/actions. This constant surveillance allows the Party to know which citizens are not strictly following the regime to punish them. While Winston is eating at the lunchroom, he notices that a woman gives him an uneasy, intense look. Winston suspects that she is a spy and worries she will discover his unloyalty to the Party through his lack of proper features. He thought to himself, “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself…In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense” (Orwell 65). The Party’s surveillance tactics and technology are so advanced that even a minor twitch can betray a rebellious spirit in a person. The citizens are not allowed to express themselves freely in any manner. This is the government’s way to retract as much as they can about a person and use it as gain for themselves. It distorts their views as people because they are not permitted to show any raw emotions that might lead to rebellion. Whereas today, governments and large corporations/businesses intrude into different aspects of people’s lives through technology. Recently, Amazon released a patent on a drone technology that would provide “surveillance as a service” to its customers. The drone would perform surveillance action at a property of an authorized party. The patent will cover “still images, video, infrared imaging, thermal scanning, night-vision sensors and audio” of the area (Jason Plautz, “Amazon granted patent for ‘surveillance as a service’ tech, SmartCitiesDive.com). The patent showcases the technology as a home security system, although the use of drones will pick up more footage than wanted and as to where this footage is going is even more frightening. Data security and privacy are common issues in our world today because they can easily be captured by the high-power officials without the user knowing. The drone is similar to the telescreen because both are used to monitor and invade the private lives of the people. If the user does not know that their data is being collected, it infringes the civil liberties of the people. The citizens are not aware of where their private information is going which is dangerous. Evidently, dishonesty within the government is recurring and can be found in our personal political views.

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Totalitarism in Novel "1984" by George Orwell. (2021, Feb 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/totalitarism-in-novel-1984-by-george-orwell-essay

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