Slouching Toward Orwell’s 1984
By Jeff Lukens
George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” tells of an advanced world where there are no individual freedoms, and the state uses fear to manipulate and control people to conform to a prescribed belief. In the book, the Party maintains absolute power, and power has become an end to itself. His book is as relevant today as ever. In the age of Obama, the freedoms that define American life are slipping away and being replaced with ever more state control.
In Orwell’s book, the Party constantly rewrites history and rewrites the language to restrict the true meaning of words and the ideas behind them. They eliminate words to reduce vocabulary and thereby reduce uncontrolled thoughts. Doublespeak makes people believe what they would otherwise know to be false, and is encapsulated by the phrase: “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.” Orwell defined doublethink as, “The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
In the book, the Party rewrites historical documents to match an evolving propaganda line, which changes daily. They amend newspaper articles, destroy evidence, and delete the existence of people identified as “unpersons.”
More than any other facet of the novel, political rhetoric today is designed to shape the thoughts of people toward the party line. While we all accept that thievery is wrong in our personal lives, the government makes thievery by taxes a great virtue for “the public good.” Global warming advocates claim to be “saving the planet” when in fact they have no evidence their polices will do anything of the sort. Those who doubt their claims are called “deniers.” And while jihadists are still killing our soldiers, we now call the global war on terror an “Overseas Contingency Operation.” The list is virtually endless.
Similar to Orwell’s 1984, our personal possessions today are fast becoming only what the state allows us to have. Employment is found ever more within government. The Party (you know which one) is gaining control our health care, our cars, our insurance companies, our schools, and our banks. Let’s just say they are gaining ever more control or our lives.
Democrats draw their support from the ignorance and complacency of their electorate: the Proles, as Orwell would say. People fear that if they oppose this mad dash toward collectivism, they may be stripped of what few gifts the government allows them to have. Big Brother may be watching.
Intentional or not, rational discussions on issues are increasingly harder to achieve. Try having a coherent debate with a committed Leftist and it will often break down to emotional appeals, unsupported accusations, and outright name-calling. And as for our Big Brother, whose cool demeanor precludes such behavior, the tactic is more like, “Are you talking to me?” Question his policies and you quickly become an unperson.
Barack Obama utters soothing tones that seem comforting on the surface, but his policies only prescribe more misery, and in the end only strengthen the state. His apparent contempt for the Constitution, the rule of law, and Founder’s intent can be waved off with the flicker of his hand, and a bit more empathy on the Supreme Court. Individuals who think independently are a threat to him, and the last thing he wants is to be held accountable for what he says. With the aid of the adoring media, so far he hasn’t had to.
Today’s media is almost as one-sided as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Their cheering on Obama is as close to groupthink as anyone has ever seen. Most news coverage is all Obama all the time, and news shows are even broadcast from inside the White House. They have lowered journalistic standards to the point where they allow very little discussion of dissenting opinion.
In Orwell’s 1984, telescreens announce economic production figures that are grossly overstated, or simply invented, to show an ever-rising economy when there is actually decline. In our case, no matter how robust the economy has been in recent years, the talking heads have always warned of looming recession. Now that economic hardship has arrived, mostly by the hand of an intrusive government, they vilify the free market and encourage ever more state control.
Unlike the book, our government does not torture people. Instead, they confiscate personal possessions through taxes and wantonly squander it. It is not the physical torture of people they cause, but their financial ruin and dependency.
Consider a government-run health system where individual choices are removed, and the patient — faced with a major illness — is left to the mercy of faceless government officials to decide whether he or she lives or dies. Could we become a nation where the old and infirm become too costly to care for? In the name or progress, rationed care could replace the most advanced health care system in the world.
A state-controlled health system could easily become an avenue by which all food perceived as high fat, high sodium or otherwise unhealthy is prohibited, taxed and strictly controlled to save money for the state. By way of new regulations that we cannot yet imagine, the authority of the state over the individual could easily reach far beyond issues of health with a single-payer health system.
The American way of life has never been about fear of our own government. We have always been a nation where each person is unique and worthy of respect. If we wish to remain a self-sufficient people where the rule of law provides a governing framework for our way of life, we need to take steps to preserve it.
We are nowhere near the level of tyranny found in Orwell’s 1984, but we move closer to it each day. The state seizes ever more power over the individual simply because it can. Orwell warned that no one ever seized power with the intention of relinquishing it. This is the nature of the state, and is why the Founders created a government with divided and enumerated powers. It is also why we all need to oppose the growing threat to our freedoms posed by Barack Obama and his statist allies on the Left.
Jeff Lukens is a columnist who lives in Florida.