As a teenager I read George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’, a polemic warning of the sort of dystopian society Britain could become in 1984 (written post-world War 2), based on the totalitarian state of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The book is such an important warning from history, made a huge impact on me and it remains a useful tool to compare where we are as a society.
The UK government have implemented some very worrying surveillance legislation and are proposing yet more in the forthcoming ‘Snooper’s charter’ whereby individuals internet browsing history is recorded and monitored by the UK state. It is possible that such information can be effective in screening to uncover terrorist plotting. However, we are led to fear terrorist atrocities, whilst in reality we are more likely to be hit by a bus. The mass media, television, newspapers, the media, focus on these awful events and the everyday preventable loss of life through avoidable poverty is somewhat brushed aside. It does seem as though we are living in an Orwellian dystopia.
There is much evidence of this, from CCTV on almost every street, monitoring of our movements online and through our mobile devices. People have got used to be monitored, whilst we may not like it, it has become part of modern life. what scares me is that all this surveillance, with this proposed legislation becomes legitimate, legal. Once data is officially held it becomes a commodity that can much more easily be used by the state or corporations to influence our lives. For example, insurance premiums may be effected by accessing this data, potential employers may screen such data so only people from a certain demographic are able to assume positions of authority. It is like how only through ‘membership of the party’ can one live a decent life. It is genuinely concerning.
One of the most interesting facets of ‘1984’ was newspeak, how the totalitarian regime managed to change language so that dissent and rational though became more difficult. In the novel such phrases as ‘War is peace’ and ‘Freedom is slavery’ exemplified doublethink. The modern political realm is full of doublethink, In Modern Britain we accept that ‘Development is making things worse’ and ‘Planning is something you do after you’ve finished’. In party politics it is even worse, or should I say more developed, policy is rarely defended from criticism, rather critiques are attacked for who says them, whether they be members of the proletariat, academics, ‘liberals’, jews or black disabled lesbians, no-one outside the inner party/establishment is really allowed a say. Indeed when anyone who speaks up, there is a fear they they may disappear without trace.
It all seems very dark, when the ‘enemy’ of ‘islamic terrorists’, was itself created by funding of Arab groups by the Western establishment and then dodgy ill-advised wars begun with the result of fostering ‘islamic terrorism’. The establishment created their own enemy, whom there own proletariat are led to live in fear of, so we allow the establishment to monitor us, to watch over us through our webcams. Economically people are thrust at the age of 18 into debt to the state and financial industries (who are largely the same people), then to achieve a decent standard of living and repay these ‘debts’ we are encouraged to take jobs that pay well, yet exploit others, rather than do anything useful. If the 14 year old me could see the world of 2015, he would be very worried indeed and I am worried. Actually we are powerless to do anything about it, instead simply resist, and try to make the most of it.