Big Brother is Watching You

Russ Jamieson Books, Spirituality

1984 by George Orwell was released in 1949 and is truly a nightmare vision of the future (aka Kim Jong-Un’s wet dream). A world where we have no freedoms, we are constantly at war, and we are under constant surveillance by the government. Today, some of these premonitions have come true… just think about the FBI trying to get a backdoor into Iphones, internet surveillance, Edward Snowden (former CIA employee whistle blower), CCTV, etc. We can pretty much assume that everything we say on the phone or write on a keyboard is now recorded and stored in a database somewhere. The FBI can use your phone to record everything you’re doing without you even knowing it’s recording (Slate.com).  Oh, and your webcam, yea, they can hack into that and watch your every move without you knowing as well. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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Plot: After a nuclear war, the world is split up into three states: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia.  The story revolves around Winston Smith who lives in Oceania and is a low ranking member of the ruling party.  The ruling party is always watching him (and other citizens) through a telescreen.  The telescreen is basically a television with a camera on it.  The party’s omniscient leader, aka big brother, is usually on the screen peering down at them and the camera on the telescreen is always watching its citizens… everywhere they go.  The party controls everything from food to language, and even history.  What you say and even what you think (thought crime) can get you taken to the ministry of love (don’t be fooled by the name).  Any kind of rebellious thought is met with your disappearance and every trace of you being wiped from the world.

1984 Big Brother

Screenshot taken from the movie Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Free thought, individuality, and sex are prohibited.  There is no such thing as the family unit.  Year by year, food rations are reduced in an effort to support the never ending war against Eastasia and/or Eurasia.  Their language is slowly being replaced by newspeak, which uses fewer words and is supposed to be more efficient.  In reality it’s being implemented to prevent political rebellion.  By eliminating words like freedom and rebellion, the citizens can’t express themselves or even think about rebellion if they don’t have the words for it.  The population is spoon-fed information that big brother approves of.  They are, in short, brainwashed to believe and do what they are told.

Winston works in the ministry of truth (should be called the ministry of lies) as a historical records editor.  When a party prediction is wrong, someone is wiped out, or when the party wants to eradicate something, Winston goes into the records and fixes it.  He alters historical records in order to keep the political party in a positive light.  One day Winston gets the urge to write down his thoughts in a journal (which is also illegal).  He knows he is doomed as soon as he has the thought to do this, but does it anyway.  He begins to suspect that if he can have these thoughts, then there is a secret underground society that also has these thoughts.

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Screenshot taken from the movie Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

He catches a beautiful girl (she also works in the ministry of truth) staring at him and begins to suspect that she is an informant and on to him for his illegal activities (journaling).  He begins to hate her and even thinks about killing her.  They bump into each other in the hall one day and she slips him a piece of paper that says “I love you”.  They begin spending time together in secret and making love.  They spend lots of time together in a rented room above a second hand store that doesn’t have a telescreen.  Their emotions start to come back to life, but Winston knows it’s only a matter of time before they are caught.  Winston’s urge to find an underground society grows and he suspects one of the higher ups in the inner circle, O’Brien, is part of this society.

1984 Winston and Julia

Screenshot taken from the movie Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

O’Brien invites Winston over to his house to pick up a 10th edition newspeak dictionary, and Winston takes this as definitive proof that he is part of the underground society.  He shows up to O’Brien’s house with the girl and O’Brien hands him a book.. He isn’t handed a newspeak dictionary, instead he is handed a secret book that tells the truth about the political party and exposes all of its lies.  O’Brien welcomes them to the underground society and tells them to read the book.  Over the next several days, Winston and the girl read the book together in their secret hideaway.

Winston and Julia were in bed together, sleeping the day away, when suddenly soldiers burst in the room.  The store owner was a member of the thought police and had turned them in.  There was a secret telescreen in their room the whole time.  They are both taken to the ministry of love.  O’Brien enters his cell and reveals that he had tricked Winston.  O’Brien wasn’t against the party at all.  O’Brien then spends several months torturing and brainwashing Winston so that he accepts the party and loves big brother.  Winston resists for a long time, and says that the party will never be able to break the spirit of man, but he finally breaks when he is brought to room 101.

rat-mask-1984

Screenshot taken from the movie Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Room 101 is where you meet your worst fear.  Winston had a deep fear of rats.  O’Brien then straps a cage to his head full of rats and threatens to let the rats eat his face… At this point, Winston breaks and begs O’Brien to do it to Julia instead and not to him.  O’Brien had finally broken his spirit, which is what he wanted to do all along.  Winston finally accepts the party and loves big brother.  After he is released, he meets Julia again.  They are both broken and don’t feel anything for each other.  They have both been successfully brainwashed and reintegrated back into the dystopia.  Needless to say, this book doesn’t have a happy ending.  The book is basically a warning about the dangers of a totalitarian government.

Lessons from the book

1 – We need to maintain the freedom to say, write, and read whatever we choose at any cost.  Censorship should be thought of as a tool to manipulate what we are able to view.  Censorship is control.  If we continue censoring everything that offends someone, eventually we’ll have nothing left. A school even tried to censor parts of 1984 so they could distribute it to the students.  The idea that it would be okay to censor a book about over censorship is quite hilarious.  Pay attention to the books that schools ban. Don’t let it go unnoticed.

threats-to-freedom-of-speech_george-orwell

2 – Do not blindly believe everything someone else says, especially authoritarian sources.  Authority deliberately obscures fact and truth in order to serve its own purposes.  Question everything and see propaganda for what it is.  This goes for everything from history, to what you read on the internet, to advertisements.  Check your sources and get second opinions… be informed.

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3 – Do not be distracted by the media.  Today, it seems as though more people are concerned about Brad and Angelina rather than the State of the Union, or other real issues.  That’s a problem.  We are being fed distraction instead of the real news.  Don’t support media outlets that don’t give you real news.  See infographs below.

The illusion of choice when it comes to TV

news-media-consolidation

The illusion of choice when it comes to food

The Illusion of Choice - Food

4 – Stand up for what you believe in.  If your leaders said 2 + 2 = 5 and held a gun to your head, would you correct them?

5 – Keep authority in check.  Remember, it’s a government for the people, by the people.  Checks and balances must remain in place and be effective because absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Big Brother is Watching

6 – Be yourself, be unique, be an individual.  Having so many different flavors is what makes this world so special.  Variety is the spice of life.  We don’t want to all conform and act like a bunch of robots, do we?  Where is the fun in that?  Protect and fight for your individuality.

7 – Totalitarianism only serves those at the top (inner party) by exploiting those at the bottom, using the power and control of government (outer party).

8 – Keep technology in check.  Understand the technology you possess and it’s true capabilities.

9 – Remember and learn from the past, otherwise we are doomed to repeat it.  Even if something is a black mark on our nation, it’s better to learn from it and grow instead of pretending it didn’t happen.  Just like when you do something in your own life, you learn from it, grow, and don’t let it hold you back in the future.

10 – Fear is used as a tool to break and control (room 101).  Although Orwell suggests fear conquers all (when Winston begs O’Brien to torture Julia instead of him), I still believe that love conquers all.  The problem is that love doesn’t exist in this society, so Winston finally breaks.

Love Fear and Rats

Russ JamiesonBig Brother is Watching You