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1984: Life Replicates Fiction

Storytelling: A Tool For Uprisings?

Humans are born with the ability to weave stories out of mundanity, to create something out of nothing, to mould simple alphabets and bring them to life, and simultaneously allow those very alphabets to destroy life as it has always been, and provoke a revolution.

Life is seen to replicate art far more than art replicates life. Art is an individual expression of a thought, and although it may be loosely inspired by real life implications, its ability to exaggerate a singular string of imagination and transcend liminilaties is what gives it the edge to bend reality as per its wish. This imitation of art is primarily observed in literature, as words written centuries ago, by authors who were confined to the intellectual capacity and sources of their time, awaken and reanimate themselves into the culture, and the politics of human life today.

In a society, where our worst fears and nightmares have manifested themselves into actuality, where authoritarians and governors seem to have forgotten that all humans are human at the end of the day- enemies are created, people are belittled and degenerated, minorities are persecuted, our bodies are policed and surveilled, and human rights are treated as a sinister joke, it would not be far from the truth to call our current situation a dystopia.

Orwell: On The Past and Subsequent Future

The dystopian narratives we so openly imbibe and absorb, are all grounded in some form of reality, and speak volumes about our ability to analyse the era we live in, and creatively express how we feel about the same. 1984 may be a work of fiction, but all fiction is, is an inflated and hyperbolic reflection of the truth, and dystopian fiction in particular is a lens meant for opening up discourses about the visible patterns and trends of deteriorating political stability.

1984, a dystopian classic, was written by Eric Arthur Blair under the pen name ‘George Orwell’. Published in 1949, this was a novel that shook the community to its very core. Set in the fictional state of Oceania, this book is an insight into the functioning of a totalitarian government with jurisdiction that extends to an individual’s intimate and personal life, and intends to brainwash the very population it controls, until they become mere, lifeless puppets. Ruled by the IngSoc (wordplay on English Socialism), the entire state is expected to worship and devote their lives to the ominous Big Brother. It expresses the sentiments of an individual stuck in a society that is not their own, with memories they cannot distinguish from fiction, and where freedom necessarily implies slavery, and ignorance implies truth, all through the eyes of Winston Smith, a beaurocrat with the itching desire to incite a rebellion in an otherwise rigid societal structure.

Newspeak and Doublethink: Curbing Expression?

Apart from desiring and executing complete dominion, the political party also demanded the creation of a new, morally ambiguous language- Newspeak. The language consisted of liminal vocabulary to diminish our realm of thoughts, and restrict the same. The implications of Newspeak were grounded not only in limiting the thoughts of an individual, but also in constantly rewriting history as we know it, and twisting it to suit the whims and fancies of the all-powerful ruler. The party believed that the first step in gaining full reign of the masses was to make sure every tiny bit of personal and general information they thought they knew could be liable to doubts, and all they ingrained in their minds was what was fed to them.

The term ‘DoubleThink’, now a recurrent word in our vocabulary, was first coined through this book. DoubleThink essentially refers to the belief in contradictory opinions, and losing faith in the singular objective truth. This occurs mainly due to political indoctrination, and induces unconscious subjugation in this alternate reality.

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, … , to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself…” (Orwell 1984)

Big Brother, the self proclaimed omniscient, omnipotent identity was all but the personification of the unseen leader of the Party, and was used to incite fear and submission in the masses through the recurring slogans of “Big Brother is Watching You”.

Some of the other necessary elements that are pertinent in understanding the Orwellian universe are: Thought Police, Memory Hole, ThinkPol and Unperson. The threatening undertones of these words point to the manifestation of a near purgatory, an almost anti-utopia.

1984: No Longer a Hyperbolic Satire?

Today, it is almost impossible to reference the compulsive brainwashing induced by the media and the government, and the over-the-top propaganda adopted by those in power, without mentioning 1984.

1984 is a story about fighting a battle that you know you’ve already lost, of not being able to trust even your innermost memories, of living not only under 24/7 surveillance, but also impending doom and loneliness. It’s an echo of what was about to come, and as 2021 comes to a close, this is the time to go back to the warnings of this book, and pay heed to them. George Orwell’s words were not simply a satire against Stalin Totalitarianism, they were also a caution against the misuse of technology and AI and their role in complete dominion of those with wealth and power.

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” (Orwell 1984)

Reality as we seem to know it, is already distorted through rampant disinformation and falsification of the truth. Television, one of the greatest tools to exert power and propaganda, fabricates conformity to a system of endless consumption – not merely through advertising but also through its focus on those at the top of the self proclaimed hierarchy. It also promotes endless productivity, which has the capacity to turn toxic very soon, through inspirational pep talks and exaggerated success stories. The herd mentality, and screen culture have efficiently diminished our capacity to think for ourselves, and have thus reduced us to mindless creatures.

Other dystopian universes such as that of The Handmaid’s Tale have translated into a cruel reality through the adoption of the Texas Abortion Law, and the realm of Squid Games is a staunt reflection of the seemingly post-apocalyptic simulation where one would resort to any means necessary, for a slight chance at monetary gain. Dystopia may be fiction, but the existence of dystopian governments is very much a reality; and we are at the cusp of it right now.

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