By Mark Antony Rossi
The terrifying novel, “1984”, was brought into the world seven years before Israeli intelligence agents smuggled out Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech to a special Communist party congress in Moscow during the month of February 1956. The address gave evidence to nasty rumors circulating about Stalin’s regime for nearly two decades. In a somewhat bold reformation effort to put a “human face” on Communism,
Khrushchev revealed for the first time the existence and details of massive gulag prison camps, political show trials, and the millions of speedy executions that followed.
The full text of this remarkable speech coupled with later high-level Soviet defectors painted a gruesome portrait of a society ruled by an almost godlike cult figure (Stalin) who retained absolute power through rigged trials, death camps, camera surveillance, spies, twisted propaganda, and universal fear enforcement. Incredibly, these horrible revelations bore a striking resemblance to the totalitarian state George Orwell created and called Oceania.
In Orwell’s “1984”, Oceania is one of three divisions, Eastasia and Eurasia being the other two, into which the world was dissected. All three parts are perpetually at war. In Oceania, the Party has erected a super police state able to crush all opposition, real or imagined. The head of the Party is Big Brother, a secular demy-god wielding enormous power through the means of universally mounted two-way video screens watching the movements of citizens.
The population is kept in line by horrible distractions such as the fear of foreign enemies who must be destroyed in perpetual wars. There are no guarded moments, for if the view-screens are not watching to increase one’s tension, the food rations, ultra-rigid sexual contact rules, and new indoctrination forums shall surely complete the Party’s objective: “Keep ‘em too frightened to even consider rebellion.” But Winston Smith, “1984’s” tragic hero, wants to rebel, make love, and hate the system he sees as stripping the humanity from his defiant bones.
Winston Smith is the stand-in for every lover of liberty willing to fight a tyranny ruthlessly suppressing the very murmur of morality. Is it right to ask what can one man do against Thought Police, Universal Viewscreens, Zombified countrymen, and a Super-powerful murderous organization extinguishing persons for the slightest misstep? Certainly if not just for the complexity of the task and tremendous sacrifice it demands!
Still the question must remain rhetorical since life in such a barbarous place as Oceania is inhuman. The essence of humanity is freedom, without it we become lower than animals, which, regardless of evolution or creation, are creatures free to roam the planet. There must be rebellion in horrid dictatorships for it is natural to abhor and resist imprisonment.
It should strike some as interesting that dictatorships expect and prepare for these outbursts. Evil leaders know what they are doing is wrong and suppress any action threatening their stranglehold. Winston Smith is every dictator’s worse nightmare: a non-believer swimming in a sea of sedated citizenry. This non-believer causes terror in the hearts of dictators who suspect he can convince others to join a rebellious crusade. There is strength in numbers, a dictum that serves good or evil. Periodically, life does imitate art; history informs us that the Winston Smith’s trapped in evil societies are few and far between. With those kinds of odds its small wonder why men of diabolical dreams are able to conceive and construct totalitarian regimes.
Decades before Orwell began writing “1984”; Lenin observed and instituted most of what Orwell spoke of. Even a cursory comparison of Lenin’s world and the fictional Oceania is frighteningly similar save one important exception. Lenin, and Stalin after him, saw world domination as an end, a final goal that would ensure class equality, the cessation of hostilities and poverty. Hitler’s plan, other than racial superiority through genocide, is nearly the same: world domination, no more war, and no more poverty. These demented dictators believed in their own propaganda. Immediately proceeding planetary victory the masses left would slavishly follow, thus, the requirement of radical “surgery” to remove the opposition (racial or political) ceases operation. There are no more dissenters left alive.
The dictators in 1984 personified Evil with methods and doctrines even Lenin, Stalin, or Hitler had not imagined. Unlike most real-life dictators who believe their bloodshed has a supreme purpose to build a great and perfect society, Orwell’s leaders are not true believers of their own propaganda. Suffice to say, they are not madmen, but wicked men whose sole purpose is to retain power through perpetual bloodshed. There are no grand schemes of Paradise or Purity; the State exercises unrelenting brutality to exist for its own sake.
If readers were to examine between the lines, it is clear that the three divisions of the world mutually agreed to a perpetual state of war with each other. The eternal war was state policy in each of the three parties. It was one of their principle weapons to maintain power over the population by distraction and population death-control. It is evident none of the three divisions envisioned or preferred a version of world domination, for such a development would surely loosen the tightly bound minds of the masses. A well-known military fact states “the more ground you take, the more ground you must hold.” Orwell served his readers the very ugliest of scenarios, an actual hell on earth, converting people into subhuman creatures bent on subservience, strictly rationed food, ever-changing twisted rules, and military engagements ad infinitum. Life in a Stalinist gulag would be preferable.
As devoted citizens of a great democracy, we must not sit back and chuckle in the foolish belief that none of what Orwell painted in “1984” could ever happen here. I have already pointed out that much of what Orwell wrote in fiction, actually took place for nearly seven decades in Soviet Russia. Novels such as “1984” or “Brave New World” are light-years beyond mere entertainment pieces casually digested along with chocolate mints.
A number of Orwell and Huxley’s fictional situations have happened because these authors invented societies based upon their true life examinations and beliefs of the human animal. The human animal’s flawed character is their premise, tainted by original sin and corrupted by the additive taste of power. In an age of advanced technology capable of moving faster than the scope of ethical deliberation, it is fair and wise to assume certain aspects of Orwellian tinkering can surface in democratic societies.
In previous essays I have briefly touched upon a few modern-day Orwellian comparisons: Government tampering with computer privacy, personal camcorders, and the mass Big Brother effect, genetic discrimination through blood tests, false video images to fool the masses, digital deities created by evil cults, organized organ thefts—the list goes on and on. Every single one of these warnings carries a heightened urgency by virtue of this fact: The necessary technological components already exist. All that is required to empower Tomorrow’s Monsters is an ignorant demographic and your prejudiced consent (which are almost identical.)
In today’s environment of digital information highways, novels with futuristic themes become increasingly difficult to write. Technological pace is outstripping the best of creative minds. Space travel is commonplace. Ninety percent of people in the United States believe there is life on other planets. Slightly more than half believe Earth is routinely visited by aliens. In this current weakened society sick ironies are a daily occurrence. Horror movies do not frighten people as much as terrorism or unemployment.
America has lost some of its magical appeal. Sizable segments of our population have completely turned their backs on Government and the Church. Many of these born-again cynics are depending on Science and Technology to energize our economy and help restore the tarnished American Dream. Some are hoping the answers to their obesity, low self-esteem, failing grades, or perceived sorry-state-of-existence will be delivered in a colored pill, easy injection, or digital device.
Lovers of liberty, privacy and what is rightfully free, are called to resist complacency and watch over serious ethical debate on potential negative uses of new technologies. Each new advancement is pregnant with opportunities bridging the gulf between democratic government and fascist dictatorship. That pronouncement does not sound as far-fetched when considering the computer revolution’s creation of an entirely new class of criminal activity.
Computer crimes throughout the world increase approximately 700% a year. Criminals rob banks, forge passports and currency, and steal vital private information that can easily be stored in a tiny flash drive and sold to other groups intent on theft, blackmail, sex slavery, or assassination. Law enforcement agencies throughout the world are barely able to solve 2% of these crimes. Individuals with computer science degrees are becoming as valuable to police departments as persons with criminal science degrees.
Evil utilization of advanced technology is now quite common and increasing. We should not deceive ourselves into believing illegal technological activities are the domain of computer geeks with too much time on their hands. Fascist political groups in America and Europe in the past two years have invaded the Internet, flooding its cyberspace with slurs and recruitment pleas. Whether this development is the genesis of fascist infiltration is dependent upon how vigilant democratic societies are in recognizing the threat. Democratic government, though imperfect in reasoning and glacial in pace, is still Humanity’s best chance at improving its lot. We should think long and hard the next time a new-fangled device or futuristic notion is cleverly promoted. One day it may be used against us and humankind will be hard-pressed to prevent Oceania from washing upon its unprotected free shores.