By: Dr. Shruti Shankar Gaur
Reading a George Orwell book is DANGEROUS
1984 is no different. In his typical critique style, Orwell knitted the story of a society in unprecedented times mixing satire, dark humour, and metaphor to showcase fascism as the world of Big Brother, the totalitarian government order where one even breathes only when told to. Reading George Orwell, one tends to look around to find any clues of Orwell’s 1984 London in today’s society. And to one’s surprise one can find many, definitely in much subtler forms. ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’. Wherever you go, whatever you do, every movement is under surveillance night & day, in & out. There’s THOUGHTPOLICE to catch the culprits for THOUGHTCRIME. Independent thinking is banned & labelled as crime. And by the way in case….. there’s no respite to it, there’s no place to hide.
The same question pops up in different forms be it through the Gorilla of Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael or the Blue/ Red Pill of Matrix, Vandana Shiva’s India Divided, Yuval Nohari’s Sapiens & Homo Dues or Jonathan Livingston’s Seagull or Charles Eistenstein’s Ascent of Humanity & Sacred Economics, Rabindranath Tagore’s Nationalism, M.M.Jha’s School without Walls, Peter Wein’s Dead Poet’s Society, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar or Inception, …………and so on. The one question that opens up the Pandora’s Box—-“IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE WORLD?”
The protagonist of 1984, Winston Smith is asking the same question again & again. He can sense it yet not make out what it is exactly. I have been asking the same question for more than a decade now and just like Winston Smith, ‘the more one asks, the more one is entrapped, and the more one is convinced. It’s a viscous cycle & there’s no coming out of it’.
I could completely relate with Smith. That’s the magic of Orwell, he creates a resonance between the reader & the characters to break the heart in the end. When I finished the book, I couldn’t digest for what had happened. I questioned again, “What was I expecting? A happy ending, a superhero saving the world (That’s how we are wired). I should have known. George Orwell’s writing is brutal, it rips you apart, seeps fear to the core to the extent that one wonders what if the ‘Big Brother’ is actually watching ‘YOU’. May be the Big Brother of today is the Artificial Intelligence which we carry in mobile forms. May be its in many other forms……..who knows!
1984 enlightens as well, in more than one way. For example, Orwell spotlighted a new perspective to the question: Why pleasure of any kind is considered evil? Why every religion considers pleasure as a taboo? Why celibacy is revered? Why sex is the filthiest thing? Why the society preaches that one needs to relinquish all pleasures to become a ‘Buddha’? Quoting George Orwell from 1984 (page 134-135). Hope it makes sense to you as it did to me……..
“Unlike Winston, she had grasped the inner meaning of the party’s sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore had to be destroyed. What was more important was the sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leadership worship…………………When you make love you are using up energy; you feel happy and you give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bustling with energy all the time. All this marching up and down, cheering and waving flags, vomiting hatred and angst is simply sex gone sour. If you are happy inside yourself, why would you get excited about the Big Brother and the three year plans and the Two Minute Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?
That was very true, he thought. There was a direct intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy or religious fervour. For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity & the fanaticism which the Party and the franchise needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful basic instinct and using it as a driving force? The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it into account.”
1984 is a WARNING. In a fiction of its own kind where Orwell beautifully laid out ideas of extremism, nationalism, political propaganda, revolution, war, & totalitarianism. He magnified it manifold to bring to our level of awareness how the world with extreme censorship & control would be like? Would we want to live in George Orwell’s 1984? Does today’s world in any way mirrors his 1984 London? Are we willing to identify the seeds & nip the evil in the bud?
1984 is not for the theorist
1984 is not for the closed minded
1984 is for the realist
1984 is for the inquisitive
Don’t read 1984 if you love your Brotherhood
Don’t read 1984 if you are fine with the ‘BIG BROTHER WATCHING YOU’
It’s not meant for you.
PS: Still, I would recommend ‘Animal Farm’ as his masterpiece. A must read for every wo/man & child in the world.