Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: 1984

"The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already."
                                                                                             -Winston Smith

George Orwell's futuristic (at the time) novel about a totalitarian government feels especially relevant in today's political climate where our president keeps secret "kill lists" and has claimed the right to indefinitely detain or assassinate American citizens without due process. When people describe these things as "Orwellian", they aren't far off.

With record levels of poverty and wage stagnation, America has made greater gains in wealth than any other country. Meanwhile we are in secret wars in around 100 countries. Passages in 1984 that explain the use of perpetual warfare to maintain class division and inequality were especially dog-eared:
"The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labor power without producing anything that can be consumed... In principal the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population."
By the third section of the book, Orwell pushes from cautionary tale into an extreme that doesn't seem to relate to our current problems. The Party maintains power for it's own sake and expends so much of it's energy to degrade and cause pain in order to control even the thoughts of the citizenry. I feel like the people in power may not care whether we are in pain, but that our pain is not their main goal. They're bound to have more free time to enjoy their power if the masses are distracted by cable and overwork.

Which reminds me of the following comparison between 1984 and A Brave New World:

Perhaps it is a mix.

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