1984 Revisited After an Election Year
1984 by George Orwell is a perfect book, to me.
I fell in love with Orwell’s writing after reading Animal Farm, which, for the first time in my life, showcased the dangers of power and government. Orwell awoke, in me, a sense of understanding. He showed me that the forces that are in power will always be in power — we, the normal people, just fight over what they look like and never what they actually do.
When I sat down to read 1984, I never imagined that it would become one of my favorite novels. Yet, it did. There was something that felt dangerous about reading Orwell’s words. I felt as though I was reading something I shouldn’t know. He convinced me that we are all linked in this fight against “Big Brother” and with every passing year, we get closer and closer to complete party control.
I remember walking through the journey of enlightenment with Winston. I recall the feeling of forbidden love through his relationship with Julia. I felt like I understood what it meant when Orwell wrote “2+2=5.” I resonated with Winston when he wanted to overthrow the party through the proletariate. It felt as though 1984 was as much a part of my world, as I was a part of its existence.
That is why this book is so unique to look back on during an election year.
Over the past year, we have all seen the tweets quoting George Orwell’s words found throughout the book. We see them under tweets that support Democrat candidates, and we see them under tweets that support Republican candidates. We were so quick to dismiss each governmental shift as the coming of “Newspeak” and the one-party system. However, I found that those quoting Orwell's words are the same ones that missed the entire point of the book. It wasn’t a book written solely to strike fear in a form of government that resembled totalitarianism. It was a book also written to remind the reader that any form of blind submission, to anything, is dangerous.
Blind submission is what made the society Orwell wrote about so vulnerable. “The Party” took over when a gap in the society presented the opportunity. Once in power, it changed the system and construction of society. It controlled the past, which meant it held the keys to the present and the future. Yet, all its power came from those who didn’t question its very existence within the world. They took what “The Party,” said and believed it, even when reason and evidence could deduce that what “The Party,” said was false.
“If all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered.” (Orwell, 34).
Blind acceptance gave the party power to alter the past right before the present’s eye. A lack of questioning and accountability always leads to a dangerous power structure. The inherent danger in the notion of blind acceptance is that it produces blind hatred.
Blind acceptance of any political ideology sets up walls of false trust, half-truths, and lies that alters the very fabric of human communication. You begin to hate people solely because the popular narrative is to hate them. The party tells you to hate through subliminal messaging, and you buy the narrative for all it’s worth. Think about the nature of Trump's presidency, concerning the perception of immigrants, as an example.
And in Orwell’s world, much like our own, it was that hate which made “The Party” so strong.
“It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same — everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same — people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.” (Orwell, 220).
If we, the least powerful in society, realized the power in not hating others, those setting the standard of hate wouldn’t have any footing to govern on. There wouldn't be blind acceptance to what the party told us to do, say, think, or hate. There would be no need for divulging realities, different networks, alternative news stations, and skewed“facts”. There would simply be the truth, and that truth would govern our reality. That objective truth would constantly remind us that those different from us, are still just like us.
So in an election year, 1984 becomes an exceedingly interesting revisit. Those on both sides have assumed a sort of blind hatred, simply because they are told to hate by those in power. Little do we know that the blind acceptance of hate is our tribute to being governed by the party. Our quick tendency to accept hatred among ourselves, and war between ourselves based on our differences, opens the door for the dreaded “Big Brother” that we so adamantly fear.
We claim to seek a revolution, but that very revolution isn't founded on how similar we are as humans. The revolution is founded on anger and hatred. We want to replace “The Party” with a clone of itself. How can revolution take place if the walls between our worlds are still being built, and the hatred among us is only beginning to simmer?
Blind acceptance — it's one of the biggest takeaways found throughout 1984. George Orwell taught us many things throughout this book, yet, for as much as we quote it, we seem to have missed one of its most poignant points; our blind hatred makes us so easily exploited by those above us.