1984 by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Review added on 03/09/2017 after second reading.
Date first read unknown. I was either a teenager or in my early 20s at the time.
What I remembered about this book before picking it up again was that Big Brother was always malevolently watching. That's about it. The particulars were absent from my long term memory. I could not recall much about either character or plot.
I think I will remember more after reading it a second time, not only because the story is fresh in my mind but because there was so much in this story that seemed to resonate with current events. We know that American intelligence agencies are fully capable of - and likely are - eavesdropping on citizens. The technology exists and the threat of terrorism provides fearful incentive to loosen privacy rights. In fact, on the radio this morning the FBI director pretty much said no one should expect privacy. So, yes, Big Brother is definitely watching and listening and monitoring.
This book also introduces the concept of doublethink. One has only to do a quick Youtube search to find video footage of Kellyanne Conway using the phrase "alternative facts" to explain away the current administrations lies. Further, by persistently labeling the mainstream media as liars, the administration is laying a foundation for those already predisposed to have faith in the goodness of the President they've elected to dismiss anything that might challenge their worldview.
This willful denial of reality on one hand and the eagerness to believe in these "alternative facts" is strikingly similar to doublethink.
Luckily, the similarities between Oceania and America end there. In reality, the press fights on and the three branches of government offer checks and balances sorely missing from The Party's style of governance. We do not rewrite history books, textbooks, or newspaper articles to suit a carefully structured present narrative. We object to torture where false confessions may be uttered simply to stop the pain.
Orwell's Oceania is definitely not the future anyone would wish to mold into being. Instead, it is a warning of power unchecked. It is a call to awareness, encouraging the reader to think critically and to fight against governmental oppression.
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