Are We Living in 1984’s Orwellian Nightmare? We live in a world of turbulent change. Due to growing interconnected-ness, evolving technologies, and fast-paced global events, Americans and the citizens of other advanced economies are enjoying the highest level of material well-being in human history.
However, every coin has two faces. While many of us enjoy excellent health outcomes
and consumer goods, governments and corporations are struggling to find ways to
maintain power and influence in a chaotic world.
Surveillance practices have become more widespread. These are trends prevalent in 1984 by George Orwell. Could Orwell’s classic novel, first published in 1949, have predicted the woes of modern society?
The Relevance of 1984
In 2017, the dystopian 1984 reached the top spot on Amazon’s chart of best-selling
books. This sales trend is directly related to political events in the United States. Many
readers of 1984 purchased the book after hearing the term “Alternative Facts” from a Trump administration official in January 2017. The expression calls to mind “two plus two equals five” – a slogan that means that reality is whatever the government decides it to be.
While it is easy to see these similarities between real-world events and 1984 and
decide that we are living in a dystopian society where the proles are our only source of
hope, we should first consider our differences from the world of the novel.
Difference 1: Material Wealth
In 1984, the people of Oceania were forced to endure poor lifestyles. Food options were
bland and repetitive, and material well-being left much to be desired. In one chapter,
Winston is forced to purchase rusty shaving razors from the black market. The economy
of 1984 barely supports day-to-day affairs.
Contrast this with most real-world locations in Europe and the Americas. You can buy a
diverse selection of food and consumer goods from numerous stores. From this material
perspective, most of the world is not remotely similar to Orwell’s dystopia.
Difference 2: Governmental Institutions
The rulers of Oceania in 1984 reigned with an iron fist. They bombed their own citizens,
waged misinformation campaigns, and carried out extra-judicial justice. In the Americas
and in Europe, democratic institutions temper these actions.
We have acknowledged our differences to show that our society is not quite as bad as
the world Orwell predicted. However, we are quickly approaching a dystopian society in
the category of surveillance. Chillingly, 1984 predicted real-world surveillance in several
Orwellian Surveillance vs. Real-World Surveillance
The surveillance state in 1984 reaches all the way from people’s workplaces to their
state-owned apartments. Their lives are regulated by surveillance devices known as
telescreens. Even in rural areas, the government spies on people through listening
devices hidden in trees. As a last resort, the government of Oceania observes citizens
through a network of indoctrinated children who act as spies.
In our world, we do not have such an obviously aggressive surveillance state. Instead,
surveillance systems are embedded in public places and technologies. Instead of
telescreens, we have security cameras and virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and
Social media platforms also offer third parties like Cambridge Analytica many opportunities to track your habits. Consumer products typically record data for
commercial purposes, but the potential for abuse exists. We can opt out of most of
these consumer goods to protect our privacy.
George Orwell anticipated the watchful gaze of the government in the modern world, but
he failed to fully grasp how it might play out through the Internet. Governments and
corporations can track your location through your IP address in a way similar to GPS.
The Internet is an important part of our lives, so most of us cannot simply stop using the
Internet to conceal our locations.
Fortunately, a virtual private network like ExpressVPN can be used to protect your
personal information—your email correspondence, your photographs, your location data
and more—from third parties like governments, ISPs, corporations, and rogue hackers.
In a world where the Internet is prevalent, a VPN is one of the best ways to fight the
Do you think that we’re living in an Orwellian Nightmare or not? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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