1984 Book Review
Following the election of President Donald Trump, George Orwell’s 1984 witnessed a dramatic increase in sales and interest. This is not surprising. The book essentially warns about the future of governance. It moves readers to understand that democratic institutions are fragile and should therefore be guarded jealously and at all costs. While Orwell created the book as a work of fiction, it is unfortunate that nearly all the warnings that he issued have been realized. The book is more relevant today than at any other time in its history and is easy to recommend.
To best understand 1984, readers should place it in the context of modern government. Today, while it is true that democracy is becoming more widely accepted as a form of governance, autocracy is also gaining traction. South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia are just some of the regions that are witnessing the rise of autocracy and dictatorship. Orwell must have written the book for these audiences to warn them about the dangers of dystopic governments and the need for citizens to be vigilant.
As noted above, 1984 should be framed within the context of modern government. In addition to highlighting the need to safeguard basic liberties and democratic governance, the book also warns about misinformation. It reminds readers that to secure their grip on power, it is not uncommon for governments to resort to lies and misinformation. This is certainly the case today. The emergence of fake news is clear evidence that Orwell was right about the use of media to mislead, suppress and dominate the citizenry.
While 1984 focuses mostly on the failings and violations committed by the government of Oceania, this book also blames such institutions as the media for the fall of democracy. According to Orwell, the media has been complicit in the actions of the government. He could very well have been describing the media organizations today. Across the world, instead of holding governments accountable, media houses are either too frightened to call for accountability or share the same vision held by autocratic regimes; a vision of totalitarian governance, human rights violations and the promotion of inequality.
The accurate predictions that Orwell made about the future of humanity forces readers to reflect on what experiences motivated him to write the book. Orwell had encounters with an authoritarian government and his personal experiences must have influenced his writing. For example, he personally witnessed how the government lies and misleads. In the book, government misinformation is among the key themes that he explores. Orwell’s history indicates that autocracy has been a part of governance for years and is not a recent development.
There is no question that 1984 has resonated with readers. In fact, this book has inspired other creations. For example, there are numerous television shows and films that are informed on the themes that this book explores. The impact of the book on American culture, art and entertainment highlights its enduring influence. As the book’s message becomes even louder and clearer, it should be expected that more and more readers will find it enlightening. Perhaps the book could even create the conditions for cultural and political revolutions.
One of the criticisms that are often levelled against Orwell’s book is that its predictions are inaccurate and extreme. For instance, there are those who argue that the authoritarian governments that Orwell’s book references often die out and are replaced by democratic regimes. This is partly true. However, it is difficult to ignore the recent emergence of strong men in such areas as Europe. Even in the US, democratic ideals and values are being eroded. The fact that established democracies are regressing validates Orwell and indicates that he fully understood the need to protect democracy.
The tendency by governments to resort to torture and oppression to maintain their hold onto power further validates 1984. In the book, Orwell describes how the government of Oceania relies on violence and cruelty to secure compliance and obedience. Sadly, the events in this book reflect developments being witnessed today. For instance, in young democracies, it is common for governments to violate the rights of their people. What is even more unfortunate is that the US, an established democracy has expressed support for torture.
Every page of 1984 is heavy with immensely relevant insight. In addition to the issues discussed above, the book also explores the role of surveillance. According to Orwell, the government surveils its people to prevent revolutions. American readers will relate with the developments in the book. For instance, recently, it was revealed that the government has been conducting a massive surveillance program. While American society does not match Oceania in every way, it is certainly plagued by such problems as the breach of citizens’ privacy rights.
Orwell focused much of his attention on how the government uses such tools as violence to keep citizens compliant. However, he also suggests that other entities collude with the government to perpetrate oppression. Businesses are among these entities. In the US today, by collecting huge amounts of personal data, American businesses are contributing to the creation of the dystopian society on which 1984 is based. There is a need for the businesses to join American patriots in defending the gains and progress that the nation has made through years of toiling and sacrifices.
In closing, Orwell aimed to caution citizens against staying silent. It is unfortunate that his hope for an active and vigilant citizenry has not been realized. American citizens are watching as the nation descends into a police state where rights are not recognized. Americans should join the rest of the world in preventing the spread of authoritarianism.