REVISITING 1984 IN 2020
Well-known bibliophile, commentator and columnist Ashok Jainani revisits the book, and apprises us the similarity between the imagined world by George Orwell and the world we are heading to.
Published on 8 June 1949, 1984, a novel by George Orwell, thematically, centres on the consequences of government over-reach. The story takes place in an imagined future, the year 1984, when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war. The novel also popularised the adjective “Orwellian”, connoting things such as official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.
The eyes follow you about when you move anywhere, everywhere. “Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” Very soon, even that would be controlled by digital chip inserted after the grand merger: of Democracy and Dictatorship; Communism and Capitalism; conventional and artificial intelligence based biological warfare. The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating our 21st Century world’s journey into The Nineteen Eighty-Four originally written in 1949 by a British army man George Orwell.
No posters of black-moustachio’d face gazes down you in 2020. The default setting wallpaper on every individual’s telescreen does more than that. Fit-bit, connected wrist-o-meter (smartwatch) drone police or your every neighbour through door cameras snoop into people’s lives. The connected devices and gadgets are all part of the elite plan to control the zombies. Its implementation timeline cannot be strictly adhered to due to inadequacy of hardware and software infrastructure or delays in experimental trials; but never for paucity of international funds. The state police is gradually evolving into Thought Police. There is of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. “They could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
By all accounts, the global pandemic seems to have unleashed unending unrestricted war that Orwell prophesied. As they are now emerging very clearly, in Orwell’s future world, there were only three major power blocks, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania block (always including the UK) led by the US; Eurasia led either by Russia or Germany; and Eastasia led by China or India. “Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia.” Therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. If at present Oceania was at war with Eastasia, and in alliance with Eurasia, then that had been the case always. “The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.”
Oceania’s official language was Newspeak that had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. It was expected that Newspeak would finally supersede Oldspeak (or Standard English) by about the year 2050. People are gradually using Newspeak words and grammatical constructions in their everyday speech. White is Black and Black is White depending upon the context. Doublthink is the mutability of the past. Proles exist only the present, as slaves in the Big Brother’s army. “Lock-down, disruptive technology, get this viral, peaceful intervention, loot in protest” are few examples of the Newspeak.