By Philip   |  04-09-2018   Opinion
Photo credit: eleconomista.es

"From a dead man, greetings." I've got the film Nineteen Eighty-Four on in the background as I work. It's been a long time since I've seen the film and even longer time since I read the book but I've read and reread it several times since discovering it in my early teens. 1984 by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World were formative works for me. I already had a bit of a conspiratorial view having grown up with Art Bell and delving into the Kennedy Assassination by the mid-90's. We're already well on our way to Brave New World, a society that is "Amusing itself to death," to borrow the title of the Neil Postman book from the 90's. And to think Postman was concerned even before YouTube and social media and a society glued to their screens.

I remember when smartphones became ubiquitous thinking of the line from 1984 where the prole who illegally rents a room to Winston Smith, the main character and narrator in 1984, something to the extent of "I remember when only the rich could afford telescreens." One could say the same for iPhones.

The telescreen in 1984 was more than a television (televisions were far from standard in 1948 when Orwell wrote his classic dystopian work). It was a two-way screen with which the "Inner Party" could peer in on the denizens of the surveillance state. Now we live in a world where a CIA connected company (Amazon) sells the Alexa which at any point in time is likely transmitting back to the Company.

1984 is a world where the ever-present, always-watching Big Brother cannot be escaped and is stamping the face of humanity forever. We don't get there overnight of course. It starts slowly and surely, by degrees. Brave New World is a scientific "utopia" where any deep feeling or artistic expression is frowned upon and sensual pleasure is the only thing of value apart from "Soma holidays" which seemingly predicts our current psychotropic society where three times as many people are taking anti-depressants than in 2000, many of whom find they can't quit due to the withdrawal side effects.

I always felt a bit of kinship with John the Savage in Brave New World. Considered a savage because he is antiquated enough to feel that great literature (like Shakespeare from whom the book's title is derived) and the culture it represents have a place in the current society. And to think we now live in a world where Shakespeare is derided as "just another dead white guy." Life imitating art indeed.

Both of these books are purported to be warnings and wake up calls, but if you look at the current day and time, you'll see that they're largely ignored except by those "Inner Party" planners who seem to be using them as guidebooks for laying out a completely controlled society.

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