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George Orwell predicted the future
Wake Up Call For America
In the year of 1949, a man named Eric Author Blair wrote a science fiction novel called "1984" under his pseudonym, George Orwell. Eric Blair's dystopian novel presents a view of the world if the government controlled every aspect of human life. Although the novel is science fiction, many ideas and themes presented in "1984" can be seen today in the United States. Technically Eric Blair foresaw advances in technology, the complete surveillance of society, the decomposition of history, and the limiting of freedoms. Eric Blair should be viewed as a genius rather than just a science fiction novelist.
Eric Blair foresaw and wrote about technology that was unheard of at the time however is part of everyday life nowadays. 1984's protagonist, Winston Smith, repeatedly refers to telescreens in the novel. According to Blair, "The telescreens received and transmitted simultaneously." There was no such instrument that existed in Blair's time. Televisions could transmit data, however, it could not receive data from the users. A smart television is a technological advancement which connects a television to the Internet. This allows users to interact on on social networking sites with the television. All smart televisions have cameras and microphones which allow it to receive user data. Eric Blair wrote about these devices about fifty years before it was on store shelves. Eric Blair also mentions microphones a few times in his novel. Winston elaborates by saying "the danger of concealed microphone by which your voice might be picked up and recognized." Winston worried about hidden microphones when he had his journey with Julia in the woods. Microphones were big and bulky in the 1940s, while nowadays they come in all shapes in sizes. They can be small enough to fit in a pen as well as a quarter. The United States military has created a mechanical hummingbird. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were behind the idea and on their website they state that "Nano Air Vehicles relay real-time videos from a tiny on-board camera back to its operator. Weighing less than a AA battery and resembling a live hummingbird, the vehicle could give war fighters an unobtrusive view of threats inside or outside a building from a safe distance." This gives a theory to how microphones could be hidden in the novel. Eric Blair doesn't explain how the microphones are hidden and leaves this open for controversy.
Although Blair predicted new and improved inventions, he also predicted advancements in appearance changes. In the novel, O'Brien explains "Our surgeons can alter people beyond recognition." Plastic Surgery has advanced greatly since the 1940s and nowadays doctors can literally change a person's appearance. This was just a dream for doctors living in Blair's day. The most recognizable part on a person's body is obviously the face. The first successful face transplant occurred in the year 2005 in France. BBC news concluded that "woman had lost her nose, lips and chin after being savaged by a dog. Tissues, muscles, arteries and veins were taken from a brain-dead donor and attached to the patient's lower face." Eric Blair clearly wrote about O'Brien being able to change his appearance completely which would have been impossible in his time period. O'Brien also states that "hair, would be different." Hair dye was available in Eric Blair's day but in limited colors. Nowadays a person can dye their hair any color in the rainbow. Blair's foreseeing of technological advancements can help support his foreseeing of the complete surveillance of society.
Telescreens and hidden microphones can do much to a person's mind. Winston supports by saying "There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized." Winston would also have to control his facial features to avoid "facecrime." This state of complete surveillance is not yet in effect in today's world but, it is progressing in that direction, step by step. Throughout the United States, surveillance cameras have been put in all over the country. They are watching fast food restraunts, banks, government buildings, and even schools. At Central Catholic High School, a security camera watches the vending machines to prevent students from stealing from them (Giallanella). Fox 16 news wrote an article that stated "A recent study found the average big city resident walks into the view of a camera 75 times a day." These surveillance cameras are around to prevent crime as the telescreens and "thought police" are around to prevent "thought crime." Also not only has DARPA created the hummingbird, but it has created an Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System or ARGUS-IS. The agency explains "The program is developing a real-time, high-resolution, wide-area video surveillance system that provides the warfighter a minimum of 65 VGA video windows across the field of view. Each video window is electronically steerable independent of the others, and can either provide continuous imagery of a fixed area on the ground or be designated to automatically keep a specified target (dismount or vehicle) in the window." In simpler terms, the system has sixty five video windows and each can follow a target on the ground individually. Not only are we watched by cameras on building but now we Re starting to be watched by cameras in the sky. Not only do cameras watch the public but, computer data bases can watch them just as close, if not closer.
About a month after 9/11, president Bush signed the U.S. Patriots act. The Patriot Act takes limitations away from government agencies to help them gather intelligence easier. This allows government agencies to wiretap phones without warrants, read text messages and e-mails without permission, and invade anyone's privacy that is suspect of being a terrorist. Every person's text goes through a database where it is judged as an innocent message or a message that resembles a threat. The database searches for keywords, for example the word "bomb." Now if a person texted "That sandwich you made me was the bomb!", it would be seen as innocent. If person texted "I am done making the nuclear bomb," it would be flagged and further investigated. An article titled "10 reasons why the United States is no long the land of the free," states that "The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations." Not only are citizens' communications being watched but now citizens' bank accounts are being surveilled as well. This act gives the President and government agencies such as Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency much surveillance power. Ex-CIA director David Patraeus was investigated by the FBI and evidence was found that proved David to be in an extramarital affair. A New York Times article elaborates by stating "Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a potential criminal matter several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns." David was caught giving away CIA classified information to an outside source. The FBI investigated his email account and discovered that the couple shared the email and spoke through the drafts section. So no emails were actually sent and the patriot act helped stop classified information from reaching the public. The patriot act is not the only presidential act that invades personal privacy. Recently, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, was passed by the House of Representatives by 161 votes. Column writer for PC magazine stated "CISPA would allow for voluntary information sharing between private companies and the government in the event of a cyber attack. CISPA is written broadly enough to permit your communications service providers to share your emails and text messages with the government, or your cloud storage company could share your stored files." The CISPA bill will be brought to the Senate as the next step to getting the bill passed. If this bill is passed, it would send America closer to an Orwellian society. This bill would basically eliminate privacy in the cyber world. These bills are nothing compared to the bills that limit freedom in the United States.
In 2011, Barrack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into federal law. The act allows for indefinite detention of anyone without due process. The American Civil Liberties Union elaborates by saying "The NDAA's dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president and all future presidents to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world." This goes against the fifth amendment in the Constitution and against an individual's Miranda rights. Every citizen in the United States has their right to due process and is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This act brings America closer to becoming a socialist country which is shown through 1984. Editor of Buzzflash states "This is what happened to people in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, and countries such as Argentina during the dirty wars (Karlin)." Indefinite detention is making America closer to Nazi Germany which is not the direction in which to bring this country. While on the topic of indefinite detention, the United States actually has a place in which indefinite detention is carried out.
In 1984, Winston talks frequently about the "ministry of love" and the ministry could be seen as a metaphor for United states a detention camp. Winston describes the ministry of love and it shockingly resembles the United States detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Winston states "One did not know what happened in the ministry of love, it it was possible to guess: tortures drugs, delicate instruments that register your nervous reactions, gradual wearing down by sleepiness, solitude, and persistent questioning." Guantanamo Bay is a United States naval base used for the detainment and interrogation of terrorists against the United States. Those treated in Guantanamo Bay are treated almost the same as those who entered "room 101." Three New York Times columnists described the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo by stating "Interrogation tactics at Guantanamo included sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, relentless questioning, and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures." This sounds incredibly close Winston's description of the Ministry of love. This is not the only thing that Eric Blair predicted about Guantanamo bay. At the beginning of 1984, Winston states that "The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all." This relates to solitary confinement cells at Guantanamo Bay. The Center for Constitutional Rights clarify that "In Camp 6, each detainee is confined to a small, windowless steel cell with no access to natural light or air. In Camp 5, a frosted window provides minimal access to natural light, but no view outside. Fluorescent lights are on 24 hours a day, limiting sleep." The Ministry of Love also had its lights on at all times. In the book O'Brien even states "We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness.(43)" This is almost mind blowing to believe that Eric Blair could have predicted such a place, over fifty years before it was established. Not only has Orwell predicted the limiting of freedom in America, but he also predicted the decomposition of history.
In Blair's novel, Winston introduces and explains the Ministry of Truth. The Ministry's Job according to Winston was "to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programmes, plays, novels - with every conceivable kind of information (65)." The ministry of truth could be seen as the mainstream multimedia outlets here in America. The media outlet that stands out the most would have to be television stations. The best example is the History Channel. The History channel should be factual information that is educational in intent. On the History Channel's website, it has a list of all its shows being aired on television. It's surprising to see that shows such as Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People, Axe Men, Big Shrimpin', and Chasing Tail could be on an educational channel. The History Channel is there to educate the public and not to supple them with just another reality television program. These shows have no historical relevance, and if so, it is very limited. I personally watched an episode of Swamp People and it was just non-educational. I do not understand how a reality show about killing alligators ended up on an educational channel such as the History channel. This shows how history is being decomposed from a educational platform to an entertainment platform. Media outlets do not care about the programs they put on television, as long as the viewers keep watching them. Orwell not only presented the decomposition of history in his novel, but also predicted the public's obsession with the lottery.
There is a brief passage in 1984 where Winston explains and describes the lottery. Winston states "the lottery, with its weekly pay out of enormous prizes , was one public event to which proles paid special attention. The prizes were largely imaginary. Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being non-existent persons (119)." This makes perfect sense because, the mega millions are nearly impossible to win. According to the New York lottery, the chances of winning the jackpot for the mega million is 1 in 175,711,536. These odds are outrageous and this supports Orwell's theory that smalls sums were only paid out. Orwell predicted the outrageous odds of the lottery and also predicted the creation of a anti-sex league that has taken place in the United States today.
In the novel, Winston described a co-worker named Julia and said she wore a "narrow scarlet sash, an emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League (24)." It is a shocker to say that an Anti sex league exists in today's society. Both leagues are against sex, however, for different reasons. The Junior Anti-sex league was against sex for the emotions involved in it. The Anti Sex league nowadays wants to abolish sex to "to push a radical anti-contraception agenda dressed up as an HIV prevention program." The motives of the groups were different, however, the mission was the same: to end the act of sex. It is hard to believe that Orwell foresaw all of these life aspects that we live everyday. I strongly believe that Orwell was a man ahead of his time and that his warning about the present should be recognized.
Eric Blair was an incredible man that words cannot describe. It is almost impossible to predict the future and this man predicted not one aspect of life but many. It is unbelievable how Orwell could have foreseen all these government changes, technology advancements, and the limiting of our freedoms. In conclusion, Orwell did not write this novel to show his generation the future, but to warn future generations about a Orwellian society. Orwell was asked about his intention in his novel and he states "My novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is not intended as an attack on socialism, or on the British Labour Party . . . I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive (Harris)." This proves that Orwell wrote his book for future generations to recognize a horrific government entity. Orwell's book has been around for over fifty years and still few people have been able to put all the pieces together.
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