The book, 1984, is a dystopian novel that explains and entails the life of an Outer party member, Winston Smith, who is a member of the “Party.” The Party was a totalitarian government that seeks to dominate for its own sake and persecutes those who dared to go contrary to its beliefs. The book illustrates Big Brother as a power driven, manipulative, and corrupt dictator who seems to be the omniscient leader of the Party. The government, the Party, forces the application of an invented language, Newspeak, which limits free thought and free speech in order to prevent a political uprising. Winston, who was aggravated by the Party’s oppression and rigid laws which prohibited the expression of individuality especially, but not limited to, where no one can call in love with who they wanted or have sex. Although he committed a thoughtcrime by purchasing a diary and writing in it his thoughts and was fixated on joining an underground party called the Brotherhood, to overthrow the Party. Winston believed that the Party member, O’Brien, was a member also of the secret group.
The Party was made up of four ministries: Ministry of Love, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Plenty, and Ministry of Truth. Each ministry represented the opposite of what they stood for; the Ministry of Peace dealt with war, Ministry of Love dealt with torture, Ministry of Plenty dealt with starvation, and the Ministry of Truth dealt with lies. These were the concept of doublethink or “reality control,” and just like the three slogans of the Party: War is peace, Freedom is slavery, and Ignorance is strength, these were a distortion from the reality that was before the people. Winston’s job in the Ministry of Truth was to falsify historical records to agree to later ones. This was the act of influencing the generations “…[to] accept the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale then the lie passed into history and became the truth” (50). In order to cover the tracks of their movements, the Party sways reality to befit itself to downplay the psychological process of the generation in the future.
The Party, which represented the English Socialist Party or English Socialism, was contrary to what it stood for in terms of socialism. The government divided the country, Oceania, into three social classes: The Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles aka the working class. The Inner Party members, who were top of the social class, made up to less than two percent of the total population, whereas the Proles or “working class” made up about eighty-five percent of the population. Although the social classes members had the same social programming, the Proles and the Outer Party members were exploited and lived in poverty, whereas the elite or the Inner Party members who worked less hours compared to the formers, lived luxurious lives. Their job is to influence the citizens by restructuring any piece of information, “re-edit it and set in motion the complex processes of cross referencing that would be required, and then the chosen lie would pass into permanent records and become truth.” They also oversee the Thought Police and the higher echelons of the Ministry of Love. The Inner Party members had some privileges that the Outer Party members, and Proles do not have.
The Outer Party members had the administrative jobs in the Ministries and were made up of the educated members of society. Their jobs were to implement and carry out whatever policies the Party created without a say to it. Unlike the members of the Inner Party, they had stricter rules governing them; they were allowed nothing other than Victory Gin and cigarettes. They were the members who were trusted with tangible information, so they were spied on via the telescreens, and were advised to spy and report suspicious activities of their neighbors to the Thought Police. In comparison to the Inner Party members, the Outer Party members were likely to live in poverty, live in shabby neighborhoods, and are subjected to supplies to an almost ongoing state of starvation. They were also obliged to stay away from sex unless for procreational purposes.
The Proles were the lower-class workers, made up of about eighty- five percent of the Oceania population. They had zero interest in the political stance of the country, so they performed the lowly tasks and labors. They were living in the poorest conditions, but the Party had little to no interest in spying on them because they were not deemed worthy compared to the members of the Outer Party. The Proles had access to things like alcohol, cigarettes, sports, gambling etc., which were called “prolefeed.” They were not considered a threat to the Party because of their lifestyle which was manual labor, sleep, and other distractions through the prolefeed. Their uneducated or unsophisticated lifestyle made the less viable to the Party interest, although Winston wrote in his diary that, “[i]f there is any hope, it lies with the Proles.” In order for the Proles to have a ‘stable’ and regulated life, they were willing to let go off every political thought or action.
1984 was written after the writer experienced the destructive effects of the World War II, and the terrible totalitarianism of the time, from Hitler’s Nazi Germany, to Stalin’s Soviet Union, and later China under the rule of Mao Tse Tung all in the twentieth century. In today’s political agendas, North Korea and the State of Eritrea can be classified as totalitarian states. In contrast to what the French philosopher Montesquieu wrote, “[in] a free society, it is not always important that individuals reason well, it is sufficient that they reason; from their individual thought, freedom is born.” The Big Brother, in totalitarian states, symbolizes the government who is everywhere, watching what you say, eat and even how you’re supposed to feel. In relation of the book 1984 to North Korea, the Party utilizes the Ministry of Truth to manage the flow of information to the public hence controlling reality; North Korean libraries, by law, are prohibited from stocking books older than fifteen years-they must be re-edited and reprinted every five years. North Koreans are brainwashed and placed in a state of ignorance in reference to their food supplies, as well as prohibition of internet for some population by their ruler, Kim Jong-un. Social classes experiences in North Korea is a page taken out of 1984, the elite have certain privileges accrued for them like the members of the Inner Party. They enjoy most luxury foods, whiles the workers, like the Proles, are subjected on rations in conditions of extreme poverty. According to a report by the Korea Institute for National Unification: “The standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels of deprivation in which the right to food security, health and other minimum needs for human survival are denied.” Big Brother, in 1984, is always watching the citizens either by telescreens or neighbors telling on each other. This situation made the Winston felt uneased, unsafe, and could not enjoy a sense of privacy; like the citizens of North Korea, the government spies on them but not limited to wired microphones or wiretapping phones, or setting up rewards for people who report others to the authority. Newspeak as explained earlier is an invented language that restrict language pattern, free thought, and making expressions very difficult. North Korea, after the World War II, abolished the use of Chinese characters, and had generated their version of Newspeak known as “Chosŏnŏ.” Although in comparison to Oceania, North Korea might be a little worse especially in terms of violations of human rights and the assumptions of them as more or less properties of the government.
Totalitarianism versus democracy; even though the world is evolving, and more people are getting enlightened, there are a conspicuous number of people who are still blind towards some political strategies. Democracy, in Abraham Lincoln’s definition, is the “government of the people, by the people, for the people. Although democratic countries in the world seem to override the totalitarian acts from George Orwell’s book, 1984, there are some similar instances in our everyday world that seem to be swept under the rug.
A key under-studied area for analysis is how contemporary extreme right movements can also be seen as totalitarian. Indeed, it is not difficult to find examples of such. According to an old joke, while in a liberal democracy everything that is not forbidden is allowed, in a totalitarian system everything that has not been banned is compulsory. In George Orwell’s notorious anti-totalitarian novel 1984, an even more terrifying summary of life in a totalitarian system is offered, when the character Winston Smith is told by his mysterious interrogator O’Brien: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever’.
For many, fascism and totalitarianism are synonymous, but the concept has a more complex history. Totalitarian states can be broadly summarized as non-democratic political systems that use modern tools such as the mass media, alongside political police, to try to coordinate all aspects of life among an entire population.
Examples that have been regularly cited in this connection range from Nazi Germany, to the USSR, to Communist China, while lesser-cited cases include Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It has been argued that current totalitarian states include North Korea and Iran.
In other words, totalitarian states have been thought to emerge from a wide variety of revolutions in the twentieth century, created to secure the ideals of these revolutions in the political systems that were developed afterwards.However, not all forms of modern authoritarianism should be seen as clear-cut cases of totalitarianism. Putin’s Russia does not really fit the totalitarian model.
Its authoritarianism is based on manipulation through disinformation, rather than trying to instill belief in a single ideology, and many other authoritarian regimes do not neatly fit the totalitarian model either. Whether China is now totalitarian, or has become something else, remains open to debate. Nor are modern far right populists who engage in elections totalitarian in this regard, as they aim to manipulate democratic systems rather than overthrow them.
Whether the totalitarian banners had written on them a call to class warfare (communism) or national conflicts (fascism) or racial wars (Nazism), all of them insisted on the end to individual liberty. The individual had neither rights nor areas of life outside of the control and command of the totalitarian state. The interests of the proletarian class or the nation-state or the “master race” came before the individual human being.
How and where you lived; at what you worked and the pay and benefits you might receive; the people with whom you could or had to associate; the books or newspapers you might read; the media you could consume; places to which you could go for any reason; and the quality of life and its future prospects. All these and many other minute aspects of everyday life were dictated by the totalitarian state in which some people, due to birth or circumstances, found themselves living, and from which escape was often impossible without serious risk to one’s own life.
In the United States of America, democracy has been the set foundation since independence, however, there are some features of Oceania in the system. In the concept of the telescreen, or loss of privacy, technology represents the oppressive force but in reality, it can be a means of liberation. Social media have been our centuries’ Big Brother that monitors our movements and infringe on our privacy. In 2013 there was a leak by a private contractor, Edward Snowden, regarding how the National Security Agency had been collecting customer’s personal information from numerous companies. There are surveillance cameras in most streets in the country, even though the thoughts behind that is to protect valuables, it still monitors every movements made. The 2016 presidential election threw a light on how much social media had been both a Savior and a Satan in the activity. Although every one of the candidates was able to get in touch with their base or supporters, the level of influences on the platforms had led to the increase of scrutiny especially after the advertisement on Facebook paid by Russian trolls.
On the social media, there is an outlook of the “Two Minute Hate” without the thorough investigation on the issue. An instance can be in regards to our current president, Donald Trump, whom most find appalling, although an outcry is not a necessary when his news come out to the public, there are a lot of people who cannot stop themselves from joining the hate train against him.
Even though George Orwell wrote the book to warn the future generation against the possible outcome of the totalitarian effects on people. His prediction, however, entails into the current events of our everyday lives without realizing how much we all play a role in regard to the embodiments of the novel.