Nineteen Eight-Four is a dystopian novel that was written by George Orwell in the year 1949. The novel revolves around a collectivist oligarchical society. It reflects life in the oceanic province that is a world of perpetual war, incessant public mind control, and persuasive government surveillance (Benstead 34). In his novel, George Orwell reflects that fact that an individual is always a subordinate of the state and this partly allows Parties to regulate and manipulate humanity (Orwell 28). The novel is considered a classic novel that encompasses social, science, and political fiction. It dwells on surveillance, lies and manipulation seen in state governments to accurately bring out the themes of nationalism, futurology, sexual repression, censorship, and surveillance (The colected Essays, Jonourism and Letters of George Orwell). These themes play a key role in the novel in predicting the future of state governments, technology and in analyzing the totalitarian regime. This essay seeks to critically analyze the manner in which these themes reflect today’s America while putting special emphasis on how the present American constitution in reflected in George Orwell’s book.
In the Oceania, in George Orwell novel, basic ideas such as independent of thought, right to privacy and freedom of speech are not present (Davidson 117). This implies the fact that George fails to focus on the integrity of the overly society. This sharply contrasts with the present American society, where freedom of speech is expressly stipulated in the American constitution that has an inclusive bill of rights outlining the particular freedoms that are present to individual citizens. The constitution also protects an individual’s privacy by clearly stipulating that no one’s property can be invaded without prior notice and authorization unless in special cases where the law validates such invasion (USConstitution.net). The constitution also provides for freedom of speech and thought for every individual as long as the speech does not involve hate speech, incitement, or assault (Sone 34).
The society in the novel 1984 depicts an authoritarian regime where gross violation of individual rights is a prominent feature. If such occurrences were to take place in the present day America, citizens could rise up to defend their rights fueled with frustration and anger to bring change to their government. This is also reflected in the American constitution that provides for equity and respect to human life. The constitution also gives citizens the authority to sue the state when the state violates their personal rights. It protects citizens from violation of any individuals’ liberties from public institutions, fellow citizens and the government by granting them property rights, rights to life and other crucial rights (USConstitution.net). This clearly contrasts with the type of society in 1984 in which telescreens are used to monitor individuals everywhere they go and are not supposed to be turned off whatsoever unless you are a top government official. The use of these devices to violate individual liberties and privacies is seen when it is used to get hold of Winston and many other individuals whom are purported to have committed crimes against the government (Orwell 43).
One might interpret the devices in the Oceania as being of great importance in ensuring that the citizens act in accordance with the stipulated laws. As observed crimes being committed are not capital offenses such as murder or rape, rather the devices are used to lock away individuals who rebel to participate in the government’s mandatory morning exercises or who accidentally criticize the leadership tactics of the Big Brother (Orwell 28). Violation of individual liberties is further depicted when parties help in enforcing the regulation of its constituents by taking full control of production of novels, televisions, pornography, production and distribution of coffee and chocolate. The government in Oceania seems to be greedy enough to want to control everything hence taking at the expense of poor laborers who have worked hard to manufacture the produce (Orwell 28).
This clearly depicts an authoritarian regime. Citizens in America cannot stomach living under such conditions with the government manipulating the minorities’ rights. Several acts are in place to protect the rights of citizens with special regards to their means of income and production rights. The American constitution allows citizens to own property anywhere, its gives freedom to media houses and respects the basic rights of its citizens (Margret 23). According to Margret (2003) in the present day America, it could be unethical for the government to demand control over everything and these could call for protests in the streets. We have human rights organization that stand in to protect property rights of individuals. We also have unions that protect the rights of workers as opposed to the situation in Oceania.
The world portrayed in the novel 1984 is one where the government controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives. Orwell describes how the party psychology manipulates its people making them think that history occurred in a particular manner even when the truth is clear to all people. He terms this process as a ‘doublethink’ process (Orwell 31). This clearly exhibits the fact that people in Oceania have no say over their government. The government is regarded with coerced respected and it is presumed to have eminent powers that are not to be questioned. In America, the government is subject to criticism whenever it comes up with inappropriate strategies. The government of America has a responsibility of taking into considerations the well being and the opinions of its subjects before implementing any strategies.
We have parliament to monitor the checks and balances in the government and help rectify policies that that do not seem to conform to stipulations of the constitution (Margret 33). The government in America is perceived as a servant of the citizens which is there to represent the will of its people and has no authority to come up with its own coercive Laws. The constitution is regarded as the supreme law and the government is bound by it (USConstitution.net). This regulates the American Government’s discretion to manipulate power.
In as much as Orwell’s ideas may seem fictional, they are still true in the American society today it is only that people don’t take time to bother how deep their lifestyles and privacy are invaded. Also people are confused that such invasion is to protect them. There is no single day an American who spends his day outdoors can through a street without the security camera being focused on him (Sone 35). The difference between the American “telescreens” and those reflected in the Oceania is that the government is too busy to monitor what everybody does and the application of it’s intended to promote positive security to the citizens of America. As a result, Orwell’s “thought police” are emerging right before the citizens’ eyes.
For instance, in a recent act recorded in New York Times, a man wearing an anti-war t-shirt was captured in the camera and the police had to follow him to demand his change of clothing (Benstead 22). This is equivalent to Winston being arrested for exhibiting dislike for his big brother. When he objected he was arrested. The reason behind detaining the man arrested in New York Albania it is because the police believed that he was threatening the authorities. The constitution also criminalizes treason apparently depicting the fact that Orwell’s ideas are to some extent true (USConstitution.net).
Acts in our modern United States government seem to have some disturbing similarities with Oceania World of 1984. It is only that citizens do not directly feel the repercussions of these acts. Analyzing a scenario where a student in Bellbrook High School was sent home for wearing a t-shirt which expressed negative comments about the then President George Bush (Benstead 23). Was it that limiting the freedom of that student to express what the thought about the president’s leadership techniques? This reflects that, in as much as the constitution protects the freedom and secrecy of individual lives, there are many flaws in it. The constitution gives immune to the president not to be charged with any sued while still in power (USConstitution.net). It gives him a lot of freedom and authority that accompany such freedoms. This authority comes along with its drawbacks that are bound to affects the citizen’s life if not well guarded by parliament.
America’s similarity to the totalitarian regime is also reflected in the manner in which gross violations of individual liberties have played a major role in America’s recent past. For instance, in 1986 in the summer season, America exhibited a form of ‘Big Brother’ authority than it had never done before. The Alien and Seditious Acts which were then passed by the congress mandates the president to arrest and deport all aliens who were suspected to posses treasonable ideas (Davidson 129). There was no clear definition as to what amounted to treasonable leanings. This created a loophole where the president would throw any alien who engaged in a mere protest out of states. The sedition act also imposed heavy fines on those who attempted to criticize government leadership through any form of speaking, writing, or even publishing (Davidson 219). This meant that editors were locked away from criticizing the government in a right manner that could have been a revelation to the citizens. This is no different from Winston’s state when he was apprehended for maintaining his journal The level of paranoia that existed among the Americans at this time was almost equal that in Oceania.
Apparently, the Oceania world is void of many privileges and freedoms that the modern Americans hold at heart. However, such freedoms are not secure enough as they come under attack any time. The constitution is sometimes violated with greedy and corrupt politicians who are out to acquire the best for themselves. Protection of human rights remains a conscious issue which has not fully been tackled with the government expressing satisfaction on the present bill of rights while some human rights activities are calling for it to be made more tight and relevant (Benstead 26). The introduction of the Patriot Act that supersedes the constitution seems to be taking America back to the Oceania world. This act has resulted into police in America making arbitrary arrests without interrogations. This is exhibiting a Big Brother image that is bound to get worse in the near future (Margret 44).
Predictions such as brainwashing, personal identity and illegal prostitution in Orwell’s novel are also prominent in the modern American Society (Margret 46). In the novel when Winston and Julia are caught having sex, Winston was tortured to almost death (Orwell 46). In the Oceanic, prostitution was deemed illegal and in the present society, it remains illegal though it is rampant. In the Oceanic world, criminals were made to speak of their crimes openly and the most common offense was prostitution. In the present America, one is not tortured as such but he is subjected to serve a jail sentence for soliciting with a prostitute (Benstead 20). Brainwashing is also prominent in the present day as it was in the Oceanic world.
In the Oceanic world, Winston was brainwashed into obeying and loving the “Big Brother.” In today’s world, people are often brainwashed through advertisements into liking somebody or even liking some products. Although the sort of brainwashing reflected in 1984 might be a bit exaggerated, it is still the same brainwashing America is experiencing today with politicians and political partied luring citizens to voting to them with void promises that they never live up to (Benstead 20). Another prophecy that was predicted in Orwell’s novel and has come to be true is the manner in which citizens are identified with a special number. In the American society today, every citizen has either a Visa or a National identification card which is used to identify him (Margret 22).
The challenging alliances exhibited in the novel by the negotiations between Eurasia, East Asia and Oceania is reflected in today’s alliances which are formed between the United States, China and Russia (Benstead 21). The state of perpetual war explained in the novel is also implied by the recent conflicts involving Lebanon, Central America, Grenada, and Afghanistan. The perpetual civil war also seems to be prominent in multi-ratio societies. ‘Double speak’ propaganda terms are also applied in these wars while peace keeping missions keep making invasions in countries described as ‘landings’ in countries such Grenada (Benstead 22). Apparently, the world is headed to the 1984 world in Orwell’s novel.
George Orwell warns of the terrifying risks that citizens are bound to create for themselves in their quest for a Utopian society (Orwell 29). He warns that people might end up believing that everyone must become a slave to the state government for there to be an orderly society. According to him, people will do this at the expense of their freedom. This is reflected by the manner in which the Americans are bound to the law and the relevant punishments given for criminal offenses. However, lucky enough these laws do not humiliate the rights of the Americans; they only serve the purpose of protecting them. At the same time there exist laws which are coercing the same rights that they are out to protect. Such as the Patriot Act which invades the privacy of the Americans (Benstead 23). This implies the fact that Orwell’s predictions are true to some extent though some of them are yet to be fulfilled.
Analyzing the themes brought out in George Orwell’s novel 1984 clearly brings out Orwell’s predictions about the 1984 some of which have come to pass and others are yet to. The book is significant to the American society today as it helps understand how far American laws are legit by contrasting them with the Oceanic world. It also acts as a mirror to identifying the laws in the current American Political system and developing the relevant mechanism to curb such flaws.