Friday, October 4, 2013

My Final Thoughts on Nineteen Eighty-Four

Is man in danger of losing his freedoms, liberties, knowledge of truth, capacity to seek justice, protection of his dignity and integrity, and ability to love?

Erich Fromm wrote an afterword for 1984 and raised a question about the premise of the novel: "Can human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love - that is to say, can man forget that he is human?"

Whenever I read 1984 by George Orwell, I think: "Could this really happen?" Numerous articles suggest that we are close to living in such a world because of street cameras, wiretapping, spying, encroachment of parental responsibility, and a dumbing down of language.  I even read a article that considered the restriction of abortion services proof that "1984" is upon us now.


In 1984, everyone is treated equally - equally worthless and unimportant - and Winston feels alone and hopeless, uncertain if anyone is really working towards a resistance to overthrow Big Brother.  He believes the Proles, the lowest class of citizens, whom he says have "remained human," will rise up against Big Brother.  He expects that they still have a desire to be free, to know truth, to seek justice. They have emotion ; they are still alive.  

Orwell implies that man is created with a natural desire for freedom, truth, justice, dignity, and emotion, which are qualities of humanity.  But I think it depends on what you mean by those words.  Go back to the CNN writer who suggests a loss of abortion services symptomatic of a 1984-kind-of-world.  People have different ideas of what freedom, truth, and justice are. 

Elections in the United States reveal how divided we are because we have such polarizing ideas about the way things should be.  Humans are rather selfish, self-centered creatures, and we vote for those who promise to give more of what we want regardless of its limits on privacy, its stretch of truth, or if it is unconstitutional.

Because of selfish attitudes, man is at present quickly losing control of his human qualities in exchange for a more powerful and controlling, overreaching federal government.  Man is not necessarily interested in justice for all, but rather how government can get him more of what he thinks he deserves in the name of protecting his rights.  In the end, man willingly relinquishes his freedoms, dignity, and individuality for a false sense of security, fairness, and equality.

It reminds me of the parable of a dog carrying a steak in his mouth.  When he sees his reflection in the lake, he thinks he sees a dog with a better steak.  He drops his steak into the lake to retrieve the better one from the other dog, only to lose his own steak and that of the one he coveted with a greedy heart.

So to answer the question that Fromm asks, "Can man forget his humanness?" I believe it is highly possible, but in disagreement with Orwell, it won't have to be forced or done in fear.  Today, there are "Low Information Voters" and non-voters, like the Proles, who are the "dumb masses" who are not well-informed or knowledgable about history, economics, or politics - probably by choice.  They are simply distracted by mediocre things. And while it may be extremely difficult to make man a robot, what can he do when he has no more knowledge of history or the way things used to be or could be? By then, he will have no more power and have been reduced to a slave of the system.

Sometimes I think that all man really wants is to have his immediate needs met and to not be prohibited from immoral behavior ; he or she will remain content, and government will remain unaccountable.  In other words, there will be no resistance, and no one will really care what government does.

What do you think?  Are we living in a 1984-kind-of-world?  Why or why not?


Tonia said...

Oh, goodness, I applaud your post! I just finished reading 1984 as well so I'm thinking about it and how it applies to us today. I absolutely agree with you - many people are happy as long as they are getting what they want but don't have to put in any effort to inform themselves about their choices and whether or not those choices are healthy for them in the long run. I think that, at least in part, the government supports that behavior. It's easier to lead uninformed masses than people who want to think, debate, and discuss.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Tonia!

I'm curious: I did not talk about this, but I do not think that people would embrace the idea of continuous war. People are sick of war and want it to end. What did you think?

Tonia said...

I agree - war is the one thing that I don't think people would stand for. But it's not surprising for it to be so prominent in 1984. Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War and served in the Home Guard in England during World War II. Those events probably had a strong influence on his views.

Unknown said...

On the topic of war though, look at where we are. We're fighting a war in the middle east that most people know almost nothing about. I, myself, have very little knowledge of the middle east and what exactly our government is doing there or trying to do there.

Ruth said...

Good point and question. To inform yourself on these issues, you've got to read. Find books and articles on the subject and read up on it. The only problem, though, will be finding a reputable source; unfortunately, everyone is biased now, and it is difficult to find the truth. But even in searching for good sources, you will be able to understand and know more than many Americans.