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The politics of dystopia: 1984

The world of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is terrifying; it’s a world where people have fallen victim to an omnipresent government and constant surveillance, ensuring people are devoid of liberty and individuality. They have no choice but to conform to the will of Big Brother, a phrase that is now synonymous with totalitarian authority. Those who rebel are erased from existence.

Readings of 1984 have shared the idea that it is a dire prediction of what our world may eventually become. It is not only a political statement, but an important warning to all humans of what could happen should we lose the right to freedom of thought.

Our modern-day world is closer to the dystopian one found in Orwell’s novel than we think. Video surveillance is already here; we rarely know when we’re being watched, but it’s something we just accept. What is reality TV if not surveillance wearing a friendly face? Can we see it as an experiment on controlling behaviour? When we’re in front of a camera, we change who we are, how we look and what we do.

Ironically, we don’t need the thought police, or the Ministry of Truth. We allow ourselves to be watched through our televisions and phones; we tell everything to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The question is, are we becoming Big Brother, in that we are also always watching?

1984 has never lost its popularity; it has inspired movies, television shows, music and plays. It will always be important, not just as a warning and regardless of changes to ideology, but because it’s a story of a person desperate to hold onto what is real. It makes us realise how lucky we are to have our freedom, and how dreadful the world would be without it.


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Nerisse Appleby

May 2021
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