It is strange how sometimes a piece of fiction can influence one’s perspective. 1984 by George Orwell is one of such pieces. Both book and movie adaptation bring special message – people remain people regardless of the system, they can be controlled by pressing on their weaknesses.
A lot of people see the parallels between the system in this book with the system of the Soviet Union, and rightly so. This book was written in the 1950 and shows a very plausible scenario of great power concentration in the hands of a small group. People have very strong self-preservation instincts and will choose self-preservation before common good most of the times. Ignorance is a great tool to use against masses, as personal survival instincts declare that being with a group is much safer than being on your own. To belong to a group means to follow the same rules and, eventually, the same ideas as others. No system is perfect and there will always be people, who will try to swim in the opposite direction, but will it be worth the effort?
The movie adaptation I chose to watch, which was actually from 1984, closely depicts the book and would be a good substitute for a lazy reader, but the book goes much deeper into ideological manipulations and ways of creating a flock of mindless people, who will believe anything the government implies, no matter how ridiculous it is.
The story tells us about a fictional division of the world, where only 3 main mega-countries remain – Oceania; Eurasia; Eastasai. Winston Smith, main protagonist, tells about a period of his life, when he works for the Ministry of Truth, and basically earns his living by altering the history on daily basis. He was not born into the system and questions it. But he can’t tell anyone about it – The Big Brother is watching all the time, and there is no crime as bad as the Thought crime. Winston meets a young woman named Julia, who appears to be a passionate follower of the party, but she is not. They start to meet in secret and fall in love. They know that one day they will get caught but keep meeting and even rent a flat, where there are no screens to monitor them. Winston gets a revolutionary book and starts reading it. It describes the system and how people get controlled by the government. Eventually they get caught and separated. Tortures are inflicted on Winston to an unbearable level that he is ready to agree that 2+2=5 and is ready to swap places with Julia, his true love, just to ease his own pain. The Big Brother wins again – Winston is cured! His thoughts get cleared out and now he must return to the society to wait until one day he will get shot.
This story is very difficult to ignore mostly because it is exactly what might have happened to the USSR, if Stalin lived longer. After his death a lot changed for good, but propaganda, devotion to the party, collectivism, shortage of mass produced products and other points mentioned in the book remained in place until the very end. I was too little to remember socialism in detail, but I do remember long queues to buy food, being happy about getting certain products, especially from Western Europe or the USA, dressing in horrible clothes because there simply was no other choice, having the same toys as everyone else. I was lucky enough to be born at the verge of change, but many people lived this life for many years. My grandmother is still afraid to talk about many things she experienced. This fear sticks to the bones and never leaves. This is very close to what is happening in North Korea and it seems that the world simply doesn’t care. No one will save you, you are alone against everyone.
I can very easily believe that mind-control to such level is possible. People can be broken no matter how strong they are. Mass media has incredible influence and it is very easy to persuade masses to believe false facts. Inflicting pain and mental torture will make one say and believe anything. Prospects of such terror can be stimulation enough not to go out of line and follow the rules as a mindless sheep. This book is very disturbing and powerful. It sticks and changes the perspective of looking at government, media and prospects of possible futures. I can see the parallels of the screens in the book with smart-phones and other gadgets we use in real life – they work equally well for 24/7 surveillance. Only nowadays people deliberately share all their thoughts with the rest of the world. I rate the book by 10 out of 10. The movie was not, bad but I think it emphasised the events more than ideas, the actors were not particularly convincing and visually it was not distinctively vivid. Because of it I give the movie only 6 out of 10. Definitely recommend to everyone interested in politics and social phenomenon of brainwash.