The world of “1984” by George Orwell turned out to be prophetic and came true (6 photos)
On June 8, 1949, the British publishing house Secker & Warburg published the first edition of the novel, which was destined to become one of the most popular books of the 20th century, translated into almost all languages of the world and sold in tens of millions of copies.
In 2017, it re-entered the US bestseller list after an adviser to President Trump made the completely Orwellian (which many noticed) in his “doublethink” statement: “You call these false statements, but in fact they are alternative facts.” However, the terms themselves, coined by George Orwell for Britain in 1984 (more precisely, Runway 1, one of the provinces of Oceania), have long entered the language – and not only in English. “Big Brother is looking at you”, “thought crime”, “newspeak”, “freedom is slavery” – all this is known to almost every person who has read more than three books in his life. And, alas, the fantastic details of the world of “1984” are becoming more and more a reality – for their implementation, neither the third world war, nor the total impoverishment of the masses, nor the militaristic totalitarian system were even needed. Orwell’s predictions came true – almost all of them. And it looks like they will continue to do so. Izvestia reflected on the meaning of the great novel.
George Orwell – British writer and essayist
For the first half century after its publication, Orwell’s dystopia was perceived as a vicious satire on communist regimes, not least because of the biography of the author himself, who became disillusioned with his Bolshevik sympathies after the Spanish Civil War and openly admitted his desire to warn the world against a possible totalitarian future. “I am not convinced that a society of this kind must necessarily arise, but I am convinced (considering, of course, that my book is a satire) that something of this kind can be. I am also convinced that the totalitarian idea lives in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I tried to follow this idea to its logical end, ”said the writer in a dying interview.
Totalitarianism in its communist form fell ingloriously in the late 1980s; in fact, his unwitting gravedigger came to power in the USSR just a year after the date given in the title of the novel (chosen, it is believed, by simply rearranging the last two digits of 1948, the year in which Orwell wrote his book). The Cold War was over, by the way, another term coined by Orwell (he used it in the article “You and the Atomic Bomb” published in the Tribune in October 1945) and entered the political lexicon of the whole world. But Big Brother and all the institutions of total surveillance accompanying him suddenly revived already in the 21st century – albeit in a “velvet”, but no less offensive form for a person.
It is well known that Orwell, in describing the mores of the Ministry of Truth (engaged in 1984 society incessantly falsifying the past in favor of the current Ingsoc Party settings), based on his own experience during the Second World War – first in the censorship department of the British Ministry of Information, then in the BBC Eastern Service. BBC
Cover of one of the first editions of George Orwell’s 1984
The writer has never been to the USSR – in fact, “1984” was not a satire on the specifically Soviet system, despite details like the Big Brother mustache and a fairly transparent allusion to Trotsky (Bronstein) in the image of the semi-mythical enemy of the people No. 1 Emmanuel Goldstein. Orwell was afraid not so much of the Soviet party bosses – by that time it was already obvious that the “regional committee-obkomychs” were unlikely to be able to “stoke the world fire” – but of Western technocratic intellectuals (whom he separated from the intelligentsia in the original, Russian sense of the word). Technocratic intellectuals did not disappoint – the development of technology in the last decade of the twentieth century led to the emergence of the information society, as we see it today. And, alas, it bears little resemblance to the rosy dreams of the science fiction optimists of the last century.
Big Brother decentralized, lost his personified form – neither you a mustachioed man with a burning look, nor even the anecdotal “comrade major”, according to many, sitting on a wire somewhere halfway from the VKontakte server to your home Wi-Fi router. But “telescreens” that broadcast propaganda and monitor users are now in everyone’s pocket – except that it monitors preferences and carefully feeds the next portion of “information” not to the all-powerful state, but to transnational corporations. Which, as it happens, almost all are based in the “bastion of democracy” on the other side of the Atlantic.
But even giving up a smartphone, a resident of a modern, more or less large city is guaranteed to be deprived of privacy, several times a day falling into the field of view of CCTV cameras (in London there are more than 600 thousand – one for 14 inhabitants; on average, each Londoner is recorded about 300 times). Of course, all this is solely for the safety of law-abiding citizens – after all, the invisible enemy does not sleep. However, according to the mayor of the British capital, Sadiq Khan, “terrorist attacks are an inevitable part of the life of a modern metropolis.” Or, as the Orwellian comrade O’Brien said, “it will be a world of terror – to the same extent as a world of triumph” (hereinafter, translated by V.P. Golyshev).
A still from the film 1984, based on the novel of the same name by George Orwell
Even the notorious fake news, the scourge of the current infosphere, was foreseen by Orwell. The ideal party member Comrade Ogilvy invented by the Ministry of Truth (“Comrade Ogilvy never existed in the present, but now exists in the past – and, as soon as the traces of forgery are erased, will exist as authentically and irrefutably as Charlemagne and Julius Caesar”) – a direct predecessor already some half-forgotten “girl with red laces” and fake Iraqi photos.
However, today fake news is more and more often used not for political purposes, but for purely commercial purposes, in pursuit of traffic and advertising revenue – the new Big Brother quite Marxist believes that life determines consciousness, and profit will support almost any ideology.
Even 20 years ago, it seemed to the most severe accusers of the morals of post-industrial society that in the future we would rather have Huxley’s “brave new world”, based on coercion to obedience through carnal pleasures. But here, too, Orwell had the last word. Instead of harmless “soma” – deadly synthetic drugs (in “1984” it was the chemical gin “Victory”, but the difference is small), instead of the joys of love – “transgender”, “polyamory”, “non-binary”, and right there – the risk of going to nar for what was once considered innocent flirting. But at the same time – an abundance of pornography on the Internet, designed for modern “proles”. “Pornhubs” of different shades of gray in the world “1984” – “a special sub-department – in Newspeak called pornography – released pornography of the latest analysis.”
George Orwell working for the BBC, 1941
At the same time, of course, the modern Big Brother declares – in Newspeak, which is not yet always clear “prolam” – the desire for freedom, peace and science. But, like Orwell, freedom is converted into slavish obedience to the principles of “tolerance”, the world – “humanitarian bombardments”, and science – the consistent destruction of the traditions of education.
But there is, of course, a difference between the world of “1984” and the one in which we happened to live. Orwellian Big Brother builds a society based on hatred and fear – and, as the protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, rightly notes, such a civilization is not viable. The current liberal Big Brother has chosen a different strategy: they are trying to accustom the modern society of the West to an absolutely unctuous “love” – tolerance on the verge of indifference.
The result, however, is still the same as that of Orwell: “We have severed the ties between parent and child, between man and woman, between one person and another. No one trusts a wife, a child, or a friend anymore. And soon there will be no wives and friends. We will take the newborns from their mothers, just as we take eggs from under a laying hen. Let’s get rid of the sex drive. Breeding will become an annual formality, like renewing a ration card. Orgasm we will nullify. Our neurologists are already looking for funds. There will be no loyalty other than party loyalty. There will be no other love than the love of Big Brother. There will be no other laughter but triumphant laughter over the defeated enemy. There will be no art, literature, science. When we become omnipotent, we will do without science. There will be no distinction between the ugly and the beautiful.”
Statue of George Orwell by sculptor Martin Jennings at BBC Headquarters. George Orwell was an employee of the corporation from 1941 to 1943
Almost all of these prophecies have come true – millennials are already giving up sex and procreation, the distinction between the ugly and the beautiful is being diligently erased in all areas, from fashion to attitudes towards one’s own health, “party loyalty” to the liberal politically correct ideal is gradually replacing both pragmatic and ethical principles. . There is very little left to complete triumph.
True, in Comrade O’Brien’s chiselled formula (“If you want an image of the future, imagine a boot trampling a man’s face – forever”), it looks like a rough soldier’s boot will be replaced by an elegant hipster boot. Whether it will be easier for a person is a big question.