1984 PDF and Summary [Book Short]

Today we’re jumping into the world of 1984 written by George Orwell.  Orwell paints a dystopia of epic proportions where no citizen is safe from the all-knowing Big Brother.  Not even their thoughts.

Although this is a work of fiction, the lessons that Orwell shares are relevant right now, in that it seems that half the US citizens believe we are inching our way towards a US-first, fascists like state.  

The first danger Orwell warns us of is collectivism.  What does that mean?

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The Danger of Collectivism

Collectivism is the complete and total denial of the individual in favor of the collective…or shall we say the Political Party.  And through this party is an insatiable quest for total power. The Party doesn’t even hide this fact from their people because they know the individual is limited by their lifespans, strengths of will, intellects, and as long as they know how to control them, no one can challenge it.

Now let’s get philosophical.  Orwell brings up the question, What is Reality?  In the story, the main character, Winston, is a realist, who believes that things are real, whether they are observed or not.  Much like knowing other galaxies exist, even though you’ve never seen them or physically been to them.  Big Brother, however, who is played by O’Brien is an idealist, which means reality is fully dependent on consciousness…making truth only a very strong belief.  If you believe the Earth is flat, then the Earth is flat, even if there is ample facts disproving it as silly.

Therefore, the Party can control reality if it controls its citizens’ consciousness.  They achieve this by brainwashing their people by controlling the present.  And by controlling the present, they control the past, which means they ultimately control the future.  They hire workers to spend their days making up facts and presenting them as news.  If something doesn’t play out the way they scripted, all they have to do is make constant updates to any news articles or books so they are always on the right side of power.

Fake News is Dangerous

This is timely with our Fake News situation in the States.  News can be reported or manufactured at a rate that fact checking just can’t keep up with.  And with the future of AI-powered writing based on your data, how do you know you’re reading the same article I’m reading?  What if yours is tailored for your interests and anger points…reality and what to believe starts getting murky.

One of the scariest scenarios in the book revolved around Thought Crime, which is an extreme form of a type of mind reading of their citizens to see who is against the Party.  Those who are against were tortured, and since they know your thoughts, they know your greatest fear.

Think about if someone who didn’t like you knew your most nightmarish worry.  Then used that against you.  Privacy today is a thing of the past.  In the 1800s for example, if you didn’t know someone by either talking to them or through handwritten letters, you really didn’t know their thoughts.  Now, you leave a digital trail just by visiting certain websites, using GPS, or other forms of digital tech, all of which provides you with the context of who you are to those who capture it or buy it.  Yet we don’t give it much thought, we just give blind trust that that information will be used is a positive way…but positive for who?

Going back to the story, Big Brother knew Winston’s deepest fear and used it to break him.  His rebellious nature was set straight…so straight he believed 2+2=5 because Big Brother told him that’s true.  Let’s hope this scenario remains between the pages of this book.

So how did Orwell get to be this pessimistic on the state of human nature?

He was an English author who focused heavily on social injustice.  He was the original Mike Rowe, reporting on the state of those living and working at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Actionable Nugget

For our actionable nugget to chew on, let me first start by reading a quote from the book:

The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering — a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons — a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting — three hundred million people all with the same face.

Being different and holding different ideas about the world and how it works keeps us in check from anyone totalitarian group. It takes work to get your voice heard.  When’s the last time you reached out to your local representative, even just to introduce yourself?  How are they going to know what you care about if you’ve never even said hi?

Once, just for the hell of it, I scheduled a meeting with the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein and had a great chat with the Field Representative.  These people want to hear what’s on your mind and will present it to your senator.  It might be a small act, but for our system to work, we can’t forget to do what in our control to help steer this ship in the direction we feel is right.  

So send an email to your local Field Representative.  

Here’s the link: http://whoismyrepresentative.com

A simple introduction and maybe if you’re up to it, schedule a time to visit.  At least you’ll get a free coffee out of it, meet someone new, and help us keep our Representative Democracy experiment in check.

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