His name was Eric Arthur Blair, but he was better known by his pseudonym, George Orwell. He wrote the well-known dystopian (as opposed to utopian, where everything is perfect) novel “1984”. In 2017, almost seventy years after it was first published, the book was once again so relevant and popular that Amazon couldn’t keep it in stock.
The book’s opening sentence includes the words “the clocks were striking thirteen”, thus setting the scene for “newspeak” (which later became doublespeak, fake news, or alternative facts), “memory hole” (which is now called cancel culture or revisionist history), “Big Brother” (an authoritarian ruler and his minions), and of course “2+2=5” (believe what you’re told not what you see or hear). Its abiding concept inspires us to always keep an unbiased eye on the past in order to protect the present and future.
Playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw stated that “politics is the last resort of scoundrels” and if he were alive today he would be hailed as a clear-eyed observer of the American landscape. The tribalism that has resulted from too many years of corruption, lies, and conspiracy theories coming from Washington, D.C. should be raising red flags because democracy is not bulletproof. When the pendulum of power swings too far to the right or left it is apt to cause the whole show to topple. And just like on the African savannah, there are always predators watching and waiting for such opportunities.
In 1787, the year before our Constitution was ratified, Alexander Tyler, a British history professor said about the fall of the Athenian Republic, “Every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship”. Our burgeoning national deficit has gotten little attention from recent or current presidents and members of Congress who have never been shy about spending other people’s money. They are hastening us down the wrong path even as they revise current history right before our eyes for their own gain.
In “1984” George Orwell gave us the “Thought Police”, “The Party”, and the “Ministry of Truth” (“War is Peace”, “Freedom Is Slavery”, etc.) so it’s not as if we haven’t been forewarned. It would be a sad day indeed for Americans to slip into such complacency that we end repeating the last words of the book: “He loved Big Brother”.
Dexter K. Oliver is a freelance writer from Duncan.