05 April 2007

News Lens: Orwellian Prophecy Fulfilled

I always wonder if people who were living at the time that Orwell debuted 1984 thought he was crazy. It sounds like such a stretch, thinking that the government could really require its citizens to live such colorless, micromanaged lives. And I suppose the whole picture hasn't quite come together in the West. There still is much liberty, albeit much less than at the time Orwell was writing. However, today I was amazed as his frightening accuracy.

Have you read it? Do you remember the telescreens? They give the government effectual omnipresence. Spying on you, watching your every move, drilling propaganda into your head twenty-four hours each day, every day of the week. They are like a television in their ability to broadcast, and like a videocamera in their ability to keep their eye on you at every hour.

Main characters Winston and Julia think they have found themselves a hideout old enough that it is telescreen-free. As they read a forbidden book in their secret haven, this is what ensues:
"We are the dead," [Winston] said.

"We are the dead," echoed Julia dutifully.

"You are the dead," said an iron voice behind them, turned into ice. He could see the white all round the irises of Julia's eyes. Her face had turned a milky yellow. The smear of rouge that was still on each cheekbone stood out sharply, almost as though unconnected with the skin beneath.

"You are the dead," repeated the iron voice.

"It was behind the picture," breathed Julia.

"It was behind the picture," said the voice. "Remain exactly where you are. Make no movement until you are ordered."

It was starting, it was starting at last! They could do nothing except stand gazing into one another's eyes. To run for life, to get out of the house before it was too late--no such thought occurred to them. Unthinkable to disobey the iron voice from the wall. There was a snap as though a catch had been turned back, and a crash of breaking glass. The picture had fallen to the floor, uncovering the telescreen behind it.

"Now they can see us," said Julia.

"Now we can see you," said the voice. "Stand out in the middle of the room. Stand back to back. Clasp your hands behind your heads. Do not touch one another."

They were not touching, but it seemed to him that he could feel Julia's body shaking. Or perhaps it was merely the shaking of his own. He could just stop his teeth from chattering, but his knees were beyond his control. There was a sound of trampling boots below, inside the house and outside. The yard seemed to be full of men. Something was being dragged across the stones. The woman's singing had stopped abruptly. There was a long, rolling clang, as though the washtub had been flung across the yard, and then a confusion of angry shouts which ended in a yell of pain.

"The house is surrounded," said Winston.

"The house is surrounded," said the voice.

He heard Julia snap her teeth together. "I suppose we may as well say good-by," she said.

"You may as well say good-by," said the voice. And then another quite different voice, a thin, cultivated voice which Winston had the impression of having heard before, struck in: "And by the way, while we are on the subject, Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head."

Something crashed on the bed behind Winston's back. The head of a ladder had been thrust through the window and had burst in the frame. Someone was climbing through the window.

Now go read this.


  1. What a chill ran through me! Amazing how prophetic some literature is!

  2. I want to know why I am not listed in your list of friends.

  3. I have read that book. That article totally creeped me out.

    The creepiest thing was that they were going to use schoolchildren's voices for the thing. British children's voices creep me out a bit anyway (thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine Sing-a-long DVDs).

  4. A minority of people that resist moral self-governance invite excessive external governance by the state. There is a direct relationship between the morality and political freedom of a nation. I believe that is why George Washington said, "Of all the habits and dispositions that make for political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports."


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