Thursday, June 17, 2010

Orwell in Context

Goldstein's book, you understand. . . . It may be some days before I can get hold of one. There are not many in existance, as you can imagine. The Thought Police hunts them down and destroys them almost as fast as we can produce them. It makes little difference. The book is industructible. If the last copy were gone, we could reproduce it almost word for word.
Orwell, 1984

Accompanying my research in China's digital totalitarianism and 1984, I have been musing over Orwell's place in the mess of it all. While my posts relating to China's Personal Ministry of Truth focus mainly on the affairs of China in the light of Orwell's novel, I spent time considering Orwell's larger role. Can 1984 become a symbolic representation rather than just an obscure point of comparison? I believe it can.

1984 is a futuristic look at the world Orwell feared would soon come to fruition: a totalitarian governing body which denied the rights of speech and thought. Armed with military power, torture chambers, advanced surveillance techniques, and propaganda, and entire body was conquered and manipulated by the force of Big Brother. Beneath the authority, however, in a deep underground, is a resistance and a book to accompany it. Untitled, known only as the book, this records the first days of Big Brother's regime, the world before his advent, and the methods by which he maintains control. Written by the foremost traitor to Big Brother, Emmanuel Goldstein, the book is the most threatening piece of truth attacking the Party's rule; naturally, it is forbidden and it is destroyed immediately once discovered.

As I reviewed the role of Goldstein's book, I could not help but connect it to Orwell himself. 1984 is banned in China; it questions government authority and exposes the dank recesses of totalitarianism. 1984 reveals the methods by which governing bodies manipulate power, brainwash its citizens, fabricate truth and history, censor the media, and condemn those who would dare think or theorize. 1984 exposes it all, and China cannot have that.

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