1984 – Watch Out, Humans Suck

This is my first post. I’m not going to explain my motivations as to why I made this blog, because I’m sure you don’t care. But just so there is some sort of introduction, I will summarize the goals of Story Sabotage.

I like movies and I like books. For now I’ll avoid the term “film and literature”, because frankly, saying such a phrase exhibits an air of sophisticated intellectualism that I just do not possess. My reviews will not be cultured critiques. They will not be peer reviewed or inspired by the educated elite of either world. I took a film class in college and did not particularly enjoy it. With that in mind, I do like reflecting on what I watch and read. I do enjoy finding themes, examining plot devices, witnessing cinematography, and experiencing avid world building. Pretty much every post will be about the most recent thing I have watched or read, hopefully averaging out to more than one new post every week.

Some people will come to this blog just looking for a review. I’ll write that first, every time. I will avoid spoilers. It will be succinct, it will be critical, and at the end of it will be a score out of 10. Always a whole number. Decimals are for chumps. The next part will be a long winded analysis, based solely off of whatever thought springs into my head. I will try to make it sound smart, but I assure you it will not be so. Themes will be explored. Themes that may be exactly for what the author was gunning and have since come to grace common knowledge. I will not be researching these works beforehand, so you’ll have to excuse any observation that I make that may be obvious to everybody else in the world. At the same time, my exploration could be completely off base and laughably inconsistent. I’ll admit now that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. You’re just going to have to deal with that.

And so with that, we’ll get into our first review.

 

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War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. (image source: Wikipedia,  Nirwath)

George Orwell – 1984

Simpleton review: 

This was a good book. Some of the concepts are a little overdone now. Lately I find myself becoming bored by dystopian futures with overbearing leaders and overworked lower classes (thanks a lot J. Law). But while reading 1984, I had to remember that this genre was fresh, nay momentous back in Orwell’s day. The world he creates is not just imaginative, but terrifyingly plausible, if you give in to the provided logic. The characters are drawn out like people you could see on the street. The environments are cold, and somehow both sterile and dirty at the same time (which fits the theme of the story, oddly). And the lore, my word. The world building that Orwell crafted is expansive and uncomfortably tangible. I’ll admit, the story does slow down quite a bit at times while Orwell explains certain aspects of the story. There was one scene in particular, when the main character is reading a certain book, that I checked how much more of this book-in-a-book I had to endure and said out loud, “Is this for real right now?” But what we gain from his sacrifice of brevity is a stark look at where we could be headed as a society, and that is a view well worth your time.

I give this a solid 9/10.

Unnecessary ramble:

George Orwell was ahead of the game. By this Generation Y-er’s standard, there WAS no game until the popularization of the internet. Ignore for a moment (but not a moment longer) the slew of countries that inhibit those things some of us know to be basic rights, or introduce concepts that we think of as oppresive. Lack of freedom of speech, censored internet, the nationalist propaganda machine. The western world has witnessed the rise of the tech revolution, NSA privacy invasion, Homeland Security, and a constant stream of information from one side or the other. With these culture-shifting concepts crowding the brain of society, it’s hard to know what is real anymore. I don’t mean “real” in a Jaden Smith “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real?” type deal. What I mean to say is that, because there are so many differing views which are held and guarded with such conviction, everyone who is stuck in the middle finds themselves caught in a tug of war. Such topics as abortion, gun control, economics, and religion are all so vehemently mulled by groups who utterly believe their opinion is in the right and all others are complete atrocities. Finding results will always be a struggle to these people, as they are hardly ever the majority. But what I find interesting is just how easy it is for them to make the argument. Right or left, these beliefs or those beliefs, each side knows that theirs is in the right. To them, their arguments are infallible. It is the middleman, the average Joe/Jane, that has to deal with the internal conflict of choosing a side. That is, if they can even overcome their apathy or disillusionment to bother. It is this person, this Ohio swing-state, that has the power in our society. The arguments made by those with conviction are directed less at their own opponent, and moreso at those who may be someday swayed. Sure, many find a satisfaction in presenting a case to their enemy, whether that be yelling over each other on live television or typing in all caps in a Facebook status. But ultimately people realize pushing against an immovable object is futile. The timid, undecided masses are the pebbles which the determined minority try to push into a slurry to form an aggregate to bolster their side.

And it is this person, the layman, the everyday worker, that is crushed entirely in 1984. We explore a snippet of life in the superstate of Oceania through the eyes of Winston Smith. He is, by a simplified version of today’s standards, a middle-class white collar worker. Of course, his situation is not so easily defined as that (nor does he actually wear a collar). None of us wants to debase the significance of our own lives into one sentence, especially one that illustrates us like worker bees in a hive. Winston is just that however. He is part of a machine, as is everybody else around him. But because he is human, he is a faulty part of that machine. I found this theme, that of humanity in a state that shuns the imperfect nature of itself, to be particularly interesting. Winston is constantly worrying about when, not if, he will be found out by the Thought Police and grabbed during the night. People around him disappear often. It is not uncommon for him to talk with someone one day, and then never see them again. These people are taken away and, I assume, are replaced. And why are they replaced so frequently? Because they are all human, just like Winston. Just like the highest members of the Inner Party. We are all faulty, and will always be. But even a faulty machine part performs its function adequately for a time, and in this time the machine (The Party) is achieving its goal. I don’t want to reveal too much of the novel for those who haven’t read it yet, but I will just say that looking at the characters as simultaneously human and inhuman might better explain the motivations depicted in the story. This paradoxical thought process is of course referred to as Doublethink, and is ubiquitous throughout the novel.

And with Doublethink comes a series of words or phrases that we frequently use in our lives, often without making a single attempt at attribution to Orwell. Big Brother is probably the most common, and has come to be used most often when describing an authoritative figure watching us. This idea includes CCTV, NSA, Mark Zuckerberg’s fear of webcams, an inane reality television show, and so on. The sheer inspiration that has trickled down is widely noticeable. Shepard Fairey’s Obey Propaganda. That one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard screams about four lights, not five. V for Vendetta (with the added irony that John Hurt, who plays Winston Smith in the film adaptation of 1984, plays the Big Brother-esque party leader). Even the late David Bowie made a song inspired by the story.

the-four-lights-8
Jean-Luc has had enough of this doublethink BS

What is remarkable to me is just how well our society seems to be aligning with the concepts portrayed in 1984. Don’t think of me as some hippy that blames technology for all of our problems. Most of our society is affected to basically no degree by government spying, censorship, and leaders that evoke some to say “demagogue”. A lot of people get upset about Snowden and Trump and blah blah, but in the end we all wake up every day and go about our routine as usual. But in the end, it is undeniably easy to draw comparisons, no matter how vast the degree of difference.

This novel is one that sticks with you for a long time after reading. Perhaps it’s the bleak setting, which is described in such detail it almost makes you feel this place and these people actually do exist somewhere. Maybe they do to some point. Maybe the book is so memorable because it makes you feel bad. Not just bad for the characters, but because it pushes you, the reader, into a teetering position of guilt. You read about these events, which are apparently taking place in some kind of skewed, parallel timeline. Like Doc Brown and his chalkboard. Even though we are now over 30 years after the setting of the book, it still reads like a future event. The descriptive background gives the impression that we did or didn’t do something in the present that ultimately takes us all to this world of warring superstates and omniscient mustachioed men. I like to think that George, while writing this, did so while gazing into a mirror. He would point at himself once in a while and say, “You! You did all of this! And what do you have to say for yourself? How could you have stopped it all if only you had known?”

Click below to find 1984 on Amazon. Yes, if you buy the book through this link I’ll make a little money. No, it does not cost you anything extra. So why not help a comrade out, for the betterment of the Party?

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