Sunday, June 28, 2015

Oh Crap, Orwell Was Right

After I read 1984 by George Orwell I put it down with a hatred that I have never felt for a book. I hated how Orwell drew me into the story and then crushed it so suddenly. I felt the message within the book was valuable but I hated the book itself. I hated it to the point that when it came time for me to read it again in AP English, I decided to just try and pull from my prior knowledge of the book from a few years back and take the hit in my grade, rather than go through the ordeal of reading that book again. I was, however, consoled by my belief that Orwell was wrong. But that was back when I was 14 and had no life experience. Now I am 19, and have a very small amount of life experience, and I am beginning to realize that I was the one that was wrong.

From a technological standpoint we have certainly fulfilled Orwell's predictions. The obvious example is the NSA's monitoring, but we are also surrounded by cameras. With security cameras, traffic cams, computers, smartphones, and tablets, we are potentially on video all the time. Cameras are so prevalent that people are being trained for their jobs to act as if they are being recorded. But the presence of this technology in-and-of itself isn't really scary. At least we aren't using this technology like the government in 1984, right?

Well, sort of. Unfortunately we seem to be fast approaching the mindset that will lead to such close surveillance. You don't need to go far to find the beginnings of this either. All you need to do is log on to your Facebook account and look at how people attack each other over their differing opinions. There is a rising culture that makes it okay to attack another person over their opinions, especially if they are "intolerant." We are slowly creating our own version of the Thought Police. So far, this Thought Police is we have created isn't yet united by a single mindset, but with more and more government intervention in matters of conscience, we may be approaching that point. 

We are even seeing modern examples of the restriction of people who have unpopular opinions. Russia's anti-gay propaganda law is a prime example of this. However, such laws are not really unexpected out of Russia, a country with good deal of corruption and President who was once in the KGB. Again, however, we don't have to go far to find an example of this violation of freedom. Yes, we only have to cross the border, to a country as reasonable and forward-thinking as Canada. That's right, Canada has a law on the books called the Hate Speech law, and yes it is enforced. The actually wording of the law defines Hate Propaganda as "any writing, sign, or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence." The law also allows a books or other written material to be confiscated that fit this rather open-ended description. To be fair, as far as I have researched, this law has not been used very frequently, however when it has been used it is often highly controversial. But nonetheless, this law has the potential to be used in a very Orwellian way, and as people become more and more overly sensitive that possibility becomes increasing more likely. Again, this law is on the books in Canada. 

While each of these things when viewed separately are concerning, when you view them together it is down right scary. Or it should be, yet nobody seems to be talking about it. Maybe people, just like 14 year old me, don't want to accept that Orwell was more right than we originally thought. We like to discuss 1984 and then say, "Well, it's a good thing that he was wrong," when in reality, it may be us who are wrong.

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