George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, and yes – he simply flipped the last two years as a nod to “where things are headed.” It has been in the news recently due to the election of Donald J Trump to the presidency of the United States, as many see similarities in his policies and Orwell’s view of a government controlled by ‘Big Brother.”
The essence of that worldview is described by Orwell in the book:
“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
There is of course a lot of fodder for similarities, but the situation isn’t unique to the United States or to the present time. It also ignores the spiritual dimension driving the macro-sociological undercurrents.
It comes as no surprise that politics are a circus of carnival barkers. We yearn for greatness with sentimentality, but long ago surrendered meaningful, complex dialog for media sound-bites and tweets. This postmodern condition was described by sociologist Stjepan Mestrovic as “postemotional” which feeds on routine banalities and clichés. It’s what Emile Durkheim called “collective effervescence” (think Jerry Springer).
This is nothing new.
When citizens are untethered from spiritual moorings they eventually cry out for a king to stop their drift. As Mestrovic observed, this opens the way to manipulation by the unscrupulous on a vast scale to a totalitarianism that promises restored greatness. Once people have lost their connection to God, they are sure to be enslaved by a Caesar. In that condition there is little patience for a King who is not of this world.
They will cry out for Barabbas every time.
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
D I G D E E P E R
(1903–50). As a journalist and writer of autobiographical narratives, George Orwell was outstanding. But he will be remembered primarily for two works of fiction that have become 20th-century classics: Animal Farm, published in 1944, and Nineteen Eighty-four (1949).
George Orwell is a pen name. His real name was Eric Arthur Blair, and he was born in 1903 at Montihari in Bengal, India, where his father was a minor British official. His family had social status but little money, a fact that influenced Orwell’s later attitude toward the English class system and the empire’s treatment of its subject peoples. In about 1911 the family returned to England. Blair was sent to school in Sussex, where he was distinguished both by his poverty and his intelligence. He later wrote of his miserable school years in Such, Such Were the Joys (1953).
He attended Eton in the years 1917 to 1921 but decided against going on to a university. Instead he went to Burma (now Myanmar) as a member of the British imperial police.
His own poverty, plus his growing aversion to Britain’s imperial policies, led him to resign from the government in 1928. He then spent several years among the poor and outcast of Europe and among the unemployed miners in the north of England. These experiences were recounted in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). Then Orwell went to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. His experiences in Spain were described in Homage to Catalonia (1938), one of his best books.
During World War II Orwell wrote for the British Broadcasting Company and worked as a literary editor for the London Tribune. The success of Animal Farm in 1944 allowed him to devote himself to writing. He bought a house on the island of Jura, where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-four. By the time it was published, Orwell was already ill from the tuberculosis from which he died on Jan. 21, 1950, in London.
“Orwell, George,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).