“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (248) says George Orwell in his bestselling book 1984. Although this future he saw for 1984 was full of big hair and bright workout outfits rather than a government that controls thought, this future, if we aren’t vigilant could be a future for us.
Those with control of society have control of everything; control and power becomes addictive and causes those who have it to be in charge for as long as they can. This is seen by every society without a peaceful transfer of power and even with peaceful transfer of power those in power sometimes have trouble letting go. In the days of Kings and Queens they would rule for centuries. Then came the days of dictators in places from Europe to Central and South America. Power is something that cannot be taken lightly and should be monitored by the people who lack it.
Although not everyone is selfish and greedy, and it would be extremely difficult to really take a hold of all of society, the possibility of control in a manner like 1984 isn’t impossible. Yes, it would be hard to eliminate all the dissents against the tyrannism and completely remove or alter the facts of the history, but this kind of power has been close in several areas. Even in the present places such as North Korea are near the place of 1984 future.
According to Durkheim and his studies of social facts, the more power a man gains, the more unlimited his desire is likely to become, just as Kim Il Sung, the formal leader of North Korea, tried to make sure that leadership and all the power be accumulated and transferred in only Kim’s family. Such greed to hand down the power to their own son has resulted in the continuance of dictatorship and is evidence that people should have cared about the societal affairs and made sure one’s greed and unsatiated desire to gain power be held in check from the first. As Durkheim emphasized the importance of societal control and limitations by public, people should always check if power of society is being distributed equally among the public rather than concentrated on the government or the leader.
The control of society that is displayed in 1984 also harkens back to the age of Hitler, who ruled with fear and deception. The government in this dystopian England has citizens with no control, just like the citizens of Nazi Germany, where the public was controlled in similar methods explored in Orwell’s novel.
News was censored similar to the newspeak. History was altered, books were burned, and some jobs were to specifically change for the government’s benefit. We see this happening in huge swaths in 1984, especially through Winston, whose job is just to burn information from the past.
Shortly after becoming chancellor, Hitler got the emergency decree passed and suspended civil liberties by ordering his army to arrest the Nazi opponents first. This is similar to the Party’s action to suppress the dissents in the book; the Party arrested any person who had any political opinion, tortured, killed, and even erased the whole history of the person, so that no one would know there even existed such dissents.
George Orwell’s dystopian world reflects the heinous acts committed by the Nazi party. By plainly describing how citizens lacked the political control and were helplessly regulated throughout their lives, Orwell emphasizes the necessity of citizens’ awareness of political events and sensitiveness toward injustice and corruption. Or else the government has complete control over people.
The control that is displayed by the government in Orwell’s 1984 is evidence that controlling the past controls the present and in turn the future. This kind of control is detrimental to society and at some point becomes nearly unstoppable. This is the message that Orwell is trying to deliver in this book, to get the public active in political and governmental affairs.
When thinking about the future, think about who is in control now and if anyone is potentially trying to manipulate the history, justifying his actions out of self-interest and thus changing the future. Pay close attention to who is really controlling society and what he is doing. Don’t let history be rewritten. “There has never been, nor ever will be, a people who are politically ignorant and free.”- TJ
Editorial Board: Andrew Bryant, Aria Lippolis, Jenny Speas, Lucy Ching, and Rachel Chun