Pare You Down

Pare You DownPare You Down

Do not confuse pare with pear, or the Spanish for “stop.” That’s not what I’m writing about.

I’m writing about this definition:

Pare-reduce (something) in size, extent, quantity, or number, usually in a number of small successive stages.

 

Now the title of my post may lead you to believe I’m going to hock some diet at you. After all, if you’re reducing your size, extent, or quantity, aren’t you dieting? We’re not talking the physical here, we’re talking about the mental. We’re talking about being mentally pared down. So what does it mean to be mentally pared down?

Well, I touched on it in my review of the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. Imagine you, this complex person with complex thoughts and desires, being whittled away to one of those thoughts or one of those desires. Sure, we can’t all be cowboy-billionaire-astronauts, but certainly we could be a cowboy and a billionaire? Whose with me on this? Most people like to do more than one thing. There are a lot of people who switch careers over the course of their lives. People carry different interests. Most of us don’t have just one hobby. Egon, God rest his soul, collected spores, mold, and fungus, not just one or the other.

Think about it, what if you liked chocolate and pizza, but somebody told you, “Hey, you’re only allowed to like one thing now. You better chose between chocolate or pizza.” How do you make that decision? How do you throw away one of your loves for something so amazing? No, you don’t get the choice of choosing chocolate pizza. Wouldn’t you secretly still love pizza if you chose chocolate officially? What if someone made you incapable of loving pizza secretly? What if someone flat-out took away your ability to possess a multi-faceted personality?

Imagine someone hands you this card when you’re a little kid and it says this:

  • You like pizza

  • You hate math

  • You will be a dentist

  • You will marry a woman named Penny

  • You think Schubert is better than Liszt

Now imagine that’s all you can ever think about these things. You will always like pizza. You don’t get to change your mind about it. You can never get tired of pizza. You will always hate math. You can never develop an appreciation for geometry. You WILL be a dentist. You can’t change your mind and become a science teacher, because dental school is too hard . You will marry a woman named Penny, no, you can’t marry Julie, or Juan for that matter. You will always think Schubert is better than Liszt even though Liszt was a freaking piano genius and kind of good-looking. Wouldn’t all of that suck?

Sure, it would all suck and you know it, but what if you didn’t know you had an option? What if you didn’t know you could choose to like pizza or not like it? Well, you wouldn’t know you were missing anything. If you don’t know you have the choice, you just go along with it. For you, life is good. You go on through life thinking pizza is awesome, math sucks, being a dentist is good, Penny’s not so bad, and Schubert is your man for music. The thought never even enters your head to think any differently. You wouldn’t know, so you couldn’t be upset about any other way of life. You can’t miss what you don’t have.

If someone suddenly told you that you had the option of choosing, you would be ticked off. People lied to you. All this time, and you could have chosen to not like pizza.

That’s all social conditioning. They’ve brainwashed you into believing a certain way, but they haven’t necessarily taken away your ability to believe a different way, but what if they did? What if somehow they managed by medical means to take away your ability to choose differently. This could be a physical surgery, a chemical restraint, or maybe even selective breeding, we are treading on the edge of science fiction here, so selective breeding and genetic modification are appropriate to mention.

For the most part, in the world of dystopian novels, when someone is pared down mentally, it’s a social conditioning process. They’re simply told things are one way and everyone else believes it, so you do too. This isn’t always the case. In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, people are genetically engineered to only think a certain way or be a certain way. You will never be anything other than what you were born into. On the inverse of that, we have a novel like 1984 by George Orwell, where people are not engineered to behave a certain way, they are just pressured to behave that way socially. People can wake up and realize that the world is not as it seems.

In Divergent by Veronica Roth, we seem to have a mixture of both. Tris is pressured to be a certain way because of the society in which she lives. She’s pressured to be selfless and constantly-giving because she’s in Abnegation. That’s just social pressure though. She comes to find this out with her desire to become dauntless. She realizes she can act and think differently. But…the world in which Tris uses doesn’t rely on social persuasion alone to keep people in line. Over time, it seems people have lost the ability to choose. Is it genetic manipulation? Is it a strange form of Darwinian evolution? I don’t know. I don’t know why people have seemingly lost this physical ability to choose, but they have. Unless they’re Divergent like Tris, the people in the factions can’t be predisposed to anything else. That’s what they are. Let’s not forget, the book also uses chemical restraints as a means of controlling people physically and mentally.

My point in exploring this whole idea is that dystopian stories tend to pare people down into certain aspects without giving a choice for anything else. The thing is, this isn’t just in stories. This has been done in real life, maybe not in the exact way it’s been done in books, but it’s been done in real life. Consider tyrants. Consider dictators. Consider what they do to their people. Are their people allowed to think freely? Of course not, you can’t say anything bad about your gracious leader. Are their people discriminated against for certain aspects of their personalities or physical being? Yes, big time. During WWII, if you were a Jew, it only mattered that you were a Jew. It didn’t matter if you were a Jew and a world-renowned heart surgeon. The fact that you were a Jew decided your fate. During certain cultural revolutions people who were considered “intellectuals” were locked away to be re-educated. Did it matter that they had accomplished so many great things? Did it matter that they were parents? Did it matter that they were sick? Did it matter that they liked to take walks on Sunday afternoons? Nope. None of it mattered. It only mattered that they expressed themselves through a predominant personality type and that predominant personality type was considered dangerous to the government.

When one entity or organization tries to control another, that entity tends to look at a person as an aspect rather than a human being. If you see a human being, you have compassion, but if you just see someone who likes the color orange, then it’s ok to treat them terribly. They’re an orange-lover and no one likes orange-lovers.


 

Dog Years and George Orwell

Dog Years and George OrwellDog Years and George Orwell

You know that saying about how you calculate a dog’s age? Your dog supposedly lives seven years by the time you live a year. It is true that animals age much faster than humans, for the most part, we do have our exceptions with sea tortoises and a few other animals. So what do dog years have to do with George Orwell?

George Orwell wrote the English class staple, Animal Farm. It’s a book about a farm full of animals that takes over its own rule and declares something of a communist society, but it doesn’t really work out the way anyone envisioned it, except for maybe the way the faithful and dear leader Napoleon envisioned it. My claim is this, by picking animals on a farm instead of humans, George was able to write about the entire rise and decline of a government over a short period of time.

Let’s just go ahead and equate Animal Farm to the Soviet Union ok? Everyone knows that is what George was talking about anyway. So there’s no point in beating around the bush and making all these euphemisms and winks about who we’re really talking about. The Soviet Union came to power in 1917, roughly, and fell from power in 1989, this is a generally accepted year for the end of the Soviet Union anyway. That is seventy-two years. The Soviet Union was one of the biggest empires in the history of the Earth for seventy-two years, granted it wasn’t always as large as it was at the height of its rule. That’s roughly the lifespan of a person. A person could have conceivably been about eight when the Soviet Union came to power and still be alive when the Soviet Union officially fell from power. The lifespan of the Soviet Union was roughly the age of one person. Now let’s look at this in terms of Animal Farm.

The events in Animal Farm take place over a few years. It’s not twenty years. It’s not even ten years. Let’s go down a bit and say it’s like six years. We know it’s enough time for Napoleon and several of the other animals to age into elderly animals. It’s enough time for Boxer the horse to go from being this big strong horse to a horse that can’t really stand under his own steam. Horses can live over twenty years, if they’re well taken care of, but we do have to consider that Boxer was already several years old when the story started and he died before his time because he worked so hard. Some of the animals on the farm die while Napoleon is still in power.

Animals are perfect for this story. They live out their lives much faster than we do. It only makes sense that their government would rise to power and fall much faster than our own governments. We have the golden age in which people were happy, it  lasted about a year or so for the animals, so it’s more like ten to twenty years in a real-life government structure. We have the age when the animals were not so happy, but still believed in the system, that lasted a year or so. This would equate to maybe twenty years or so as a comparison to the real-life Soviet Union. Then we have the age in which the animals were terrified into believing the system, this lasted a year or two, so that would be twenty to forty years in real life. Then we have the time period in which the animals knew things were bad, but didn’t really know what to do about it, that lasted a year or so. This would be twenty years, and most likely the tail-end of the Soviet rule. I can’t really equate exact year times to these comparisons, I can just make educated guesses, so I know the math might not exactly add up here.

If George had based this book on people instead of animals, we would have to include all the things that happen to a human over seventy plus years. A human has to grow up, get married, have a family, have a job, have meaningful relationships, be full of despair and hope, and all manner of other things. All of those things take up precious real-estate in the world of a book. George didn’t have to explain all of this about his animals because they’re animals. They don’t get married. They don’t worry about doing their taxes or if another animal is cheating on them. They’re simplified. They can live out their entire lives dealing with this government without having any of the drama that goes on with a human’s life during the same type of government lifespan. George was a genius when he decided to use animals to illustrate his obvious distaste for communism’s problems.

Also, I think it does make the story more interesting for pigs, dogs, goats, and such to be participating in communism. The idea is silly, but that makes the book more readable and the ideas stick in the brain better.


#403 Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George Orwell

Revolution comrades! Rise up against your oppressors and run the farm your own darn self! Everybody is equal…but some are more equal than others.

Dear old George wrote this book as a work of satire. He was concerned that the media was being censored. The media is censored ok? Don’t argue. George puts forth an argument in the very beginning of his book all about this idea. George was concerned because some people praised this idea or that ideal in the media without presenting any of the darker aspects of those ideals. If anyone dared to voice the dark side of these ideals, they were excluded from popular thought by sheer will of the media. This happens today, this isn’t something that was only going on back when George wrote this book.

So what is this book about? This book is about a farm of animals that revolts and takes the farm for themselves. They are led by the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, who disagree on everything. Speeches are made. Everyone is equal. Men are bad. The animals can run the farm themselves. Once an animal reaches a certain age, it will be retired to live a comfortable life, provided for by the rest of the farm. Everyone will have enough food. Each person will do the work they are capable of. The animal must put off the vestiges of man and rule themselves. It works, for a while.

Snowball and Napoleon have taught themselves how to read and write. They speak of all kinds of ideas to the animals. There is a fight. Some men try to take back the farm, the animals win. Medals are awarded. Snowball fights bravely. Snowball soon envisions the idea of a windmill. The windmill can provide power to the farm. The animals will only have to work three days a week when the windmill is completed. Napoleon thinks this is a stupid idea.

Napoleon took away a litter of puppies and raised them to be his personal body guards and cronies. They chase Snowball off one day, things get worse from there. Boxer the horse always says, “I will work harder,” and, “Napoleon is always right,” whenever he is faced with any monumentous task. Napoleon soon says a windmill will be built. It was his idea all along. The animals seem to remember it differently, but no one really says anything about it.

Time passes. Some of the farm animals are executed for supposed crimes against the great and fearless leader Napoleon. Where the seven commandments of animalism were once written, the reading members of the farm soon see words in the commandments that they do not remember. An animal must never sleep in a bed, with sheets. An animal shall never kill another animal, without cause. An animal shall not consume alcohol, to excess. One by one the rules are changed. Some animals soon become more equal than others, namely pigs and dogs.

The animals go hungry. Boxer suffers from old age and too much hard work and is sent to the glue makers, but, of course, the vet bought the van from the glue maker. Napoleon would never send his beloved Boxer to the glue maker. The pigs soon start wearing human clothes and dealing with the humans, the sworn enemies. The animals don’t have long enough memories to know if this was how it was supposed to be or not, but Napoleon is always right.

What I liked

This book is obviously very political. It is about communism. I’ve mentioned it before, but in an ideal world, communism would probably be great. The ideas behind it are ideas that people like, everyone being equal, everyone being provided for, and so on. This is all great, in theory, but it never works. There have been plenty of countries and small groups who have tried ideas like communism or ideas similar to communism, the law of consecration practiced by early Mormons was an ideal similar to communism, but not exactly communism. None of these endeavors worked. It is true that we have communist countries on the earth today. How do they fare? Is every citizen equal? Does everyone have enough food? No, is the answer to last two questions, North Korea and Cuba being countries that come to mind when thinking of these questions.

People are volatile. People are greedy. People have vices. That’s why communism never works. Sure, it’s great that everyone is equal, until someone gets tired of being equal and having no power, money, or prestige over anyone else. George’s book illustrates this beautifully, with a bunch of farm animals no less.

What I didn’t like

The treatment of the farm animals in this book makes me sad and it’s not just because I like animals. It makes me sad because they’re treated like pawns. They’re just little pieces on a game board moved around for the amusement of Napoleon and his hench-animals. They’re lied to. Outright lies are spilled from the mouth of Napoleon. No, it wasn’t Napoleon’s idea to build a windmill, but he’ll claim it and say it was. No, he didn’t do anything to deserve medals, but he’ll award them to himself anyway. Of course pigs deserve more food than any of the other animals. Of course some animals are more equal than others. Yes, you can demand the unborn babies of the chickens to be sold as a source of revenue to buy food for the rest of the community. I mean, it’s awful the way these animals are treated. They’re treated as if they aren’t their own entities.

We’ve got brains right? We think for ourselves. We can make our own choices. We’re not stupid, at least we like to think we’re not stupid. We don’t need people telling us, oh just because so-and-so says it, it must be a good idea. Shut up! Not every idea that comes out a person’s mouth is a good idea. Look Stephen King writes some awesome stuff, but he also writes crap from time to time. He’s still a great author, but he’s not infallible. Following something blindly is never a good idea. You know better. You do. You know better. Somewhere in the back of your brain, you know that what the person saying on TV is bullcrap. You know, but do you listen to that little voice telling you this is a bunch of BS? Sometimes, sometimes not.

I feel bad people are ever treated like pawns, but part of it is their own darn fault. They listen. They let themselves be taken in by all the pretty words and empty promises. The animals on animal farm knew the commandments didn’t always have additions, but what did they do about it? NADA! They were scared because Napoleon had taken out punishment against some who weren’t one-hundred percent behind him, but you know what…there’s still more animals on the farm than just Napoleon and his cronies. They could have taken over lickety-split. Sometimes, you build your own cage. Sometimes, you let yourself be walked all over. I am sad because people are treated like crap, but I’m also sad that people let themselves be treated that way.

Overall

Animal Farm is essential reading for anyone with a brain. You brain card should be revoked, if you choose not to read this book.

I leave you with a video by CollegeHumor illustrating the mentality that happens in governments similar to the one created by Napoleon the pig.

Two Types of Dystopian Stories

Two Types of Dystopian StoriesI have decided there are two types of dystopian stories. I will explain what I think those types are in this post.

Let’s get a definition of the word dystopian first.

Dystopian: Pertaining to an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

Basically, a dystopia is a place where society has gone haywire. It’s broken and bleak. We don’t know how we’re going to fix it. At times, most of the time, life seems hopeless and, most likely, pointless. As you can imagine this existence would suck.

We live in a time where we have multitudes of dystopian novels, movies, and television shows to fuel our need of ‘what if’ scenarios. Some of the most popular novels ever are dystopian in nature. Think about 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games, The Giver and many more. These are stories that stick with us because they’re intriguing and scary as heck. No one wants to live in a society like that. When we watch movies based off of these books, we can literally feel the depression leaking through the screen into our brains. At the same time, we have this fascination with these stories. It’s like a train wreck that we can’t turn away from. We want to. We really don’t want to watch this, but we just can’t stop watching.

I’ve thought about it and I have decided that dystopian stories come in two flavors and each category has to deal with a question. That question is ‘what if,’ more specifically the important part of the question is what follows that ‘what if.”

Two Types of dystopian storiesWhat if?

These are my questions: What if we caused this to happen? What if we did not prevent this from happening?

Each of these questions depends highly on the motivation of the author for writing the story. We as consumers of these stories can choose what question we want to define a story by. We don’t have to depend on the author’s motivation, but if we know the author’s motivation, we can’t really unknow it. I really need to explain what each of these questions mean to me in order for this to make sense.

Everyone loves a ‘what if’ scenario right? What if Arnold was president? What if donuts rained from the sky? What if Twilight was full of sex? These questions can be great jumping off points for creativity. You cannot begin to fathom how many wonderful things can be thought up from one simple ‘what if’ question. The limits don’t exist. You can’t put limits on something that doesn’t exist.

We take these questions and create boundless fantasy worlds, characters, and societies. We have always asked this question. Some people have put these questions into action. How do you think the Roman Empire got to be so powerful? Someone was sitting around asking ‘what if’ questions? What if we made roads everywhere? What if we offered these benefits to people who were in the military? What if we had public water systems? What if we allowed women these rights? It just went on and on and on. ‘What if’ questions can be wonderful, wonderful things. They can advance our societies and cause new inventions to be beneficial to all mankind, but that is not always the case. Sometimes these ‘what if’ questions bring about some very dark aspects of human nature. For example, what if everyone had blond hair and blue eyes? What if we only allowed people to have one child? What if we closed trade off with other countries?

Now that I have explained the power of the ‘what if’ question, I am going to move onto explaining my specific questions.

Two types of dystopian novelsWhat if we caused this to happen?

Keep in mind that each of these questions are dependent upon the motivation of an individual.

What if we caused this to happen? What if we genetically modified people so they would all have the same skin color? What if we drugged people up so that they would not be able to think freely? What if we observed every moment of every person’s day? What if we had a listening and viewing device in every single home? What if we took away color completely? What if we took away the idea of creativity? What if we took away choice period?

This is the detrimental ‘what if’ question. “What if we caused this to happen,” is the question you will be asking yourself if you desired something. Maybe, you think eugenics is a good idea. So what if we genetically modified people or only allowed certain people to reproduce? What if we made everyone wear the same clothes? I can think up a million questions that follow this one question. Whether this is a bad question or not, is completely subjective. To me, this is a bad question. To you, it might be freaking awesome and the idea of forcing people to be or do certain things might just be the best thing ever. I abhor it.

That kind of takes care of the consumer part of this ‘what if’ question, but what about the creator part? Which question is the creating author asking? Well, you would have to know something about that author. You might get a hint of how the author leans while reading a book, but you won’t be able to tell completely without actually doing some research on the author.

Two types of dystopian novelsYou might remember that in my post about Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, I discussed whether I was going to take Ira’s book as an instruction manual or as a warning. You could also use those two terms to define your dystopian stories. To me, “What if we caused this to happen,” is akin to the instruction manual and, “what if we did not prevent this from happening,” is akin to the warning. I don’t know a lot about Ira, so I can’t speak as far as his motivation. I do, on the other hand, know a little bit more about Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Jack London. All three of these men at one point wrote dystopian novels. Aldous’ and George’s works are more well-known, but, quite frankly, I think Jack’s dystopian novella is probably the scariest of them all.

I have hated Jack London since high school. Through his writing, he has always come across as a cold-heartless person. He may have been ok in real life. He may have been a somewhat nice guy. It was not until I read The Scarlet Plague that I really decided that I would slap Jack London if he magically came back to life. The novella is sinister for reasons I explained in my post on the novella over two years ago. The novella rubbed me the wrong way, and, honestly, I was quite irritated and shaken after reading it. The very idea of it really just went against everything that I believed. So I did some research. I found out Jack London was a member of the Bohemian club. I won’t say a lot about them, since they tend to be jerks, but I will say that they are not in disfavor of controlling the ‘masses,” masses meaning you and me.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are both kind of in the same boat. They weren’t giving us warnings when they wrote their novels 1984 and Brave New World, although we generally take the novels as warnings. These men were more interested in the possibility of such a thing. I cannot speak of their involvement in any clandestine government agencies or rich people clubs, but I do know their motivations were not pure.

Two types of dystopian novelsWhat if we did not prevent this from happening?

This is the warning question. So here we are, in year 23XX, or whatever. We live in compounds closely guarded by barbed wire and advanced weaponry. We’re forced into jobs we hate and our neighbors are frequently guillotined for supposed crimes against the government. We often don’t know where the next meal is coming from and we don’t know who to believe or trust. Life is pretty bleak.

So we have this picture. It sucks. I would rather jump off of a bridge than live that life. We are presented with this story. It’s terrifying. It’s scary and if you were just a little less iron-willed, you would wet your pants while you read it. If you really look past the entertainment value of a series like The Hunger Games and think about the actual consequences of such a world, you would be scared. Really, think about it. Imagine you’re one of those parents agonizing over the fact that your child’s name might be called. Imagine the horror you would feel if your child’s name was actually called. You ask yourself if your ears are deceiving you. Your heart has stopped. You cannot breathe. Just imagine with me for a moment. You love your children right? They’re your most precious joy in life and here someone has called their name and pretty much sentenced them to death. Can you imagine anything scarier?

It really kind of brings a ‘holy crap’ moment into your head. Holy crap! What if this actually happened?! What if this happened and nobody did anything to stop it? What if we allowed it to happen? What if we were so oblivious that our society turned into this garbage hole?

I don’t know Suzanne Collins or her life philosophies, so I cannot speak as far as her motivation for the series, but I know what  camp I’m in. Her novel is a warning as far as I am concerned. Suzanne might think pitting children against each other in a battle to the death is a great idea, I don’t think she does though.  I do like to believe the best in people though even if I don’t know them personally.

Two types of dystopian storiesThe dystopian novels that fall under this question are slaps in the face. They make you feel like a terrible person. You can’t help but feel guilty imagining that, perhaps, you’re doing something today that might lead to a dystopian society for your grand-children. You would have to ask yourself what you were doing that might possibly lead to that. Are you watching too much tv? Are you polluting the Earth too much? Are you being too complacent? Are you allowing your government to take away your rights one by one? Are you too busy watching Snooki and J-Woww to go and vote? These stories really make you think and question the things you’re doing in life.

I know, all too often, we are guilty of reading a novel or watching a movie that falls under this category and simply saying to ourselves, “Well, I’m glad I don’t live in a world like that?” Then we go on to Pizza Hut as planned and forget the whole thing. It doesn’t have to be Pizza Hut, it could be Red Lobster or just whatever. The point is that you continue your every-day motives without thinking about the knowledge you have just absorbed. What if you did that, and then…WHAM! All of the sudden your society looks an awful lot like the society you read about in that book or watched in that movie. What if you let that society happen? What if you had had the knowledge about it happening and tools to prevent it, but you were too oblivious to do anything. Now you’re stuck.

Two types of dystopian storiesSummation

I am going to hazard a guess and say that for every person who thinks of a dystopian story as a warning there is probably another person who thinks it’s a great idea. All these terrible societies you hear about aren’t all going to come true, hopefully, none of them come true. At the same time some brilliant author has created this doomed society for better or for worse, they have also sparked nefarious ideas in others, even if that was never their intention.

It’s a scary, hard truth that there are people in the world who don’t know who you are, but they hate your existence because you fit certain profiles. They don’t like you because you’re a certain race or you belong to a certain economic class. They would wish that they could control you or even cause you to disappear. We like to be happy-go-lucky and believe these people don’t exist, but they do. History is full of people like this. Hitler, Stalin, and Vlad Tepes are just a few people in history who have tried, and in some cases, succeeded in bringing about real-life dystopian societies. Jewish concentration camps were a real-life portrayal of a dystopian society. You really can’t get more dystopian than that.

Don’t get your tin-foil hats out just yet. You don’t have to become paranoid over the next installment of The Hunger Games or start stocking a secret cellar because you watched The Road. Becoming too obsessed with the idea of dystopian societies is not a good thing. The Earth may blow up tomorrow, but I’m not counting on it. We still have real life to live and cannot live in constant paranoia that our television is watching us just like the tele-screens in 1984.

With all that said…these stories definitely make a person wonder.


 

 

 

Belated Birthday to George Orwell

I forgot about George Orwell’s birthday, not that I particularly wanted to remember. George Orwell was kind of a creepy guy. He would have been 109 on Monday June 25th, 2012, if he had possessed long life. Frankly, I am glad he doesn’t possess long life. He would still be scaring us today if he did.

George Orwell isn’t scary because he wrote about aliens or monsters. He is scary because he wrote about our world being doomed. Sure, I admit, there are probably some people who would like it that way, but most of us who read and know what 1984 is want to keep our brains and free thought, thank you very much. George scared us because we could see the glimmer of something like 1984. We could link it to modern-day events. We could link it to actions of our governments. 1984 is an alternate reality that scares the pants off of all of us.  

That dreary world isn’t the only thing Orwell wrote about. He also wrote about the dreary world of some farm animals, farm animals that became communists actually. I wonder if people were like, “Oh let’s not go to that farm to get eggs. Those chickens are communists.”

George Orwell did not only write about things we don’t want to happen. He wrote about being in Burma. I read a few of those stores. They’re interesting.

George Orwell died fairly young. Thank goodness. I mean…that’s so sad.

I have this love and hate relationship with George. 1984 and Animal Farm could be prophetic, but they’re also downright eerie. In fact George isn’t even his name. What a poser! No, I’m kidding. George Orwell was a pseudonym. His name was actually Eric Blair. I guess he thought George was better than Eric, I don’t know why.

The thing about George’s work is that some people love it and see the brilliance in how he was able to pull it all together, while other people see it as a blueprint. There are those that would claim that governments are using 1984 as their blueprints for how to handle the masses. The people of 1984 were constantly under surveillance. There was no such thing as privacy. If you had any qualms about someone else seeing you naked you better go ahead and get rid of them.

There are people who link the constant surveillance of Orwell’s novel to our modern-day world. How do they do they equate a fictional alternative timeline to our modern-day world? Well, they look at how much we as people are under surveillance. The idea of privacy has really been changed. What we used to know as privacy and what we know today are completely different things. We think nothing of cameras on the sides of our roads, we pretty much know that if you wear something embarrassing to Wal-mart your picture will end up on the internet, and we’re totally ok with strangers touching us at the airport. I know we’re supposed to love our neighbors, but that’s a little much.

What privacy used to be doesn’t exist anymore. I think that was one of the major points in 1984. There was no privacy. A tele-screen saw everything you did in your home. It could hear what you said. It could tell you what to do. People would turn you in for saying something that didn’t fit with everyone else. You were watched constantly while at work. If you didn’t show up to the designated leisure activities, you were suspect. Your life was constantly watched. We’re not there, yet, hopefully we never will be, but we definitely gave up our privacy.

As a computer person, I am interested in all the things that technology can do. The technology does exist for tele-screens. In fact, you may already have it. Technology is wonderful and is ever-changing. It’s not the same from day-to-day. This makes successive forms of technology more secure and complex, but even then, someone can always figure it out. There will always be hackers and those that would break the rules.

You have a cell phone right? It has a camera right? It has a microphone right? Guess what? Your cell phone can be hacked. Someone could be listening to everything you say. Someone could be watching everything you do. You have a laptop right? It has a camera in it right? Guess what? Someone could be watching everything you do. In fact, a few school districts have gotten themselves in hot water by observing students who were issued laptops from the school. You have an x-box right? You have a Kinnect right? Guess what? Now, you’re going to say, ” I already know the answer,” yes, you do, and you would be correct. A kinnect can be hacked. As long as you are linked into a network of anything you don’t have the privacy you think you do.

Unless you literally live in the woods under a heavy cover of trees, use no electronics, and do not have any utilities, you are watched. You are tracked. Someone is always going to know where you are, unless you a terrible fate befalls you. I’m not trying to weird you guys out or make you paranoid, I just mention this to let you know that you could potentially have a tele-screen in your life, just like 1984. OnStar is watching you.

Actually that reminds me of an episode of the show Reba. This show does not come on anymore, but you can catch reruns. It’s crazy. Reba lives next door to her ex-husband and his new wife. The new wife is quite ditsy. She gets a vehicle with OnStar and proceeds to talk to the guy at the other end all the time. They eventually break up at the end of the episode. I know it really doesn’t fit into anything I was talking about.

So happy birthday George, may you rest in a peace where animals do not become communists and people are not observed 24/7 by telescreens.