George Orwell: Prophesies
Political journalist and novelist George Orwell actively excoriated and condemned totalitarian regimes during the 20th century. His foresight has as great, or even greater relevance, for society today.
Eric Blair achieved fame primarily as a novelist writing “Animal Farm” and “1984” under the pseudonym George Orwell. But his true legacy is as an immersive, political journalist both through his fiction and his reportage. Orwell did not sit on the side-lines, as an observer of events, but plunged himself into the social and political issues about which he chose to write. Discarding his middle-class upbringing and his education at Eton College, that has schooled many of Britain's prime ministers, he disguised himself as a tramp to live amongst the poor living, “Down and Out in London and Paris.” In “Homage to Catalonia” he was injured as a combatant in the physical and political battle against fascism.
“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell in “1984.”
As a prolific writer of books, essays, articles and literary criticism Orwell’s world is overshadowed by his two greatest works “Animal Farm” and “1984.” While he immersed himself in his reportage, he was no less absorbed in these novels, not only physically, but politically and emotionally. His experience in the Spanish Civil War saw his commitment to socialist values sapped by internecine conflict among those purporting to fight for socialist equality. His realization that Josef Stalin was nothing more than a mass murderer redirected his energy against all types of totalitarianism. Orwell was equally passionate about the way in which he conveyed his messages through his writing: he sought simplicity and clarity in words, encouraging others to do the same.
Big Brother is still watching
Orwell could not have predicted that his warnings about unrelenting technological, state surveillance of Winston Smith in “1984,” would go unheeded in real life. He could not have foreseen that by the 21st century it would not only be governments intruding into people’s private lives with ubiquitous CCTV and phone monitoring. He would have been dumbfounded that ordinary people now surrender their right to privacy by inviting listening devices into their homes: that people would surrender control of their personal data, privacy and preferences to corporations as faceless as “1984’s” “Big Brother.” Nor could Orwell have anticipated that today’s accusations of “fake news” by populist politicians would reaffirm the dangers about which he cautioned, of governments distorting the truth in terms he coined such as, “newspeak,” “doublethink” and accusations of “thoughtcrime.”