1984 by George Orwell shows unbalance between the classes of its dystopian society through stark contrast.
- Kept under strict watch by the government through the use of telescreens that view the members constantly and also spew out repetitive propaganda
- They are conditioned to be ever loyal to the government. They are encouraged to spy on their neighbors and devote all of their free time to the improvement of themselves and their community. They are even taught that sex is a duty to the government to produce children
- Largely ignored and left to do as they please. They are not monitored or cared about by the government.
- They are viewed as inferior and allowed to revel in things of the past. Their living conditions are far worse than the party's and they are raised into hard lives of poverty, drunkenness and gambling.
The party is looked after closely because they are more of a threat to the government. They are more intellectual and have more potential to realize that the government is built on lies and corruption. The proles on the other hand are underestimated as being obsolete because they have learned to accept that they have no hope or ambition to improve their lives. Syme says that "The proles are not human beings" (Pg 52). This is the popular belief among the Party members because they see them as lowly animals. Winston however feels that they are perhaps more human than the party because they have the freedom to do as they like. They are not conditioned and brainwashed to be what the party wants them to be. In this case the people of the lower class may have less material possession, but their lives are more meaningful because they have the ability to choose.
One thing I found particularly interesting about the class system here is that the Proles are happy where they are on the power ladder. They know that they can not gain status and they don't have a desire to do so. Generally we as a people want to get as high up as we can. We want to be on top and gain glory. The Proles seem to realize that their lowly lives are better and that more power would cost them freedom.
It seems that middle class people like Winston desire to go downward instead. This sort of role reversal shows thought provoking contrast between our world today and Orwell's depiction of the future. Is the human race headed in a direction where we gain so much that our desire is to lose?
Heather Brooke starts her talk by spinning a tale about inquisitive "children" who want to access the secret filing cabinets of the "parents" This may seem like a silly metaphor, but it is very poignant to the dynamic between the government and the people today.
Through her experience as an investigative journalist, Brooke has learned how important it is for people to have "a say in decisions that are made in their name, and with their money." This interest has sparked an "information enlightenment" which involves finding the truth based on evidence rather than "Because I said so's"
It is important for everyone to take advantage of new technologies to gain knowledge. One person alone is incapable of obtaining all of the information necessary to make good decisions about the complexities of our modern world. Brooke argues that the hierarchies found in our government systems simply cannot effectively use the information on their own.
To help fix this, there are many new data-bases being developed that take advantage of freedom of information laws to track down information about government spending and other actions. There are some things, however, that cannot be tracked so easily such as war. In these areas we still have to rely things like leaks.
These leaks allow us to see that those in power are just ordinary people like us. There is no special magic or anything about them, regardless of how perfect they wish to appear.
Like Brooke, I believe that the way to fix the corruption that our government can get away with using secrecy is to demand more rights in freedom of information. We as a public have a right to know about our governments dealings because they represent all of us as a whole. Their decisions become our decisions whether we like them or not. That is why we need to keep track of these dealings and hold those in power accountable for their actions. If they feel the need to spy on us, why can't we spy on them?
The Obsolete Man shows a view of a future where the ideas of Hitler, Stalin and other dictators have been taken even farther by a new power that lords over it's subjects with a crushing hand. Books and learning are deemed poisonous, and God and knowledge are called obsolete. There are government officials, such as the Chancellor, who strive to rid the society of people that they deem unnecessary. While the Chancellor insists that "the state has no fears", he is still rather cautious about assuring Wordsworth's death. He believes that undesirables are what cause downfall, especially those viewed as useless.
"logic is an enemy and truth is a menace"
What I found particularly interesting about this symbolic sketch is the way that the situation shifts. Once Wordsworth has the upper hand, we find that the Chancellor is truly a hypocrite. He truly is afraid of an "obsolete" man like Wordsworth and he begins to beg pathetically for mercy, just as he predicted Wordsworth himself would do. When he is spared, the government system that the Chancellor is so obsessed with turns on him. He is suddenly deemed obsolete for showing weakness, and he finally realizes the corruption of the state.
This says a lot about dictatorship and power distribution in the real world. Often a government becomes so focused on perfecting themselves that they start to tear apart from the inside. The human race is imperfect and there is always a new flaw to be found. Also, those in power often start to overestimate themselves and underestimate everyone else. This is how dictatorships fall. Arrogance weakens those who hold power and leads to them neglecting those who have the potential to undo them.
I remember playing the board game Trouble with my young cousin Russell one afternoon. Like most children he enjoyed adding his own rules to the game. The problem was that he didn't want to follow them himself. To him it was great fun that I should have to lose a turn for rolling a 3, but when he rolled a 3 he felt that the rule need not apply.
This kind of thing may seem pretty harmless when applied to a kid's game, but I find it disturbing to know that this very thing happens within our government. How could this happen you ask? Through signing statements. A signing statement is a note that a president issues when he signs a law in which he can say which parts of it he does or doesn't intend to follow. This basically legally gives him the right to ignore certain laws and say "that doesn't apply to me."
I do understand how something like this could be necessary. For example, if there is one small part of a law that is unconstitutional it is much easier to correct it with a signing statement than have to revise and re-vote on the whole thing. The problem comes when president's abuse this power. Many of our nation's leaders have used and misused signing statements. Most notably, President George W. Bush is known to have issued a large number of them as a way of furthering his Unitary Executive Theory. According to "Read the Fine Print
", a 2006 article from The New York Times
, President Bush was able to practically eliminate parts of laws that contradicted his viewpoint using signing statements.
I personally think that these signing statements are a problem. If there is a problem with a law, it should be vetoed and given the chance to be fixed. I believe that once something is signed into law, no one should be able to get away with ignoring any part of it, not even the president. It is abuse of power like this that causes catastrophic problems with our countries politics.