Orwell's government had as its primary goal the control of the people in order to gain more power. This, rather than good rulership for the happiness of the people, was their ultimate goal. In the same way, ideologies such as Nazism and Communism became extreme to the point where they defeated their purpose of an ideal society. Those who suffered under these totalitarian regimes did not consider themselves to live in an ideal society. Winston Smith was also disillusioned with the type of ideology offered by the Brotherhood and the Party.
One of the prominent elements in totalitarian societies is the resistance. This emerges from those who will not be repressed, even by the extreme tactics of the government. In the novel, this sector is referred to as "the Brotherhood." Winston longs to join them in their effort to overthrow the government. The problem is however that their secrecy extends to the point of urban myth, and their existence is by no means a certainty, much less the ability to find them.
This is reminiscent of the underground movements in both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Such secret organizations existed in an effort to balance what they perceived as unacceptable government practices. They promoted free thinking and living according to an individualist ideal.
Part III. Orwell's Message and Vision
As mentioned above, Orwell did not simply write to satirize past systems of totalitarianism. Instead, he used it as a model to voice his concerns regarding current forms of government and official brutalization. Indeed, it has been mentioned that Orwell himself was subject to totalitarian governments. In this way, the satirical viewpoint voiced in novels such as 1984 expose to the reader the evil of totalitarianism as Orwell perceived them both in history and in his own experience.
In this, one might say that Orwell's vision is one that is idealized by communism and socialism; one where people are equal and receive opportunities to become part of building the country, rather than living like brutalized drones under a totalitarian government. It would be a society where citizens experienced true freedom of thought and speech, and had the right to experience life as they believed it would be most fulfilling to themselves.
According to Peter Lowe (2009), permanent social change is just what Orwell had hoped for when war loomed over England. Indeed, his main hope was that the global war would combine with domestic revolution in England in order to create economic equality.
History however shows that this was not the case. Post-war England was even more brutal than the England of Orwell's past memory. While totalitarianism was no longer part of government policy, this did not create economic equality by any means. Economic suffering continued for the very poor, while the pockets of the very rich continued...
Like the effect of the Russian Revolution, as well as the one in 1984, the situation was no better than before, and in fact it could be regarded as even worse than it was before. Indeed, even the personal, inner revolution of the single protagonist of 1984 can be considered as having unforeseen consequences that might be even more undesirable than his sense of oppression throughout the majority of the book.
This is not to say that Orwell's vision of totalitarianism is incorrect in any way. Indeed, totalitarianism and social control can in no way be condoned. Human beings must have the right to regulate their own lives, think according to their own principles, and even worship whatever deity they choose if they are religiously inclined. However, to use any of these rights to remove all the others is not acceptable, especially when a government is the perpetrator.
In terms of Orwell's vision, it is perhaps not as important to consider the outcome of the respective revolutions in Orwell's novels as it is to consider what led up to them. The driving force of the revolution did not consider long-term outcomes as much as it did the current situation in which society found itself.
In 1984, Orwell's dark vision is that, even in resisting the totalitarian government, individual human effort is futile. The government is simply too strong and too omniscient to override. The Brotherhood movement throughout the novel remains an almost tangible and very tempting myth. It is held up as a thread of hope in a society that has become so set in its ways that it could no longer imagine any other way of living. The darkest element of the novel is not so much the strength of the party as the fact that it has been allowed to fortify itself, its ideals, and its actions to perpetuate these to the degree that is described. One might infer that the Party could only grow to such strength with the blessing of the majority. That individuals would give up such a degree of freedom in exchange for security and stability is the true and central horror of Orwell's vision in the novel.
As such, these writings can be considered as a warning or a lesson for readers. This lesson is timeless. All societies are subject to brutal governmental forces at some point in their history. The consideration here is how to handle such totalitarianism, and how to counter it. Perhaps then, Orwell's vision is that each individual should be aware of the dangers of totalitarianism and fight to oppose it. Each individual should oppose any form of rulership that requires an uncritical acceptance of rulership, rules, or power structures. Even today, the dangerous tendency towards uncritical acceptance of rulership could be paralleled to the outcomes of such tendencies in the novel. As seen above, this is particularly so during times of collective social stress such as the months after 9/11.
The novel creates a horrific, surrealistic, and satiric vision of a government out of control. Such governments, according to the author, should be opposed in the strongest sense of the word. Orwell's vision can then be said to be built upon the extremism of the past and the brutality of the present to possibly create a better future with more critical thinkers and wiser leaders. Perhaps one should also draw encouragement from the fact that there are movements to ensure the continuing existence of democracy and individualism.
Orwell, George. 1984. Retrieved from http://www.george-orwell.org/1984
Leigh, Allen. 2010. Big Brother. Retrieved from http://www.bigbrothergovernment.org/
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