How accurate was Orwell in his vision of the future, and in what ways does our contemporary society compare to his idea of society in 1984?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, and it was not so much a work of science fiction as it was speculative fiction, using the premise of a Western democratic society (Britain) falling victim to ultra-liberal (communism) or ultra-conservative (Nazism) regimes.  In other words, he did not intend this society to necessarily exist in 1984; it could have existed as soon as 1948 (if the communists might have won the Cold War that early, let's say).

The society in 1984 is governed by fear (first half) and pain (second half).  Fear is managed by censorship, propaganda, government-controlled mass media, rationing, police-state surveillance and profiling, mandatory extremist nationalism, and a war against family and education (Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Truth).  Pain is managed by institutional torture (Ministry of Love), brainwashing and reconditioning, and the murder of political dissidents.

We are not seeing this society whole-scale in Western democratic governments, but are seeing it in small-scale, especially in mass media.  Currently, Google and Facebook profile in greater numbers than even Orwell could have imagined; the irony, of course, is that most of us don't mind it.  In fact, we all but consent to it because we feel it is contributing to a group database or network.  We have agreed to give up certain individual rights to privacy so that we can, in a sense, be victims of and play the role of Big Brother.  We like voyeurism as much as the Secret Police: just look at reality TV programming!

Currently, Britain is a police-state: their country has cameras on nearly every street corner, and they recently used face-detection technology to find and indict the looters in the London riots.

We have seen torture in our country's War against Terror: waterboarding, Abu Ghraib prison (Iraq), Guantanamo Bay prison (Cuba).  Many have justified excessive force in capturing and killing the terrorists of 9/11.

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drdanbuck | eNotes Newbie

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Orwell was prescient in his depiction of the Telescreen, a 2-way video device that monitored the behavior of its owner. Like Ray Bradbury's TV Parlor, it predicted the interactivity of the Internet. While Bradbury focused on the social media aspect, Orwell saw only the opportunity for the government to monitor every detail of a person's life--something that is now possible due to the fact that so many detail's of a citizen's life are recoreded for all posterity through transactions carried out online.

Socialogically, Orwell missed the boat entirely. No society on earth is totally Orwellian, although North Korea probably comes the closest. Yet it is an isolated rougue state, not one of the three superpowers as Orwell depicted. Yes, the government is able to monitor the most minute details of our lives, but it doesn't use that information to control society--nor can it ever, as long as any constitutional freedoms remain.