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Comparison of Orwell's 1984 Society to Modern and Real-Life Societies

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Orwell's society in 1984 is a dystopian world characterized by totalitarian control, constant surveillance, and suppression of free thought. Modern societies, while more democratic and open, face concerns about privacy due to surveillance technologies and governmental overreach. Real-life parallels include issues like mass data collection, misinformation, and authoritarian tendencies, though not to the extreme depicted in Orwell's novel.

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How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

There are stronger cases to be made on how different the two social orders are as opposed to how similar they might be.  Perhaps, there is a strand in which if modern society is not careful, it can devolve into a situation that Orwell depicts.  If we were to extrapolate and push the envelope in trying to link similarities, I would suggest that the idea of the "thought police" can be seen today with the examination of individual web browsing habits.  Especially so with the preponderance of technology as well as government spyware that was used in the early days of the Patriot Act in order to identify where potential "enemy combatants" might be, this could be similar to the thought police of Oceania.

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How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

In addition to what the previous editors have noted, consider how much the Proles are similar to some Americans.  Many of our politicians study how they can provide enough entitlements to American "commoners" to make them feel satisfied and healthy.  No longer is there much of an incentive to work or to provide for one's self.  Over the last several years, the American government has provided or at least taken credit for providing benefits to its citizens.  Notice how many political candidates (both parties included) discuss what they are going to do for the people in regards to providing them with necessities or even non-essentials.  That is not their role as representatives of the people; they are not meant to be beneficient leaders who control what the "people" get and don't get.

Additionally, many people who are currently receiving government aid from various organizations truly believe that they are happy and satisfied.  They don't seem tocare about personal freedom or whether they know the truth as long as someone else provides for them.

Another similarity is the special privileges that the Inner Party members of 1984 feel entitled to. Over the past several years, we have witnessed our Congress members develop an elitist attitude--that though their constituents might have to pinch pennies, it's perfectly fine for them to cheat on their taxes, fly in luxury, etc. Just keep the Proles happy, and no one will notice right!?

One more similarity that holds true for our society--and this is true of past and present administrations--is that if one overtly disagrees with those in power, the media and members of the government look for ways to silence the dissenters.  Admittedly, opponents of the government are not hauled off to the Ministry of Love, but some lose their jobs, are falsely maligned by the media, or are simply ostracized by most of society.

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How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

To me, I disagree with the first editor.  In my opinion, our society is most definitely capable of the cruelties in 1984.

To me, both societies torture political prisoners. Our government has waterboarded (controlled drowning) suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in order to get them to talk.  At the Abu Ghraib military prison in Bagdad there were photographs of physical and sexual abuse, accounts of rape sodomy, and other torture.  Look what Russian P.M. Vladimir Putin has done against his enemies: if he's not a Big Brother then I don't know who is.

To me, both societies use technological surveillance to monitor excessively and invade privacy. During the last 24 hours, even as I type, I have been profiled at least 50 times by such entities as Google, spyware, cameras at my school, traffic cameras, advertisers, credit card companies, this website.  It's capitalism's version of tracking us, our spending, our searches, our likes, dislikes, fetishes--all in the name of the economy.  But it's still surveillance.  It's not the boogey-man profiling of 1984, but it's still profiling.  We're all watching each other.

In my opinion, you should read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.  He says Aldous Huxley's dystopia in Brave New World is what we've turned out to be:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression.

But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

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How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

This is good because I don't know if I agree with your teacher, but if you are looking for similarities, I don't think it is too hard to find them.

Let's look at the airport.  We are willing to deal with restrictions like not being able to bring liquids with us, taking our shoes, belts, etc., off, taking computers out of our bags, and even subjecting ourselves to searches anytime it is asked and for what?  By creating an atmosphere of fear, we are willing to accept that enormous cost just as the society of 1984 accepted terrible living conditions because of the reports of constant war that they were fed each day.

You might also look closely at the rhetoric that comes out of the main stream media (on all sides) and the way that history is modified and shaped to fit the current moment, just as it was modified in 1984.

There are any number of places you can find similarities, but I think the argument remains open as to whether the two are similar or not.  It is a matter of perspective.

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How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

I disagree with your teacher -- I do not think the two societies are similar at all.  But if I had to try to figure out what she might be thinking, here are my guesses:

  • That the government since 9/11 has been more interested in spying on people.  It's not as much as Big Brother, but they have been listening to phone calls, checking what you get from the library, things like that.
  • We keep having wars that are meant to distract us from the problems that we have in our own society.  During these wars, we are encouraged to be blindly patriotic.
  • Our political parties and such encourage us to hate the people that are opposed to us.

Both of these are very cynical views of how things are and I don't agree with them personally.

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How does the society in 1984 compare to real-life societies?

The dystopia Orwell describes in 1984 indeed has great relevance to our lives, as other responders have pointed out. In fact, the correspondence between the book and our lives today has so captured the imagination—and political commentary—that an entire web site has been devoted to it. See trivia-library.com for lots of information on this topic. One example at that site compares the Oceanic methods in the novel to those used by the US government through the FBI and CIA. Certainly all of the press recently concerning the prison at Guantanamo, not to mention Abu Ghraib in Iraq, suggests that representatives of our government have used unconstitutional not to mention inhuman methods (contrary to the Geneva Convention) to obtain information when they deem it necessary. Popular culture makes this seem heroic (if not sexy) in the television show 24. Find trivia-library on 1984 at

http://www.trivia-library.com/b/george-orwell-1984-relevance-of-predictions-today-part-7.htm

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How does the society in 1984 compare to real-life societies?

You and I do not live in an oppressive regime; however, neither did Orwell. What he forsaw happen in the soviet union has the potential to happen anywhere. The country keeps the peace by keeping its people ignorant and in a state of perpetual fear. In my society, ignorance is willful (people choose not to read, to learn, or to think for themselves). As for language--r u jkng? lol no prob. its all :-). Orwell didn't even consider the possibility of MSN or the fact that we would destroy thought on our own. But to some extent we have. In 1984 everything is monitored.In the US you have "homeland security", the CIA and other forms of "protection" from hostile aliens (terorists); in Canada we have CSIS, the war measures act, and our "relationships" with the major corporations we deal with to "protect", watch and control us(my bank tracks my spending so that it can "serve me better"); any of us can be tracked and found VIA our bank cards or our cell phones. If that isn't enough, check out Google Earth--and that is a toy compared with what can actually be seen. We have freedom of speech.We are free to write to our PM but every person in Canada who does so is added to the CSIS surveilance list. The US?As for media, consider the pro-war coverage of the war in Iraq. In 1984,wars were created as a means to keep its population down and under control. It didn't matter who the enemy was because there was no war. They bombed themselves. R we fre? Yes. Could we lose it? In a heartbeat.

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How does the society in 1984 compare to real-life societies?

One does not have to look far to see the reality of Orwell's caution. In China for example, the government controls expressions (media) and associations (groups, friends). There is a lack of judicial independence and due process, women are discriminated against in a number of ways, etc. The penalties for displeasing the goverment can sometimes mean torture and even death. Many of the same repressions can be found in countries in Africa and other parts of the world.

I would certainly call all of these examples a "true assessment" of how governments can seize control of "every aspect of human life."

These examples above, btw, are why lots of people here in U.S. get very nervous about legislation like "The Patriot Act" which allows the government to tap phones, search mail and email, and financial records without a court order.

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How does society change in 1984?

To understand how society has changed in 1984, it is useful to look at life in Oceania before the Party came to power. We see this through Winston's memories which come back to him as his sense of rebellion increases. 

The memory of Winston's mother, for example, demonstrates how the Party's control has altered the general feelings of the population. In Part One, Chapter Three, for example, Winston acknowledges the pain of his mother's death thirty years earlier while recognising that such private loyalties have been eroded by the Party and replaced with loyalty to Big Brother:

Such things, he saw, could not happen today. Today there were fear, hatred and pain, but no dignity of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows.

Similarly, in Part Two, Chapter Seven, Winston remembers life during the war, long before the Party came to power. He remembers the "panics about air-raids" and "the sheltering in Tube stations" as bombs dropped on London. Comparing this with contemporary Oceania there are a number of key differences. Today, the Party uses war to justify surveillance, to maintain the unequal distribution of wealth and to condone public executions. Moreover, the enemy changes to suit the Party's needs: at the beginning of the book, for instance, the war is against Eurasia but, during Hate Week, it is changed to Eastasia. All traces of the Eurasian war are removed from history, demonstrating the Party's ability to manipulate information and control public perception. 

What these memories show, then, is that the free and unrepressed world of Winston's youth has been replaced by a dictatorial regime composed of total power, control of information, and the promotion of loyalty to Big Brother.  

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What are the similarities and differences between our society and the society in 1984?

While Orwell's novel depicts a horrific dystopian nation where individuals have no personal freedoms and the government controls every aspect of society, one can identify numerous similarities between Oceania's civilization and America's modern society. In modern America, there are government agencies capable of spying on citizens at all times, which is similar to the Party's use of telescreens and the Thought Police. The National Security Agency (NSA) is a government intelligence agency that monitors and collects data on citizens in the interest of protecting America. Essentially, the United States government has the capability of spying on its citizens and can gain access to anyone's personal devices anywhere and anytime.

Another similarity between Oceania and America concerns the government's use of propaganda and scapegoats. Similar to the way Big Brother uses propaganda to create an atmosphere of hysteria and national support, the United States also has a history of spreading pro-American rhetoric and promoting nationalism. Interestingly, the "Uncle Sam Wants You!" propaganda poster is eerily similar to Orwell's "Big Brother Is Watching You" poster. The United States also uses ISIS terrorists and Kim Jung Un as scapegoats, which is similar to the way that Big Brother directs its issues toward Emmanuel Goldstein. Also, both Oceania and the United States are constantly involved in military conflicts, which is evident by America's sixteen-year war in Afghanistan.

Despite Oceania's and America's similarities, they are many drastically different elements to each society. In Oceania, citizens have no personal rights, and their lives are completely controlled by the Party. In contrast, Americans have civil liberties that are outlined in the Bill of Rights. Big Brother is an authoritarian nation, while the United States is a republic. The Party members utilize a concept known as "doublethink" and must maintain perfect orthodoxy in order to avoid being tortured in the Ministry of Love. In America, citizens are free to think however they wish and do not have to worry about being tortured by secret agents for disagreeing with government policy.

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What are the similarities and differences between our society and the society in 1984?

We continue to read 1984 because of the similarities people perceive between our society and that of Oceania. The most prominent is surveillance. With revelations by Edward Snowden and others about domestic spying by the NSA, it is not hard to apply the slogan "Big Brother [meaning the government] is watching you" to contemporary US life. Privacy concerns in terms of our cell phones, the internet and e-mail accounts continue to be a major concern in our society. A question we keep asking is the following: to what extent does the government have a right to look into our electronic data?

Second, many argue that we stay in a state of perpetual warfare, in our case, the "war on terrorism," in order to justify the government spying on its citizens in the interest of national security. Some people also believe that, just like in the world of Oceania, citizens here are deprived of material goods and infrastructure improvements to finance a perpetual war machine.

On the other hand, levels of personal freedom and material well-being are far higher in our culture than in Oceania. We more or less live the lives that Julia and Winston long for, which include having friendships and love affairs, keeping journals, and having free time that isn't programmed by the state. We also have better food, better clothing and better living conditions than the people of Oceania. For example, chocolate isn't rationed in this country. 

The fact that we argue about the degree to which we are a surveillance state or spend too much on wars shows we are a free society in a way that is not possible in Oceania. We have the freedom to speak our minds and criticize the government. However, we read the novel so that we can be reminded to safeguard freedoms while we still have them.

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What are the similarities and differences between our society and the society in 1984?

The way one answers this question could depend a lot on their political views. Many people might argue, for example, that the creation of government bureaucracy and the expansion of government power in the United States create a slippery slope toward the kind of totalitarian society depicted by Orwell. Others have noted a similarity between the euphemistic language used in business and other institutions and Newspeak. But these are highly debatable propositions. In general, one intriguing possible similarity might be the role of technology, which is almost ubiquitous in 1984. The two-way telescreens in 1984 would have been extremely far-fetched in Orwell's time, but not today. Orwell's vision of how people could be led by leaders who understood how to manipulate their most basic urges remains relevant as a warning, but not necessarily (as yet, anyway) as a prophecy.

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What are the similarities and differences between our society and the society in 1984?

The type of society depicted in 1984 bears a number of similarities and differences to contemporary America. One of the most striking differences is the nature of political power. In Oceania, the Party came to power in a violent Revolution. In the modern United States, the government is democratically elected.

Moreover, the citizens of the modern US have a number of rights and freedoms which are protected by legislation, like the Constitution, and cannot be denied by the government. In contrast, in Oceania, Party members live a very restricted life of which every aspect is controlled by the Party. They cannot date who they like, for example, or complain about their poor standard of living. Proles are the only exception to this rule; they live as they please, but only because the Party does not view them as a political threat.

Both the Party and the United States use surveillance to monitor their citizens. In 1984, the Party installed telescreens in the homes of Party members and in the public places they frequent. These devices constantly monitor the conversations and actions of every Party member. While surveillance in modern America is not as invasive, it has steadily increased since the 1980s, driven in part by the modern threat of terrorism (see the first reference link). 

Please also see the second reference link provided for more information.

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How does society in Orwell's 1984 compare to present day society?

There are certainly aspects of Orwell's 1984 society present in the context of the U.S. For instance, there are roughly 30 million surveillance cameras capturing about 4 billion hours of footage a week in the United States alone. We are at a point of being surveilled and watched in a scale that has never before been experienced before in human history. Additionally, the United States imprisons more people per population than any other country in the world. This combination of mass surveillance and mass incarceration certainly has alarming implications for individual and communal freedom. In the era of Trump, while it is not illegal to think negative thoughts about him or the state, Trump has taken to calling any media outlets that criticize him "fake news". This can be compared to the ways in which in 1984 history and information is distorted and branded as fake to suit the state's tactics of control. Our country is also becoming more and more hyper-nationalist. This nationalism is required of citizens in 1984. While being outwardly patriotic isn't a legal requirement in our society, one still is legally required to be loyal to one's country of birth. An act that is disloyal to one's country of birth can be considered treason and severely punished. Many people in our society uplift this expectation of loyalty and greatly criticize anyone who displays unpatriotic behavior. For instance, high school and college students who have been kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutally and killings against black people in the U.S. have been met with fierce criticism, because many people are unfortunately more concerned with loyalty to a state than human rights. This loyalty, this nationalism, however, has been conditioned from birth into the minds of citizens. This conditioning is similar to that of the society of Orwell's 1984.

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How does society in Orwell's 1984 compare to present day society?

1984 predicted some elements of modern-day society with frightening accuracy.

For example, the whole concept of Big Brother exists in today's security systems that watch and record people in public places at all times. Though CCTV and other systems like it are intended to protect the public's safety and to deter criminals, the experience of constantly being watched at all times is similar to how Big Brother is described in the novel.

Another example lies in Winston's work putting facts down the Memory Hole; his efforts to revise history are oddly similar to the current phenomenon of "fake news." It doesn't seem to matter if an event actually happened or if certain words were actually spoken; if the speaker is powerful enough, he or she can say make it all disappear by calling into question the authenticity of the news source, accusing the news source of spreading "fake news."

One last example are the telescreens installed and used by the Party to keep an eye on everyone. These screens remind lots of readers of modern-day tablets and mobile phones that enable users to see each other and converse. They also remind readers of conspiracy theories around the camera on certain models of laptops and other devices; are you unaware of someone else watching you type, or is it just a camera?

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