How does the society in 1984 parallel modern US society?

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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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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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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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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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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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