It’s taken a while … but for those who’ve been hoping for suggestions of possible points to be covered in the various discussion tasks, here they are!
I’m not calling them ‘answers’, since I think any teacher teaching the book should have read it and know the ‘answers’ that they are aiming for their class to reach, but here are some ideas anyway!
George Orwell’s 1984
- The novel uses technology-based surveillance in both public and private spaces, they also have a greater impact on the individual.
- The person-based measures of surveillance make the existence of private space impossible (family/neighbors have an impact on the behaviour of the individual), while in our world family and neighbours don’t play such an important role
- The novel doesn’t use technology such as means of personal communication, it also does not include the media as a public mean to watch and control people
- Orwell’s concept of surveillance is all encompassing and supports a specific ideology
- Technical surveillance is accompanied by personal surveillance through individuals.
- Surveillance is omnipresent and sometimes invisible
- Lack of laws, mistrust of people and threat of becoming an unperson increase insecurity
- Allusion to the possibility of reading people’s minds (O’Brien) è telescreens etc. not just used to control behavior but more importantly to control thoughts
- But: Relative freedom from surveillance for proles
- Orwell’s predictions are not entirely applicable to today’s situation
- Surveillance technology exists (CCTV etc.) but no threat to people’s lives should something deviating be thought or said
- No connection to the stabilization of a Party/Government ideology, rather prevention of terrorism etc.
- Yet, it some instances surveillance has led to people being publically denounced as in the case of the American diplomat Victoria Nuland
- In the next 20-30 years the technological possibilities of surveillance will increase but radical government shifts, increase of terrorism or shifts in public opinion of issues like privacy must accompany mass surveillance
In both cases the checks and balances must be considered.
|o In democratic systems it must be enabled by the public and have a basic order based on freedom and democracy (Totalitarian systems may employ surveillance in an Orwellian fashion)
o Monitoring by transnational organizations (EU, NATO, UN)
o Need to be able to account for what the material is used
o May be able to enforce access to private homes
o Control of public spaces
|o Not subject of public scrutiny
o Question of what the material us used for (e.g. is it sold to governments, other people, corporations etc.)
o In transnational environment, it is hard to appeal to a court
o Economy orientation makes complete deviation from public demands difficult
o No legal possibility to access homes or public spaces without permit
The media is always a positive as well as a negative medium.
|o Maintaining order through public scrutiny
o Draws attention to problem areas and can rectify problems
|o False accusations and subsequent repercussions for individuals
o Can be (mis)used to promote a certain political/social ideology
o Depending on the readership, the media can influence public opinion.
o Turn to a greater defense of privacy issues possible if false reports are known
o Relieve and feeling of security when information about fellow workers, citizens etc. are broadcasted
Fighting for Peace (War is Peace):
o Contradiction in terms: How can war, a state of strive, violence and pain, simultaneously be peace, a state characterized by the absence of the former?
o War means a stability of social/economic order and thus creates peace within society
o In the novel, this is the background for the events and a defining principle of society
o In real life, war is often followed by a period of uncertainty (post-WWII) in which war with its clear cut lines is still remembered è background for Orwell’s writing
o People does usually not go with the prefix “un”: How can a person not be a person?
o People who committed thoughtcrime are vaporized and effectively erased from memory, yet, they the fact that they are named unpeople hints at the fact that exactly this does not happen
o In the novel, Winston becomes an unperson but still exists; Goldstein is an unperson that functions as the greatest symbol for hate
o In real life, the Soviet Union used the term to describe people who were erased from history, yet, most of them are still known
o How can something happening in somebody’s head be a crime?
o It is not the actual act that makes a person a criminal but actually thinking deviating thoughts that warrant vaporization
o In the novel, thoughtcrime is committed by mostly everyone but some people like O’Brien still go free; actual crimes such as murder go unpunished
o Mass data transfer from cellphones to servers in the US using Whatsapp and Facebook services. è contact lists and pictures are saved somewhere and can potentially be used against individuals.
o CCTV as for example in Britain è makes it virtually impossible to go anywhere without being on camera (“Smile, you’re on CCTV)
o Possibility of not using services such as FB/Whatsapp
o Hard to escape surveillance in public spaces
For original post with task questions etc, please see here: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/george-orwells-1984-discussion-topics/