ORWELL is watching youThis is a tough book, the toughest I’ve read and possibly one of the toughest ever written. It’s a book you should read when you’re actually ready for it, because you’re in for a huge blow.
I was surprised to see that so many details of what Orwell described as the “ultimate dictatorship” were actually true and so many of the strategies and dynamics he portrayed actually happened in many former-communist countries. What he described as Thought Police, Thoughtcrime and mind/reality control may not have happened exactly as he foresaw, but the techniques and protocols actually enforced in many countries were very similar, the fear-ridden and sick society he described resembles so much what you can now read in essays from historians and memoirs from dissidents. What surprised me even more is that he wrote this between 1946/1948 – how could he know so much then about what was already happening in some areas of the world and was about to happen in years to come? Yes, the purges in USSR had already occurred – Orwell himself experienced something similar relating to his affiliation with the POUM Spanish Communist Party during the Spanish Civil War and he may have well read Arthur Koestler – but still, how could he know?
But apart from that, his bleak view on humanity, even leaving aside Communism and its fall, is still striking and relevant. Probably even more so, now that (most) ideology-based-governments have failed and collapsed and indifference, selfishness, greed and lust for power are the distinctive features of our society.
This book is actually an essay in the form of a novel – a gripping and mind-blowing novel at that. What really matters here is not merely a historical analysis of what actually happened or what may have happened in the decades Orwell was writing about, or what may still happen, for that matter. What Orwell really offers here is a prophetic vision focusing on the (im)balance of power and strength, on control exerted on the individuals by elites worldwide, in any historical era, whatever the political (or religious!) stance. The issue here is human nature, instinct, identity, the power of memory and its distortion, exploitation and manipulation. It’s about violence and weakness, about our own will/(in?)ability to stay alive, to preserve our identity and freedom, to remain conscious and not become just hollow shells. If only he could see us now.