Insight into 1984

Friday, November 26, 2004

Overview of 1984

1984. What is it about? Well, when I first started reading the book, I was both shocked and amazed at the extent of control held by the Party. Their ability to employ various means to ensure that they always remain at the top is truly admirable! The Party’s reliance on ‘doublethink’, where two contradictory beliefs are accepted by the human mind, is insane! However, it proves effective in controlling most of the population in Oceania.

Nowadays, there is an increasing number of Singaporeans who complain about the dominance of the PAP in the political scene. (Yes! It’s true, not everyone adores the Men In White!) I attended this forum discussion held at Singapore Polytechnic recently and the topic was, “Are today’s young Singaporeans truly apathetic?” The objective of the forum discussion was to find out the views of young Singaporeans whom many believe to be indifferent to the political scene in Singapore. The guest speaker was Mr. Lim Swee Say, the Minister for Environment and also the main man behind NTUC, who attempted to deal with the concerns of youths today. (Sad to say, he was rather unsuccessful)

I recall many students from different institutions passionately voicing their views on issues like education, politics and the “climate of fear” in Singapore. (As in most forum discussions like this one, Mr. Lim beat about the bush and kept returning to his favourite phrase that night, being “Singapore Centric”) A student from ACJC commented that there is no platform for opposing voices to be heard. Just imagine, the Party in 1984 is a million times worse!
As I mentioned before, the issue of the “climate of fear” was quite a hot topic during the discussion. Students commented that in Singapore, many are discouraged from airing their views because they are afraid of the consequences. It reminds you of 1984, doesn’t it? The people live in fear because they know that their every move is being watched. The rumours of the secret police removing people at night serve to ignite their fears and ensure their obedience.

In the simplest sense, 1984 deals with issues like totalitarianism and its effects on the people of Oceania. 1984 delves into the methods used by the Party to ensure complete dominance in Oceania. There are 4 Ministries “between which the entire apparatus of government was divided.” These 4 ministries play very significant roles in fulfilling the aim of the Party. As stated by O’Brien, “We are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.”

When I read the book, I was hopeful that Julia and Winston would be able to carry out their plan in removing the power of the Party. Yes, I should have known better. I allowed my slight affection for O’Brien in the beginning get the better of me. How can success be possible when “Big Brother is watching you”? It was too good to be true. Oh well.

This book is basically concerned with the effects of absolute power and the futility in attempting to remove that power. The people in Oceania lead meaningless lives and their existence on Earth is only to “obey and love Big Brother”. This book shows in detail how any thought (thoughtcrime) or plan to remove the absolute power would be crushed. Not only is it crushed, but the ‘culprits’ would eventually obey and love Big Brother. When one reads the book, he may scoff at the possibility of such control in the hands of one party but history has proven that totalitarianism did exist.


  • At November 30, 2004 at 8:29 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Ok, now to address your most interesting and long blog.

    All political parties want to stay in power for as long as they can. Some for more altruistic reasons than others (i.e. to better society). The PAP is no different.

    I'm sure you've heard of the famour line from Lord Acton: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". What does this REALLY mean, and how can it apply here, in 1984?

    Perhaps we can translate Lord Acton's phrase this way: "Power distracts." Wielding power distracts one from the reason why one wanted power in the first place. One accumulates power in order to do or effect something (e.g. becoming a student counsellor in order to better student welfare [and/or beef up one's resume]). What Orwell seems to be suggesting is that power intoxicates. Once one has it and knows that one can accumulate it and hoard it, one is consumed by it. The Party in Ocenia does everything it can, not to conquer other lands nor to defend itself, but merely to preserve the status quo, so that its power cannot be eroded. Think about that.



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