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Modern day parallels to Orwell’s ‘1984’ unfortunately accurate


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Americans are some of the least likely people in democratic countries to trust the government.According to Pew Research Center, only 20% of Americans on average say that they are able to “trust the government in Washington always or most of the time,” compared to 43% in France and 34% in Germany.

Thus, when the New York Times reported earlier this year that the pharmaceutical company Otsukareceived approval from the FDA to begin distributing the world’s first so-called digital pill, their headline read “First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother,’” referencing the culturally ubiquitous George Orwell novel “1984.”

The urge to compare this new technology to Orwell’s dystopian warning to society may be strong, but it is not warranted. The pill is completely optional and patients taking it can choose at any point to cease sharing information with their doctors.

However, the paranoia surrounding this new development, and especially the references to “1984,” are good reasons to examine other aspects of that grave book’s apocalyptic predictions and see how well they relate to modern society. Some of which, as Orwell would be dispirited to discover, are all too real.

Throughout the novel, characters in “1984” are closely monitored by the seemingly omnipresent state. Electronic screens on the walls of every building and in every room monitor the actions and speech of every person. The state knows all and is everywhere – even escaping to a place of perceived solitude, as the protagonist finds out, can only be a temporary relief from the overbearing totalitarianism that rules society.

While this is, of course, a dreary and exaggerated situation, it is not completely unlike the modern United States. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 gave the government broad and generous powers to monitor telephone, financial, and email records of US citizens without a court order, along with similar authorities that are potentially problematic to privacy rights. More recently, the National Security Agency came under fire for failing to protect its trove of crazy powerful cyber weapons, one of which was used to cause a massive global panic and shut down hospitals and other institutions around the world earlier this year.

The dystopian government of “1984” also controls society through its control of history and information. A sentence repeated frequently throughout the novel is “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

Orwell’s totalitarians constantly update the historical record, and that of the newspapers, to reflect whatever is said by the government on any given day, in order to maintain absolute order. Anyone who openly or privately takes note of these changes is kidnapped and never heard from again.

This particular notion is basically unfathomable in modern America, for good reason. However, it is important to hold leaders accountable to what we know to be true; recall how earlier this year, the EPA removed the words “climate change” from its website entirely after the new administration took over.

The nightmare reality of “1984” is nowhere close to coming to fruition. However, it is important that we as citizens take note when our freedoms are restricted and our privacy violated, in order to prevent the slow death of democracy.

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Modern day parallels to Orwell’s ‘1984’ unfortunately accurate