diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The man who invented Big Brother

Eric Blair was born in India exactly 100 years ago today. You'll know him better as George Orwell, the famous author of Animal Farm. And that other book.

bio: Eric grew up in the early years of the 20th century in an environment he later described as "lower-upper-middle class". He was sent to Eton but refused to go on to university, and later resigned his job as a policeman to live instead among the poor of London and Paris. He learnt his trade as an author whilst sitting in a miserable bedsit on the Portobello Road, and changed his name to George Orwell in 1933 on the publication of his first book, Down And Out In Paris And London. He continued to write about the British class system in such books as The Road to Wigan Pier and the classic satire Animal Farm. He fought in the Spanish Civil War, then became ill with tuberculosis, worked for the BBC during the Second World War, and later moved to live on the remote Scottish island of Jura. It was here, in 1948 (swap the last two digits around for the title) that he wrote his most famous book, before his untimely death two years later.

1984: Nineteen Eighty-Four is a bleak portrait of a totalitarian society. [Big Brother is watching you] The world exists in a state of permanent war, as the three superpowers of Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia take it in turns to gang up on each other. [WAR IS PEACE] Newspeak is the official language of the party, a simplified language designed to make impure thoughts unthinkable. [unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling] London is the chief city of Airstrip One, one of the provinces of Oceania, and here we find our hero Winston Smith, rewriting history at the Minisitry of Truth. [times 14.2.84 miniplenty malquoted chocolate rectify] Every move Winston makes is observed by the ubiquitous telescreens, on which are broadcast the daily Two Minute Hate. [FREEDOM IS SLAVERY] Winston becomes sceptical of the ruling dictatorship and writes about his doubts in an illegal diary. [thoughtcrime - doubleplusungood] He seeks the company of other dissenters, but is betrayed to the Thought Police and ends up being brainwashed in the notorious Room 101. [IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH] For Winston the book has a happy ending, but we the readers are left free to believe otherwise.

BB: Orwell's Big Brother was merely a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. Nobody ever saw him, but he was always watching. The concept of the Surveillance State was new and frightening in the late 1940s, but many would say that Orwell's predictions have since come true, and more so. CCTV watches us almost everywhere we go. Our mobile phones betray our location down to a few hundred metres. Credit cards and supermarket 'loyalty' cards help others to keep track of patterns in our spending. When you surf the internet, as you're doing right now, you leave a traceable electronic trail behind you. There are even plans to take a DNA sample from all of us at birth, supposedly in the name of medical advancement. It's becoming virtually impossible to live an anonymous life any more.

100 years on from Orwell's birth, a different kind of Big Brother is a nightly experience on our telescreens. More than 100,000 people requested an application form to be part of the latest series, seeking to live for nine weeks under constant scrutiny in a controlled environment. The rest of us maybe haven't realised yet that we're destined to live in similar conditions for the rest of our lives. So, next time you have that uncanny feeling that you're being watched, remember that you probably are. Should you think that your thoughts are likely to get you arrested, be afraid. And, if you ever hear the clocks strike thirteen, get out while you still can.

Doubleplusgood Orwell links:
1984 - read the entire novel online
1984 - a detailed synopsis and study guide
George Orwell - all about his life and works
Orwell Today - how the themes of 1984 echo in today's society (very impressive site)
Newspeak - Orwell's appendix explaining the evolution of the new language
Goodspeak - today's news from Google translated into Newspeak (dead clever)
Big Brother 2003 - could he be watching you? (from Scaryduck)
Has 1984 come true? - a few contrasting views.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream