The German sociologist and psychologist Erich Fromm wrote the afterword to the 60th Anniversary edition of Orwell's classic, and in it he compares the three 20th-Century negative utopias: 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and Yevgeney Zamyatin's We. In some ways, they all treat the mood of the modern world after World War I and World Was II.
George Orwell's 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning. The mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose their most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even be aware of it.
What will it take for us to break out of the lethargy? We've apparently already lost the battle to remember the past. We see that in the daily political rantings on television where Obama is blamed for everything, no matter that much of it even happened before he took office. When the Republicans are next in power, the same historical myopia will take place.
Our society is purportedly designed on the idea of individual freedom (within the limitations of a civil society), yet in recent decades we've seen more and more personal freedoms lost in the name of protecting the society. One couldn't have devised a more Orwellian name for an act than the Patriot Act. The author would have been aghast to see that one become a reality. The battle between the Individual and Society has decidedly been swinging toward a victory for Big Brother.
And then there's the ever-present war in 1984. How many times has America entered armed conflicts with countries we ourselves armed and once called allies? If things aren't going well politically? Bomb someone. Doesn't really matter whom apparently. All that's missing is the official Two Minutes Hate.
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Watching the news day after day, watching what passes for political discourse in our country, watching Americans on social media, Orwell has scared me all over again.