“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power…” —from Part 3, Chapter 3 of Nineteen-Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
In the dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four, which was written after the Second World War, George Orwell depicted an authoritarian world built on the ruins of former nation-states destroyed by atomic war.
The story opens in the year that is the book’s title. Three multi-continental superpowers vie with each other in a perpetual war for control of disputed territory. One of the superpowers, totalitarian Oceania, has absorbed as a province “Airstrip One” (the former nation of England), and with it the bombed-out city of London. The four Oceanian government departments—known as the Ministries of “Peace” (War), “Plenty” (Rationing and Deprivation), “Truth” (Propaganda), and “Love” (Oppression)—have headquarters in giant pyramidal buildings in London.
Particularly feared is the Ministry of Love, which ostensibly acts in the interests of justice to protect the people of Oceania. In reality, the Ministry of Love exists to control the people, and to consolidate their oppression by searching out, imprisoning, torturing and murdering anyone who might rebel against the Oceanian tyranny. Oceania’s “Thought Police” relentlessly scan every person, every action, and every communication, looking for evidence of activity subversive to the State.
Oceania is a surveillance state. Every citizen is under constant surveillance by cameras and microphones, in both public and “private” spaces. Indeed, there is no true privacy in the nightmare world of Oceania in 1984. It is a world of warrantless searches; of arrest, conviction, and punishment without due process of law; of order at the expense of family, friendship, and human connection.
At present, there are frightening parallels between the world of Nineteen-Eighty-Four and our own world and nation. In the last dozen years, the United States has become a country of total surveillance. As a supposed safeguard against terrorism, American intelligence agencies have been given a blanket warrant to monitor all communications within national boundaries, even when such domestic surveillance by some of those agencies may be illegal and unconstitutional. Our communications, our actions, and our faces are being scanned relentlessly; there are lists of words whose use in a given communication may flag it (and its author) for intense scrutiny without knowledge or consent of the one being scrutinized. In some cases, our citizens may be (and have been) targeted for execution without due process of law, and some living in our country may be detained indefinitely without trial or other due process.
Our civil liberties are being compromised, ostensibly for purposes of “national security.” But when will the erosion of our rights lead us to lose both our security and our nation?
Art of RetroCollage feels that this domestic spying program has seriously compromised the civil liberties of the American people. We urge all of our readers who are citizens of the United States—and their friends and relatives of voting age—to take action against these violations, by signing the petition at this link:
(All artwork, descriptions, & other text [except for quotations & links] created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.)