In his 1949 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a dystopian, totalitarian state ruled by an inner core of detached elites who manipulate the lower orders with deft use of a pet media machine; conduct endless foreign campaigns in order to drain resources and keep average quality of life at a level which prevents resistance; and use a secretive security organisation to pluck suspected enemies of the state from the streets and torture them into submitting to the guiding ideology of the day. Oceania is a place where surveillance is everywhere, poverty and hunger are widespread, and foreigners are senselessly demonised as scapegoats for all the ills plaguing society.
One could be forgiven for thinking that political leaders both here in Britain and in other western democracies have been reading Orwell’s magnum opus a little too much like a blueprint, rather than a warning. We have seen, for example, that David Cameron and George Osborne have been accused of being too closely involved with BBC appointments; that the organisation has faced numerous claims of bias against anti-establishment parties such as the Greens – over 85,000 people have supported a petition declaring they believe this to be the case; and that other media organisations, such as the Murdoch group, are just a little too friendly with certain politicians.
We have six million CCTV cameras in this country – roughly one for every eleven people – which is one and a half times as many as in China and nearly a quarter of the world total. Security services are able to access our every online and telephone communication, and all three establishment parties in Parliament collaborated back in July 2014 to force through a bill overturning EU regulations which would have banned this practice in just eight days. The Home Office has the power to tag, relocate and restrict the movements of terror suspects without any judicial oversight and for an essentially indefinite period, even if they don’t have enough evidence to make a criminal charge.
Over 900,000 people rely on food banks to live, as a direct result of the Coalition’s welfare ‘reforms’ and ideologically-driven, economically-illiterate spending cuts. The UK has not had a single year of peacetime since 1935. Nigel Farage and David Cameron are engaged in a seemingly desperate race to pile as much of the blame for our economic woes on immigrants, rather than attack the reckless finance capitalists and ineffective regulation by establishment politicians which caused the problem in the first place. Quality of life has stagnated for years; income inequality has been growing since the 1980s and wealth inequality is at its highest point since the late nineteenth century. Politicians are aloof, disconnected and seemingly deliberately unengaging, resulting in voter turnouts lower than at any point since the Second World War.
Our country has yet to plumb the depths of Orwell’s fictional super-states – luckily for me, or it would be off to the Ministry of Love for a little stay in Room 101 just for thinking this, let alone writing it – but the direction of travel is clear. The CIA’s use of despicable torture against untried foreign nationals, the growing instability in North Africa and the Middle East and the disturbing actions of Russian President-stroke-Mafia-boss Vladimir Putin show that the UK – or should I say Airstrip One? – isn’t the only part of the world seemingly falling in with the writer’s dark predictions.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Welcome to 2015, boys and girls.