Friday, August 1, 2014

Letter to George Orwell by a High School Student

     People don't pay attention to this, but 1984 was not about some dystopian future--Orwell was writing about 1948. He was aware of the narcotic, numbing effect of modern totalitarianism which is always supported by most of the people it oppresses.  He was also aware that people don't want to believe they live in an oppressive system which they implicitly (or explicitly) support. So he wrote fiction. Devi Acharya won a Library of Congress competition to write a letter to a famous author. He wrote to Orwell:

You were right, you were right, you were right. I'm sorry I never saw it before, and I feel like an idiot, sitting here and penning this to you when you were so unspeakably right. You shouldn't have published those books of yours under the guise of fiction — how could fiction be what's happening outside my very doorstep! People get so worked up, angry at some imaginary oppressive tyrant when the very dystopias we fear and loathe are being built around us... Soon only the fortress, a bastion cutting down any hope of love or compassion, will remain, with every citizen gripped tight in the steely apathy of law.

Does anyone doubt that there is less freedom, or that people seem indifferent to the lack of it? Here's a clue: when atrocities are not named, but labeled by social workers or scientists in clinical terms,  when someone shoots up a school of children and the first public response to this outrage is not to express  anger, but to send grief counselors and videotape  students depositing flowers and stuffed animals at the site, or floating  balloons...when the language itself is altered to accommodate evil and include it in our everyday vocabulary and even crimes cannot be spoken of without the label "alleged" attached to them, when terrorists become freedom fighters and insurgents, when the words that gave our speech meaning, like "right" and "wrong" and "truth" are censored right out of every day speech,  and evil becomes merely "inappropriate"  and the more unspeakable and evil a crime the more obligatory it is for the public to see the perpetrator as ill rather than simply wicked, you know you are living in something George Orwell has already described. He was not just writing about Marxism.

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