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August 04, 2010


Laura Donovan

There will never be a thought police, but new technologies have definitely infringed upon the privacy of Americans. Companies will certainly think twice before hiring the young college graduate who is tagged in 500 fraternity party photographs on Facebook. Even so, he has a better fate than that of a powerless, Facebook-free middle eastern woman.

The U.S. has many rules, some of which come across as arbitrary and unnecessary to its citizens. Alcohol may not be served to anyone under the age of 21. Euthanasia is illegal. Regardless of how you may feel about these sample restrictions, the U.S. is a country of much liberty.


Well said.


I'm not ready to consign Nineteen Eighty-Four to the dust bin just yet.

For one thing, it's a superb commentary on the human condition: ultimately, we are alone, and can trust only ourselves, and even that can be in doubt. Shalamov, in Kolyma Tales, has the same message.

Tyrants, whether in business, bureaucracies, or totalitarian regimes, try to make each of us alone. That's a message as relevant now, in modern capitalist societies, as it was for Europe in the dark aftermath of World War Two. Anyone who works in a government bureaucracy or a corporation will see echoes of Orwell in their own existence.


There are echoes of all number of things in day-to-day life. But the specific future that Orwell described is a product of a very limited time and place. It is not a book about petty tyrants in the workplace and it is also not a book about even the kind of tyrant with Ray-Bans and a tank that rules over most despotic countries.

That being said, as a pure work of art it is a very beautiful commentary on the human condition, and the scene at the end with O'Brien's lecture to Winston is one the most memorable scenes in 20th century literature.


By the way, nice photos in your travel blog. Looks very relaxing!


Thanks. Yep, Vanuatu is a fantastic place to visit.

Re. Orwell - I think you're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four hasn't come about. But it was more a warning about totalitarianism, specifically Stalinist USSR, which generations of fellow travellers in the west had whitewashed, rather than a specific prediction about the future.

In any case, name me an imagined future which has come about precisely, largely, or even partly, as predicted. Certainly, none of today's charlatans who style themselves as futurists, will do any better. The value of imagined futures, dsytopian or otherwise, lies in the ideas they generate about present conditions, or the broad and deep thinking about the future that they inspire.


That's what I mean - the USSR is over, and history shows that the model critically failed. North Korea is the only state that meets Orwell's criteria, and it isn't as much a state as just an Army that feeds vampirically off a small group of press-ganged camp followers.

"Animal Farm," on the other hand, has aged so well that it could have been (sadly) written yesterday.

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