Marx on Monday: 1984

When I was a little boy my family always went on holiday to the same place – the Scottish Isle of Jura. It was beautiful but bleak and always cold. One year, I think it was 1949, whilst I was exploring the island I came across an old dilapidated farmhouse. At first I thought it was abandoned and went inside, but was surprised to find a middle aged man sitting at a table writing away feverishly by candlelight. He looked up with a start when he saw me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t think there was anybody living here.”

“Don’t worry,” he smiled back in a kindly way, “I suppose the place does look a bit deserted – I’m Mr Orwell by the way, but you can call me George.”

“I’m Kevin,” I replied, “what are you doing?”

“I’m writing a book,” he replied.

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“I’m going to call it 1984.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a nightmare vision of the future,” he explained, “where Britain is run by a dictator called Big Brother who controls everything people say and do.”

“How?” I asked.

“There will be hidden cameras everywhere watching people,” he said, “and the nightmare slogan will be “Big Brother is watching you.””

“How many cameras?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he smiled, “how many do you think would be enough to give people nightmares?”

“Why not 1.85 million?” I suggested.

“Don’t you think that’s going a bit too far?” he laughed.

“No,” I replied, “your nightmare vision of the future could have one camera for every 32 people. You could even have more cameras on the Shetland Isles than there are in the whole of San Francisco.”

“I wasn’t thinking of having any cameras on the Shetland Isles,” he looked confused.

“But you must,” I put him right, “and you need about 12,333 cameras in Cheshire as opposed to the 71 in the whole of San Francisco, and you need more cameras in the London Borough of Wandsworth than in Boston, Johannesburg and Dublin put together.”

“Don’t you think that’s too many cameras Kevin,” George asked, “even for a despotic dictator like Big Brother?”

“No way George,” I replied, “the 1.85 million cameras is just for watching people, you also need 6,000 cameras to catch people driving their cars too fast, 10,000 cameras to automatically read car number plates to see where people have been and 10,000 more to check that people don’t drive through red lights or drive in the bus lanes.”

“Now you’re beginning to scare me Kevin,” George gasped, “is that the end of the cameras?”

“No George,” I warmed to my task, “it’s only the beginning, you’ll need to add thousands more cameras hidden in tin cans and bricks trying to catch householders who put their rubbish in the wrong bin.”

“The wrong bin?” he looked confused.

“Everybody would have seven bins,” I explained, “one for general waste, one for food waste, one for glass, one for plastic, one for paper, one for metal and one for green waste – and the local council would secretly film householders with hidden cameras to make sure they’re not putting their waste into the wrong bin – if they did they could be fined £5,000 for envirocrimes.”

“In my book 1984 people will get into trouble for thought crimes,” said George, “there wouldn’t be any free speech.”

“In my nightmare vision people will get into trouble for saying anything which might offend someone from a different group. If you criticized another religion for example you would go to prison for hate crime.”

“And in your nightmare vision how would people get caught Kevin,” George asked me, “would your cameras also listen in to people like the ones in my book 1984?”

“No,” I replied, “the listening in would be done by telephone taps to listen in to people’s phones. There would be about 365,000 of these every year, with possibly twice as many again applied for by the secret service agencies.”

“Wouldn’t the first 365,000 be done by the secret services?” George looked confused.

“No,” I put him straight, “these would be issued by one of 653 state agencies given the power to tap people’s phones for a number of reasons.”

“What kind of reasons?”

“Hundreds of reasons,” I told him, “it might be suspicion of terrorism, or it might be suspicion you are fly tipping waste or committing benefit fraud.”

“But what if you don’t use a phone?” George asked.

“There would also be hundreds of thousands of covert listening probes placed in homes and vehicles,” I explained, “but in my nightmare future everyone would have a wireless, portable phone they could use anywhere.”

“A wireless, portable phone?”

“Yes, and the government agencies could not only listen in to all your calls,” I explained, “they could track your whereabouts retrospectively by cell site analysis and use the phone to listen in to your conversations by satellite even when it’s turned off.”

“What if you left your phone at home?”

“Every car would be fitted with a satellite navigation system,” I explained, “which the police could access to find out exactly where you’ve been and when.”

“But what if you went by public transport?”

“All buses, trains and taxis would be fitted with surveillance cameras,” I told him, “as well as all shops and pubs.”

“And what about your correspondence,” said George, “could the government open your mail like they do in my book 1984?”

“Most mail in my nightmare vision of the future would be electronic, sent from computer to computer, and the government could monitor every message you sent, as could advertising companies.”

“Advertising companies?” George cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.

“Yes, everyone’s computer would be connected to the internet, where at the click of a button they could do all their shopping online,” I explained, “and their shopping history, indeed their entire internet history, could be accessed by advertising companies who target them with adverts for things they think people would buy.”

“And do people protest in your nightmare vision of the future,” George asked, “in mine they are controlled by being encouraged to hate their enemy, with whom the West are in perpetual war.”

“In mine we are also in a perpetual war,” I explained, “called the war against terror. It’s in the name of that war that much of the covert surveillance and restriction of human rights is justified.”

“Now you’re just copying me,” said George, “but I wouldn’t just use the war against terror to control the masses – in my book 1984 I keep them quiet with pubs and a weekly national lottery draw.”

“In mine there are several national lottery draws a week,” I countered, “and a vast array of scratch cards, and as well as pubs there are reality TV shows like Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, Celebrity Come Dancing, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and, paradoxically, Big Brother.”

“In my book 1984 if people are arrested their access to a lawyer would be restricted,” George tried to outdo me.

“In mine no-one would have the right to a lawyer,” I replied, “if they were accused of a crime they’d be represented by a haulage company who would send along a lorry driver.”

“That truly is nightmare vision of the future Kevin,” George accepted.

“So what do you think George,” I asked, “have I given you any ideas for your book 1984?”

“I’m sorry Kevin,” George shook his head, “I need my book to be believable, your nightmare vision of the future is too far-fetched for 1984.”

14 comments on “Marx on Monday: 1984

  1. Michael
    November 25, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Fantastic piece of satire Mr Marx – a hundred recommends!

    Presented like this, the alarm bells should be ringing in people’s heads but sadly no more than 20% of the population could read this and understand that there is something completely and utterly wrong with this picture. The modern “Telescreen” smothers all irrelevant impertinent thoughts other than ” I could really go for a beer and a pizza right now”

    It is an electronic treadmill of desire leading to an empty life and an early death, it is not a symptom of the decline of our civilization it is a cause. It is the chain that binds the Proles to the empty & destructive consumerist/government paradigm. Go into homes and see how many books are on the shelves and of what type. Most of the “poor” will have none but will have a TV, likely several in the house including a large screen version. TV controls the ‘reality’ that people merely parrot.

    Until people realise that corporate media is government propaganda and it is intellectual poison and that sitting and watching TV is destroying their health, their minds and their bodies, they will continue to fail to understand the world they live within and how to live within it. Ignorance is strength in 2013.

  2. Woorde
    November 25, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    “.. beer & pizza.. ”
    “.. an electronic treadmill of desire leading to an empty life and an early death…”

    Prose like this is the reason I keep reading Bp (better than many books btw). thank you both.

  3. Simon Roberts
    November 25, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    This morning I’m catching up on some episodes of Radio Free Delingpole (from http://ricochet.com) and I’ve just been listening to James and Toby Young discussing the business of “uniting the right”.

    The above piece demonstrates as well as anything that the whole Labour/Tory and indeed Right/Left argument is irrelevant to the most important things that are happening to us.

    The Tories started the ball rolling with “speed” cameras. Labour presided over a huge expansion of surveillance cameras – harmlessly named cctv. Since 2010 we have had Tories and Liberals. Not one of those parties has done anything to curtail the expansion of these cameras. Is it any wonder that the security services think they have the right to intercept all our web browsing and emails?

    We have a situation where Tory/Labour just means who holds the reins of the surveillance state. It’s true that there are major issues to be addressed – the onward march of Cultural Marxism, unsustainable public spending, membership of the EU – but these are almost insignificant compared to the basic question of whether or not we are free.

    I really think that we need to stop seeing our problems as Left/Right and start seeing them for what they are – Freedom/Statism.

    • Brian the Rhetaur
      November 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      Yep.

    • silverminer
      November 27, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Absolutely spot on, Simon. I prefer the terms Individualism verses Collectivism myself. The “Right wing” crony capitalist/corporatist/fascism version is ultimately just as bad as the “Left wing” socialist/communist version.

      We should fight the battle on the best terrain and it seems to me that freedom loving people, even the misguided so called “liberals”, don’t like the Police State and don’t want the wars. Once you have a consensus around these issues then you move into the economic sphere which is more problematic.

      If we persist in calling ourselves “the Right” we shall for ever more be compared in people’s minds with Mussolini and Hitler. It’s a poisonous brand and has to be ditched.

      Liberty and freedom of the individual is what we desire so we should say so directly and not hide behind a soiled label.

  4. therealguyfaux
    November 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    When I were but a mere lad, back during the Ice Age, one of the great intellectual pastimes was discussing which version of the future would more likely eventuate, that of (a) George Orwell’s 1984, or (b) that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

    The correct answer is, of course, (c) both of the above, as time would go on to show.

    Lost in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of JFK and, to a much lesser extent, that of C.S. Lewis, is the curious coincidence of the death of Huxley on that same day, 22 November 1963.

  5. Officer Crabtree
    November 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    When you see the true facts of the surveillance state laid out, it makes for a truly frightening state of affairs.

    How have we, a supposedly freedom loving people, allowed the state to become the Stasi? When I voice my concerns to my friends, they reply that they are unconcerned as they have nothing to hide. It irritates me to hear this as they cannot make the logical step that surveillance will encroach into more areas of their lives and with surveillance come more control. My friends are not stupid but maybe just willfully blind to the problem.

    The more we become the prisoners of our own government, the more I think the only way back is to smash the system and rebuild something benign, small and truly accountable. Fat chance of that happening as the people are too medicated by their own reality.

    • mikebravo
      November 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      “Nothing to hide – nothing to fear” is one of the mantras that people have learned since they were children. You don’t have to be stupid to be brainwashed – you just need to accept what you are told by authority as truth.
      Most people never question anything.

  6. Woorde
    November 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Its more of the English disease really.. “keep calm and carry on” “its bad form to make a fuss”

    • cmp
      November 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Agreed. We were sitting ducks for this.

  7. Lord Lunatic
    November 27, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Newspeak – Textspeak

  8. Angry Harry (@AngryHarrysPage)
    November 27, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    They won’t just be listening, they will be manipulating and coercing e.g.

    NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/nsa-porn-muslims_n_4346128.html

  9. silverminer
    November 27, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    We are controlled by their propaganda and need to go “cold turkey”. Take the TV to the tip (selling it to some other poor, deluded bugger being totally immoral) and choose what you view on the internet very carefully. Do not read newspapers and magazines, read books instead. Do not use a “Smart” phone or any social networking sites (unless to a specific and important end). It’s not that hard to break free of the mind control grid and you never go back once you’re out…

    Once enough, maybe just 20%, are out of the control grid, the whole thing will implode through simple acts of non-violent civil disobedience. The Courts and the prisons simply cannot deal with a population that routinely ignores statute law while continuing to observe the Common Law principle of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. We can self govern based on this simple principle and they can’t govern without our consent. This would all be perfectly lawful as all we need to do is invoke Article 61 of Magna Carta.

  10. Owen Martin
    November 28, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    While there are certainly unbelievable elements to Kevin’s vision I think if he explained to Orwell about the green energy scam that is being pulled on the blind masses, Orwell would probably call the guys in white coats for Kevin. That one is probably the greatest scam pulled by government.

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