The novel 1984, by George Orwell, made me paranoid. It made me suspicious of our government's power and intentions. I became aware of the potential manipulation which the government could impose upon us. I came to see that the people I believe to be wholly dedicated to the well-being of society, the people I rely so heavily on to provide protection and security have the power to betray us at any given time. I realised that in my naivety I had gravely overlooked the powerful grip government has over society, and what it can do with that power.
1984 tells the story of Winston Smith who lives in Oceania, a dystopian nation ruled by a strictly totalitarian government know only as ‘The Party’. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even
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Mass surveillance has been universally criticized on the grounds that it breaches basic human rights such as the right to privacy and political freedom of speech. The main rebuttal for using these ‘necessary’ techniques of gathering information is keeping the wider population safe by preventing terrorism and rebellion against the government. Even though these actions may justify the means at this point in time, what stops these seats of power going further like in 1984? What stops the governments we rely so heavily on, from becoming so obsessed with control that constant surveillance becomes a fact of life?
Not only did 1984 plant the seed of suspicion in my mind about governments, it left me disturbed and shocked about the main character Winston. In the final part of the book Winston and his lover, Julia, are imprisoned in a government facility. They have both been charged with rebelling against The Party and endure months of torture and brainwashing. Winston, who is struggling to hold onto himself, is eventually sent to the dreaded Room 101 where he is told he will face his worst fear, rats. A cage full of rats is strapped to his head at which point his spirit fully breaks and he pleads for Julia to suffer this torment in his place. He is then released from the facility a changed man. He is no longer the character we knew, but rather a brainwashed shell. This completely unexpected and unconventional twist