Archive for July, 2011

big brother

Tidying up my desktop comp. Found this from a few years ago…

To try to redeem myself from the sordid lazy delight of watching the ‘reality’ show BB, this week I borrowed 1984 from the library. Might have been 20 years since I read it. This time round, I’m trying to retain some detachment – because it’s compellingly bleak and brilliant. Bad arse combination.

To be honest, I was hoping to rekindled my undergraduate certainty that damnit I was oppressed. I thought there would be interesting parallels between Orwell’s London, and modern day suburban Australia. (Apart from the obvious prole entertainment that is the Big Brother TV show, which I would thank you not to mention again.)

Well, it aint happening. Life here just isn’t as awful as poor old Winston’s.

We can complain, loudly and often, we can turn off our tellies – YES we can!!! Chocolate isn’t rationed and we can buy real coffee legally. We can write in a diary (archaic: blog written on paper) without fear of being sent to labour camp for 25 years. We can publicly fall in love. Thankfully we don’t have to love our government, nor wear blue overalls. No one seems to give a shit if we single, double or triple think, and reading books in the late afternoon isn’t punishable by death. We can be slapdash and thoughtless with our facial expressions, body language and conversations. When someone fails to turn up to work for a few days, we freely bitch and moan about their slackness.

The care and planning with which Winston navigates daily life made me think of the constant, fearful vigilance of someone living with domestic violence. Winston knows, long before we meet him that he is a doomed man. Like anyone living with violence – he knows it’s only a matter of time before he suffers.

Doesn’t stop him trying – he meticulously guards every aspect of his demeanor. This is fascinating. Why does he bother when he knows he’s a dead man? Something compels him to continue his careful treading, even when he knows it’s futile. Paradoxically – something also compels him to continue his rebelliousness, even when he knows it’s suicide.

I suspect it’s his humanity, plain and simple. He kept on because he was alive. Winston’s no Rambo – he’s not exactly a big H Hero. I get that he broke in the end. But fallibility is human too. His vulnerability only ads to the aching humanness of his story.

Orwell wrote 1984 while he was dying of TB. Wrenched the story out of himself. One man’s final act of heroism – bringing us the final driven and desperate acts of Winston.

But back to the comparison between the book and life now.

Here’s one possible similarity. We ARE engaged in an interminable and stupid war about nothing anyone understands. Still we have the freedom to think and say it’s bewildering. In response, the government doesn’t waste valuable resources trying to change our minds. It enjoys the freedom (at least til the next election) of ignoring us. Actually in fairness to Kevin – who I don’t love but have sneakily admired ever since he took the entire country’s breath away by apologising – he is planning to bring the troops home.

And surely, surely those indignant current affairs programs come close to Hate minutes. Still, we can change channel without fear of recrimination.

Nonetheless, we just don’t live with a totalitarian, violent oppressive dictatorship. Complain about the government all you want. Still alive? Exactly. 


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