By Caitlin Allard
The structure of our world today was outlined by Orwell in 1984, written in 1948. These apparently conflicting statements are explained in the book with striking accuracy, yet are based on fictional principles. They can now be illustrated by our reality.
‘War is Peace’
In 1984, three warring zones, Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania, are constantly in battle, with perpetually switching alliances that seem meaningless. War is happening for the sake of war, directing citizens’ hatred in one direction to create unification in each singular state towards another, and creating direction for industry, producing materials for war. War creates a united, motivated society, with little in-fighting and a clear state of social order; in war, a society must act in a particular way, always preparing for battle. War, therefore, creates peace through order.
This can be seen in America’s constant determination to be at war with another entity. Trump’s war against Islam ignores the fact that between 82 and 97% of terrorist attacks have been targeted against Muslims in the past five years. This is because America needs an enemy to fight to retain its stability; citizens must focus their hatred externally. Trump has thus targeted white American citizens with his ‘alternative facts’ in an attempt to focus their hatred on Islam and, through their allegiance, to create order and peace in society. Thankfully this has not been entirely effective; however, the support for Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ across large parts of America reveals that there have been steps towards such an effect.
‘Freedom is Slavery’
According to the ruling government of Oceania, any person who is independent is doomed to fail, and when subjected to the collective will through slavery, one is free from danger and want.
Are we still slaves to the system? We become enmeshed within inescapable debts: student loans, mortgages, bills, whilst low wages in comparison to cost of living force us to sacrifice large amounts of labour to survive. To escape the system would mean losing a home, friends and family, so we are forced to remain working against our will. This system could be seen to provide freedom through direction, a course to follow to endure life. However, we are still trapped and must continue in the system to survive.
‘Ignorance is Strength’
The inability of the people to recognize flaws in the system cements the power of the government regime. They must believe in false information whilst being aware that it is false, a concept called ‘doublethink’ – the belief that ‘2+2=5’.
The Trump administration specialises in very little, but it does in ‘doublethink’, the sort of high concept game of truth or ‘truth’ that you can dismiss at your peril. Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the president, coined the term ‘alternative facts’ to defend false statistics released about Trump’s inauguration. In January this year, she referred to the ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ in three separate interviews; she used it to justify Trump’s travel and immigration ban over seven Muslim-majority countries. The massacre never happened and in protest satirical fake vigils took place in both New York and Kentucky. However, many used Facebook’s ‘safety check feature’ to prove that the event was real; the danger of the spread of such information is clear when one considers that 62% of Americans get all or some of their news via social media.
There is hope. Independent journalism still exists. Divisive policies are facing much rebellion; anti-Trump protests are continuing, and 4.2m people joined Women’s marches across the US at the end of January this year, partly in response to Trump’s policies on abortion and contraception. Sally Yates, now ex-US Attorney General, defied Trump by telling lawyers from the Department of Justice not to defend his executive order regarding the travel ban. We must be educated and vigilant, fighting against divisive policies and false facts to remain aware and independent, or else face the depths of Orwell’s prediction.
Photograph: Christopher Dombres via Flickr and Creative Commons