1984: Do You Know Big Brother?
In a future not far from today, a poster lines the city streets, cameras on every corner. The poster; the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features, and the words “Big Brother is Watching You”. I don’t know if I have read too many articles about how the government can watch us through our phones, or listen to our conversations but I recently decided now was a good time to read 1984.
We all know the story, or at the very least, feel like we do. We have heard of big brother, and we understand the basic idea behind the book. We have watched a hundred movies, tv shows, and video games that reference the book, and it is the number one book of all time…
#1 Book Of All Time
1984 is top of the charts in one category…It is the most NOT read book of all time. More specifically it is the #1 book people lied about reading. Like the bible that sits on a book shelf collecting dust with few believers actually reading it cover to cover.
You can’t know what you don’t know
The problem is, we can express quite eloquently what we do know about a subject, but can express very little about what we don’t know. We know a few things about 1984 but we don’t know what we have missed from not actually reading it.
Life of Highlights
For a while I used to watch basketball. I would watch pretty much every Pistons basketball game. When I did miss, I wouldn’t watch highlights, because highlights were terrible. They focused on the three that went in before the buzzer but not the pass that got it there. I could always tell the announcers who didn’t watch the games because they didn’t really know the players. They read the stats but they missed what actually won the game.
Not What I expected
When I first turn the digital page of 1984 I did not expect to enjoy the experience. I expected to be bored but get through it as a matter of intellectual duty. I expected to read a warning against communism. What I found instead was a beautifully written commentary on human nature that asks the question, “What makes us human?”.
Humanity = ?
Does our humanity simply come from our ability to fog a mirror, our bodies, or our emotions? Orwell claims that our basic humanity is rooted in our ability to choose. Freedom is what makes us human. Furthermore, Orwell defines freedom. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.”.
Spoiler Alert: Orwell goes on to break apart humanity. He shows that we should not take our humanity for granted because it can be robbed from us. I don’t blame him for feeling that humanity is fragile, and easily manipulated. He lived through tyrants who used every means necessary to get people to commit horrible acts. He knew generations of people who performed atrocities in war.
The Decade of Propaganda
He lived in a time where people were victims of misinformation. What most people miss about misinformation is that it takes information. We imagine it as a lack of information but instead it is only part of the information. Like a well crafted lie it contains truth, but not all truth.
The Word of Satan
When Satan came to Jesus he used scripture. In fact, most of what he says are pieces of scripture, plucked out and twisted for his purposes. It takes truth to create lies. The horrific thought is how would you do in this situation? Would you know what verses were being taken out of context, twisted to evil purposes?
Belief Beyond Pain
In 1984 Orwell believed that humanity could be stolen, broken to ultimate betrayal. He thought that we all corruptible, that we would break in avoidance of pain and fear. I know better. I know what a life built on truth can do, where a foundation of truth is beyond the individual, beyond the avoidance of pain, or fear. I know this because I have read scripture from cover to cover, and more so because I have a relationship with Jesus.
It may seem crazy, and will always be considered so on the other side of the experience, but there is a truth that is more foundational than 2+2=4. A truth more basic, and more deep. When we build our life upon the truth that there is a God and He loves us, our humanity and our understanding of truth becomes less frail, and not so easily misinformed. This is the truth that all truth has been built upon.
The Gift of Knowledge
I enjoyed reading 1984. I would classify it as a must read, not must read the cliff notes, or wikipedia’s plot summary, but the actual pages of the book. Knowledge is a gift, and we miss out on it when we don’t read. Read 1984, read the Bible, and don’t just skim or read parts. Read all of it. In the end I agree with Orwell that true freedom’s form of expression is knowledge. Knowledge in its purest form will bring you truth, and truth will set you free.