By Junelie Anthony Velonta
It is often said that Orwell has remained relevant despite his death many decades ago. His legacy lives on with the Orwellian. The word Orwellian is most famously associated with radical authoritarianism, extreme surveillance measures and rampant suppression of freedoms. This is based on one of Orwell’s more famous works, Nineteen Eighty-Four. While this may be a good representation of the events of the book, it doesn’t capture the true message of George Orwell.
Orwellian refers to how language affects a person’s thinking. Using this snare, the state enslaves and controls all those under it while giving the individual a sense of false freedom and choice. Making a mob rally under an idea becomes easy because of this. While these said ideals are maintained on the surface, they are maligned and destroyed in reality.
Perhaps the most famous and influential of Orwell’s works are Animal Farm, published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949. Animal Farm tackles how ideologies could become the very thing they promised to destroy or eradicate. Perhaps its most memorable quote, and a very good summary of the book itself, is: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four, on the other hand, follows the struggle of Winston Smith. Seemingly ordinary and in line, Smith stages a personal revolution against the state through a love affair. Language takes a vital role in Orwell’s last work. Through multiple layers of linguistic censorship, Nineteen Eighty-Four reveals that it is often those under the democratic that are truly enslaved.
It is perhaps through Orwell’s genius that he and his works maintain a twisted relevancy. In today’s world, comforting falsities become a good alternative. Those that are unverifiable and untrue are become “alternative facts.” Medicine and consumables that are foolish and without effect, sometimes even outright harmful, become “superfoods” and “alternative medicine.” The modern world’s most militaristic and neo-imperialistic superpower has the audacity to call the branch handling their dirty work as the “Department of Defense.”
Of course, this could be observed locally. Catchphrases and senseless retorts are used to assert a sense of false superiority and mental capability in online debates. From a rainbow of colored insults to references of a “Golden Age,” templates are found all throughout the internet to help one think. With the use of sweet-sounding words and promises, many of the people in positions of power have had mobs rally under their ideologies. After they are put in power, however, the ideologies tend to switch themselves to self-destruct.
One has to be aware of both Orwell and the Orwellian to know the true face of society. It must be a constant reminder, however, that the works of Orwell are observations meant to wake the reader to the world. They are not manuals.