Animal farms in global politics

Today, June 25, is the birthday of the English writer and journalist Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell. Known everywhere and chiefly for his books Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, Orwell in fact was a prolific writer of novels, documentary books, pamphlets and poems. A democratic socialist by conviction, he was also a strong opponent of totalitarianism, and this latter pre-occupation – worked out in the two works referred to above – has immortalised him in the term ‘Orwellian’.

Those who may believe that Orwell’s work is of historical interest but no longer addresses issues of current significance should think again. Orwellian conditions exist in many countries, and with the capacity that now exists for technology to be used to extend state controls and intrusions no country can be declared with confidence to be immune.

It is entirely desirable that every new generation should read Orwell’s work.

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7 Comments on “Animal farms in global politics”


  1. The Orwell Diaries blog may interest fans of Mr. Blair.
    http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com/
    It publishes his diary entries 70 years to the day after they were written, and gives in interesting insight to the man.

  2. anna notaro Says:

    Of course Orwell’s work is far from being of historical interest only, in fact it has contributed (together with Kafka and other authors in the (dys)topian tradition to a better understanding of what David Lyon has labelled contemporary ‘surveillance society’ (Lyon, 1994). Referring to Nineteen Eighty Four, Benjamin Goold, another authority in the field, admits that ‘[l]ooking back over the discourse of surveillance and technology over the last fifty years it is difficult to overestimate the impact of Orwell’s novel. . . . on popular and academic imaginations’ (Goold, 2004: 208).
    More recently the fictional depiction of surveillance has moved beyond Orwellian notions, incorporating elements of new technology which have infiltrated the public imagination and influenced politics across the globe especially after 9/11. I cannot help wondering what Orwell himself would make of the endless debates on the use of surveillance cameras, some outiside his former residence, as the popular press informs us:
    ‘On the wall outside his former residence – flat number 27B – where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-445897/George-Orwell-Big-Brother-watching-house.html

    Would Orwell be an anti CCTV cameras campaigner ot simply accept them, like most us, as a *small* price to pay to enjoy security and prevent crime?
    The already mentioned David Lyon, in chaper 4 of his book aptly entitled from Big Brother to Electronic Panopticon (available online at http://tinyurl.com/5sxgb4y) argues that:

    ‘while Nineteen Eighty-Four has in many ways been superseded technologically, limited but important aspects of its account of a surveillance society still remain relevant today. At the same time, Orwell never imagined how rapidly surveillance would extend its global reach, nor did he conceive of a situation where anything but the state would be its chief perpetrator. Today, surveillance is both a globalizing phenomenon and one that has as much to do with consumers as with citizens’.

    Orwell’s vision might have not been fully accurate, and yet it is thanks to minds such as his that humanity tries to speculate intelligently about, as H.G. Wells memorably put it, the shape of things to come.
    And this is as valuable a service as any novelist can offer.

    • no-name Says:

      It always amuses me how many people reflect only on CCTV whenever Orwell crops up in conversation and then wander off to the shops to pay for their purchases with debit cards and, just in case that’s not enough tracking, hand over one of their loyalty cards for extra, voluntary, surveillance. “Would you like to register for our loyalty card” should read “Will you sign here so that we can legally spy on you?” — and people sign up in droves.

      I recently had to pay a university fee and was told that I had to use a debit or credit card to do so because the university (in Dublin) doesn’t accept cash (is that even legal?). After much arguing I paid with a bank draft (at an extra cost to me). The university staff did not seem to grasp the fact that insisting on debit card payments is an invasion of privacy. Nor did they understand that I should not have to hand over my bank account details just so that I could pay their fee. As consumers allow society to become cashless they are voluntarily relinquishing their privacy. The problem is that few seem to understand this or to even reflect on it.

      • anna notaro Says:

        sorry no-name I could not cover the whole spectrum of implications of surveillance society in a short comment, anyone familiar with this type of discourse knows well that it goes well beyond the CCTV cameras. Thanks for mentioning another crucial aspect.

  3. cormac Says:

    I always loved his ‘rules for writing’. They are as relevant as ever

    Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

    Never use a long word where a short one will do.

    If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

    Never use the passive where you can use the active.

    Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.


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