Dangers of totalitarianism


George Orwell’s primary goal when composing his dystopian novel named 1984 was to demonstrate and warn his audience on the dangers of a totalitarian government. Totalitarianism is a concept in political science that refers to a centralized and dictatorial government that demands complete subservience to the state. Orwell creates a hypothetical society led by a dictatorial oligarchy that suspends fundamental human rights and demands that citizens submit to the dictates of the government. Orwell describes how the government pulverates basic human rights and controls the thoughts of the people through propaganda. The leadership of Oceania has enacted archaic laws that pursue the interests of the Inner Party much to the chagrin of the populace. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell’s 1984 describe the symptoms of an oligarchy and warn of the dangers of such political tendencies. Unfortunately, the United States continues to typify the symptoms thus proving that the country is slowly yet steadily slipping into an oligarchy.

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First, both novels show that totalitarian regimes will always strive to control the opinions of the people. Controlling and even manipulating the thoughts of the people is essential in maintaining control on the people since it discourages any form of revolution. In 1984, the government runs an elaborate government ministry named Ministry of Truth. Ironically, the ministry’s core mandate is to rewrite the country’s history by destroying the original accounts and developing a new history that favors the regime. The stability and influence of the ruling oligarchy in 1984 relied on the message the government fed to the people, “one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended” (Orwell 23). The same is the case in Fahrenheit 451 where the government has banned reading and launched an expansive campaign to rid the country of books.

The two dystopian novels thus show that an oligarchy’s primary concern is to control the message reaching the people thereby influencing the opinions and thoughts of the populace to avert any form of resistance or revolution from the people. The United States possesses similar symptoms, especially under President Donald Trump’s regime. Trump was a radical candidate who promised a raft of changes under his promise of “draining the swamp”. However, the president has maintained a dedicated fight against the media. He has opposed liberal median stations like CNN often calling most of their critical news as fake news. Instead, the president shows support for conservative media stations like Fox and has perfected the art of using social media to reach his supporters. He addresses every issue and always attempts to outdo the mainstream media as he attempts to sustain his political base. The fight against the media and a sustained campaign to control the information reaching the citizenry is a telltale sign of an oligarchy in the offing.

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Similarly, the two novels depict abject abuse of fundamental human rights. The totalitarian governments in the two societies have set up systems to trample on the rights of the people as they strive to sustain their influence in their respective territories. In 1984, the government has a unique branch of the police named Thought Police designed to arrest and punish people who possess liberal thoughts. The government has further developed an elaborate surveillance system to help monitor the people and apprehend offenders including those who may harbor offensive thoughts. Winston endures a sustained government surveillance system that analyses his behavior to read his thoughts on the possibility of him committing any thought crimes. the government in Oceania has succeeded in suspending all the basic human rights including the right to privacy and the freedom of association. The people cannot even fall in love and maintain successful relationships.

The United States has similar tendencies. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the government revamped its war on terror both at home and abroad. At home, the government installed an expansive surveillance system characterized by street cameras that follow people and help identify criminals. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agencies have always used the systems to identify potential criminals based on the behavioral analysis. The rise of increased surveillance in the United States demonstrates that the people have supplanted their basic right to privacy for national security. furthermore, the scrutiny extends to the communication channels (Borho 55). The Central Intelligence Agency intercepts electronic mails and taps phone calls in search of potential terrorists and criminals. As such, Americans lack the freedom of a free society. the government has succeeded in developing systems that limit the freedom thus a potential slip of the country towards oligarchy.

Finally, the two novels demonstrate that totalitarian governments use extensive brutality against the populace in its quest to squash opposition and any thoughts of revolution. Agents of the government in 1984 employ covert tactics including blackmail to trap and punish potential dissidents. Government agents like O’Brien trick Winston and Julia into opening up about their opposition to the government. The thought police soon arrest the two and brutalize them as a key strategy of combating dissidents. The police held Wilson arbitrarily and punished him without going through the courts “There were times when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked, unforgivable thing seemed to him not that the guards continued to beat him but that he could not force himself into losing consciousness” (Orwell 244). The same is the case in Fahrenheit 451 where the police arrest and punish citizens extensively for the slightest of crimes, “White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days” (Bradbury 9).

The United States has demonstrated such abject abuse of human rights in the past. Police brutality was a critical political issue which demonstrated the significance of race relations in the country. apparently, white police officers used excessive force when working in minority neighborhoods. A substantial number of such interactions became fatal with the police shooting the black suspects. Investigations into some of the death revealed that the suspects were innocent or did not present any harm to the police who opened fire arbitrarily (Borho 76). President Trump has also demonstrated willingness to trample on the rights of others. soon after assuming office he sent journalists he did not like out of his press sessions.

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In retrospect, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury use their respective books to warn against the rise of totalitarian governments. The two authors describe the abject disregard of basic human rights as the oligarchies develop systems that entrench their rule. The dictatorial regimes roll out expansive censorship programs characterized by the destruction of books and manipulating of the messages reaching the people. Unfortunately, the United States has demonstrated willingness to morph into an oligarchy. While the country has systems of checks and balances to prevent such developments, powerful politicians have often disregarded some of the systems and used their powers to help advance self-interests by limiting freedoms of the people and controlling the media.

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  1. Borho, Todd. Making the Oligarchy Obsolete Defining Problems of Coercion and Seeking Voluntary Solutions. S.l.: LULU COM, 2015. Print.
  2. Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print.
  3. Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Secker & Warburg, 1949. Print.
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