Government control refers to a process by which a government exercises political jurisdiction over actions and affairs of political units/individuals. The said jurisdiction often always extends to the performance of certain functions within the unit. There are several ways a government can exercise control over its subjects. These range from employing legal channels to crude methods like using fear and intimidation.
More often than not, government control is essential as it streamlines various functionalities of a system. However, government control can prove detrimental when all it does is suppress its subjects or influences/dominates their thinking for the wrong reasons as is exhibited in the book 1984 by George Orwell. The aim of this paper is to highlight the aspect of government control in the book “1984”. In this essay, emphasis will be put on two aspects in the book; the type of government control exhibited and the effects/repercussions of it.
From the onset of the book ‘1984’ Orwell manages to paint the state of the Society Winston lives in. Almost everywhere Winston goes the streets are riddled with posters with the words ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’. The party slogan just in front of the Ministry of Truth where he works reads WAR IS PEACE/FREEDOM IS SLAVERY/ IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. (Orwell 4) The government in this case uses these slogans to induce fear in its subjects. So much so that the subjects are forced to entirely rely on the system for any kind of information for fear of vindication. The idea that one is being watched is a pre-instilled concept to force subjects into a psychological prison of themselves. This eventually makes it easier for a system to force its agenda on subjects without any form of opposition.
Through the above mentioned slogans and the language used in Oceania, Orwell manages to show us how the government can dominate an individual’s reasoning through the words and messages it disseminates. Although the book was written decades ago, this idea manifests in today’s world. Examples can be seen in Iraq and North Korea. Both these countries are governed by undemocratic and authoritarian regimes almost similar to the depiction in the novel. In such a regime, any actions or decisions the ruling class makes are usually unquestionable. Freedom and participation are normally restricted (“What Do We Mean By An ‘Oppressive Regime’?”).
Just like Oceania, most activities of the citizens in North Korea are closely monitored. One needs special permits to travel and the government maintains control over information given. It is illegal to own a tunable radio and internet access is highly restricted (“The People’s Challenges – Liberty In North Korea”). A lot of investment has been put towards oversight of the flow and particularly the source of information just as is seen in the novel.
Sadam Hussein, a former president of Iraq, is another example of the face of such a suppressive regime. During Sadam’s era, the media was state controlled. Foreign newspapers were completely banned (MacFARQUHAR). It is reported that at some point, Sadam’s son owned the daily Iraqi newspaper. This enabled him to effectively propagate oppressive ideas to subjects. Journalists that tried to oppose his ideas or inform the public were tortured and killed.
The 2nd domineering tactic employed in the novel is in the form of instilling fear on subjects. A number of totalitarian regimes use this method to control citizens or force them to conform to their ideas (“Few Techniques The Government Uses To Control The Public”). Subjects will often be kidnapped, tortured and sometimes even killed to teach others a lesson. From the novel, Syme says to Winston, “It was a good hang. I think it spoils it when they tie their feet together. I like to see them kicking. And above all, at the end, the tongue sticking right, out and blue-a quite bright blues. That’s the detail that appeals to me.” The said victims in question were ‘thought criminals’ (Orwell 64). Orwell manages to highlight the fact that the regime had the authority to sentence an individual on the slightest thought of opposition. Earlier in the story we are informed that children were also taken to these hangings. It had almost become a normal occurrence to teach other citizens to stay in line.
Burma is an example of such a regime. After they lost the elections in 1990, the Junta arrested most of the opposition party members and detained all persons that purported to show support for different ideas other than the ones the authoritarian regime was propagating (“The World’s Most Repressive Regimes 2003”). Opposing views are termed as matters that affect National interest. Aung Sa Suu Kyi, a nobel laureate and a key Burmese was a victim of such detentions. In Kenya, former president Moi was known for detaining and torturing individuals that had opposing views to his. Individuals were put in torture chambers and forced to accept and support his ideologies just as Winston was forced to conform.
Totalitarian regimes usually have adverse effects as has been depicted in the novel. Leaders in such kinds of regimes will often liaise with the country’s military and sometimes even religious leaders to force their unfair ideologies. Countries run by such regimes are constantly under threat of unrest as its citizens are normally oppressed and denied of resources that rightfully belong to them (Orend). Nations such as Syria and Libya have turned into civil war because of this. Civilians are constantly under fear hence development is limited/restricted. Serious poverty issues are a reality as corruption riddles normal functioning of the system. Slavery and death are also factors that would normally accompany opposition. In addition, subjects are forced to be overly dependent on the ruler.
In conclusion, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is some form of prediction of what some parts of the world would turn out as. In the novel, the two ways are the most common totalitarian strategies employed by oppressive leaders. A number of oppressive countries just like Oceania, would normally gag the media, and put spies to monitor intelligence on any kind of revolt. Victims may be tortured to demonstrate authority and power over their minds. However in my opinion, leaders in such regimes can only enjoy dominance for so long. Individuals may be tortured, broken and forced to conform but will never fail to tell what is wrong from what is right. This is the sole reason why there have been several revolutions against such regimes, most recently the Arab revolution witnessed a few years ago in Libya and Tunisia.
- “Few Techniques The Government Uses To Control The Public”. WordPress (2013)
- MacFARQUHAR, N. “Saddam Hussein, Defiant Dictator Who Ruled Iraq With Violence And Fear, Dies”. New York Times (2006): n. pag. Print.
- Orend, B. 2012. Introduction to International Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Orwell, G. 1984. 1st ed. 1984. Print.
- “The People’s Challenges – Liberty In North Korea”. Liberty in North Korea. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
- “The World’s Most Repressive Regimes 2003”. N.p., 2003. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
- “What Do We Mean By An ‘Oppressive Regime’?”. Eden Tree n. pag. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. n. pag. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
- “Totalitarianism”. Encyclopaedia Britannica n. pag. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.