In Orwell’s 1984, it was apparent throughout the tale that the characters were all vaguely aware that something was massively amiss with their universe. The perpetual psy ops, the constant deprivation, and the vast governmental Panopticon were all weapons used by the Party oligarchy against the largely lumpenprole populace to extract complete adherence to Party orthodoxy by intimidation and threat of force. The regime was ruthlessly amoral, constructed to repress, and existed only to perpetuate its rule. Everyone intuited what the Party was up to on a gut level but understood the terrible consequences that came with apostasy, so everyone made the appropriate noises and genuflections to avoid being targeted as an enemy of the Party. It was clear that much of the herdlike conformity of the Outer Party was more a function of self preservation than it was of ideological purity. Big Brother was not loved, but feared; its fealty from the masses secured not by enlightened governance but by brutality and blood.
Winston’s heroism stemmed from the fact that he became conscious, recognized the Party for what it was, and rejected the normalized dysfunctionality of his world. He fought pressures to internalize tyranny and led his own internal insurrection until the very end. The love that Winston and Julia ultimately felt for Big Brother could take root only after the complete obliteration of their will and individuality. Where the Symes, those dupes of the world beatifically accepted their enslavement, the Winstons of the world resisted. This is precisely what kept the book’s bleak melancholy at bay until its conclusion.
Big Brother is here in everything but in name. The construction of an omnipresent surveillance state, assorted state sponsored terror events, perpetual war with constantly changing enemies, aggressive political correctness aimed at thought control, an eroded middle class, and a remote, disembodied plutocracy ruling over a vast, undifferentiated underclass. Nevertheless, in 2015 we find ourselves in a world of Symes who see the havoc that the histrionic culture and massive government have wrought but opt to intellectualize their slavery. They gleefully celebrate their shackles, viewing them as evidence of their freedom.
They bowdlerize the past, so unable are they to view it contextually. They neuter the language in an effort to stifle the emergence of opinions and ideas that contradict the prevailing narrative. The mob carries out Two Minutes Hate with a gusto and a regularity that would take the Inner Party aback, raising spectres to burn in effigy for commission o even the most minor of peccadilloes. Consider the examples of Tim Hunt and Brendan Eich, for example.
The “freedom” to be forced to purchase health insurance is good, while authentic freedom, the freedom to chart one’s own course is dismissed and derided. The growing appeal of candidates offering succor in the bosom of government in exchange for total fealty to the state and the continuing popularity of utopianist, politicized establishment mouthpieces who rail against the perils of freedom, exhorting everyone who will listen to cede autonomy to centralized, internationalist superstructures demonstrates just how enthralled with slavery the average individual now is. There is no resistance. Big Brother is not the enemy now, but the goal. Every crime committed against the citizenry will be forgiven and forgotten, so long as the government continues to ply them with favors and freebies. The citizen is no longer the master of his government, but is instead reduced to a lowly client with the government as his patron.
This newest incarnation of Big Brother achieves its greatest success not through coercion, but through bribery. It succeeds by convincing the populace to internalize their subjugation and to rationalize that the government is saving them from the vicious, Hobbesian world they believe to be roiling just beyond their cage bars. There will be no resistance, only blind acceptance bought and paid for by Big Brother from people who have come to view an overlarge & totalitarian government not as an intrusion but as evidence of investment in their well-being. Unlike the characters in 1984, there is no recognition that something has gone horribly awry, so lobotomized by government largess are the people.
They love Big Brother and they eagerly await his total and complete imposition.