orgasm, although anyone who’s leafed through the sex-ed materials used in our public schools may wonder whether our own government isn’t trying to do the same thing. But don those rose-tinted glasses and look closer: A brief trip through Oceania would turn up more than a few amenities to love. The ubiquitous and outsized television screens that appear in every public and private space are annoying, yes, but not nearly as much as the smartphone. The telescreen renders social media impossible, and that includes Twitter, Snapchat, and a dozen other platforms that have more destructive effects on social life in a single day than a week’s worth of scowls from Big Brother’s unavoidable puss. (Also, no more Trump tweets!) Plus, you have no temptation to carry such a large screen with you. If your son cracks up the family Tahoe, he can’t call you while you’re out trying to enjoy a nice quiet drink with your one-named friends. Which reminds me: In 1984 , everyone drinks Victory gin and is encouraged to do so ... morning, noon, and night. When was the last time the feds recommended topping off breakfast with a good stiff snort? Ditto smoking: In Oceania, you can smoke anywhere, at any time, and the government even tries to keep citizens’ spirits up by announcing that cigarette production will increase next quarter. That’s economics for the people.
1. 1984 by George Orwell
Orwell’s novel and its mega-state, Oceania, are commonly considered the wellspring of fictional dystopias, though many excellent dystopias had been postulated before his. ( The Time Machine , by H. G. Wells, is probably the most obvious and enduring precursor.) Orwell himself took inspiration, if that’s the word, from We , an early satire of the Soviet system. In We , all people are identified by numbers, which means – looking on the bright side – you never have to worry about forgetting someone’s name. (See how easy this is?) In Orwell’s Oceania, there is no cumbersome system in which an individual will have two or sometimes, horribly, three names for us to remember. In Oceania, many people are referred to by a single name only. (The trend in our day toward single names for entertainers, from Liberace to Beyoncé, is a development we must encourage. Our aging Boomers increasingly have difficulty remembering their own names, much less the name of the woman who was married
to Sonny Whathisname and sang... you know the song I mean... “Gypsies, Tramps, and... Somethings.”) Beyond that simplified nomenclature, even I might strain to find a kind word to say about Oceania. It is, after all, a society in which the government is explicitly committed to wiping out the
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