The more things change, the more they stay hopelessly the same

Orwell was right.

Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “1984” had come true.

Is our world taking on an Orwellian cast?

Is the computer age leading to fewer freedoms and a world like “1984”?

Sociology professor David Throgmorton quickly answered: “Yes, I unequivocally say yes to that. And where it’s taking place is in the financial institutions — banks, insurance companies and so on and so forth. You write a check … somebody takes a picture of that check. Somebody else wants to know how you spend your money, what your lifestyle is and so forth. They find the picture somebody has taken of your check … tells about your life.”

Throgmorton recalled the recent attempts to cross-check IRS tapes against welfare tapes to find fraud. “Nobody gets too excited about that. Yeah, let’s go out and get a few welfare chiselers. That all find and good …” he said. “What do they do when they start cross-listing those IRS tapes with something that pertains to you?” Gun registration perhaps?

In recent weeks there have been reports of the IRS checking tax returns against mailing lists containing names of high-income families in an effort to find names of people who didn’t file returns.

Political science professor Joseph Koshansky told of a woman who had written several letters to the president complaining about the way her son was treated in the reserves. For the past 10 years she has been periodically interviewed by the Secret Service. Is this what Orwell called “thoughtcrime”?

“A day never passed,” Orwell wrote, “when spies and sabateurs … were not unmasked by the Thought Police.”

Koshansky is worried by the exclusion of the press from war zones.

“When something like that goes on there should a hue and cry from the populace as a whole,” he said. “But there absolutely isn’t. Everybody says well that’s what he should have done. That’s what should have been done in Vietnam. Lock the press out. That scares me more than the fact that they were locked out.”

If Orwell’s “1984” becomes reality, Throgmorton said, “it’s not going to be because something was imposed on the populace like in the Soviet Union … It’s going to be because the population willingly allows themselves to be drug down that line.”

And Koshansky says that we should not expect our fate to parallel that of Germany or Italy on the road to fascism. “Don’t look for guys in brown or black shirts. Don’t look for Jews as scapegoats. Our scapegoats are probably going to be inflation, depression, labor unions, communists, young radicals. Those are our scapegoats.”

___________

With a few minor edits to mask some elements of time, substituting “war zone” for “Grenada,” for example, I wrote the above not this week or last but nearly 30 years ago in 1983 on the eve of “1984” as the conclusion of a two-page spread in the Shreveport Journal, where I was city editor at the time.

This is the last paragraph of that piece:

“Koshansky was none too optimistic on the eve of 1984: ‘Actually, I feel now, Joe Koshansky, December … 1983, feel exactly how these people feel in this book. No hope. No evolution. No progress. No change for the better. I think a lot of people feel that way too.”

10 comments on “The more things change, the more they stay hopelessly the same

  1. Well done Mitch. It is upon us…will we do anything to stem the tide?

  2. I doubt anyone will do anything, Scott. By the way, added your site to the blog roll.

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  3. Thanks Mitch…I too am skeptical the populous will ever rise up. It’s truly sad and demoralizing.

  4. “From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing.” – Daniel Webster

    “Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” –Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

    “I often wondered whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lives in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.” – Judge Learned Hand

  5. The Learned Hand quote has always been a favorite.

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  6. Rincon says:

    I can think of two ways that 1984 ran in reverse. When I was young, the government would come along and throw 18 year old men into the armed forces, usually against their will. They were often sent into combat and tens of thousands were killed in the ’50’s and ’60’s alone. Not any more.

    The voters have also managed to keep the government from taxing enough money to fund their freewheeling spending habits. In an Orwellian world, the money would have merely been confiscated.

  7. […] Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have come true? […]

  8. […] Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have come true? […]

  9. […] Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have come true? […]

  10. […] Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have come true? […]

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