1984, Entering New Realities, and Our Distaste for Change

On Seeking and Finding Dystopia

Last night, before falling asleep, I noticed that my body had been completely dishabituated from the sensation of silence. After I turned off my bedside lamp, all I could notice was the complete and utter darkness in my bedroom and a strange hissing sound that I couldn’t get rid of. I knew it was temporary, but I also knew that it was a side effect of the sensory overload I’m confronted with every day. I’m a proud urbanite — I’ve lived in cities throughout my life and have no intention for this to change. But there’s something uncanny with the safety of silence. Over here, I’m well within the boundaries of reality, yet so far from them at the same time.

“You see, some things I can teach you. Some you learn from books. But there are things that, well, you have to see and feel.” — A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Since Donald Trump’s rise to power, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed. There was something irritating about this news. Because the new American President unexpectedly challenged the reality of millions of people, that reality needed to be challenged. It needed to be understood and framed in digestible ways. Suddenly, the progress achieved throughout the past decade was ruined.

If only this phenomenon was unique to Trump. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere. If something conflicts with our reality, our knee-jerk reaction is to admonish it, deconstruct it with false logic, and criticize it until we hope it disappears. Although the media suggests otherwise, the relationship between 1984 and the modern-day conservative rise to power (see Brexit, Donald Trump, Marie Le Pen, etc.) is tenuous at best. But we find comfort with framing the new American political reality within a dystopian paradigm. Comfort, then, may justify all means.

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” — 1984 by George Orwell

I appreciate that in cities, educational and civic organizations can’t provide an exhaustive picture of the highly complex, numerous, and dynamic realities that exist on Earth. But, in free societies, everyone must have access to information (e.g., books, media outlets, magazines, journals, etc.) that is not passed from the top to the masses. And it is only through these resources that misdirected en masse purchases of 1984 can be avoided.

Understanding new realities begins with self-exploration, figuring out how and when our ideas have been shaped, and then craft judgments about the best ways to serve our interests. By running away from reality (and buying 1984 as a petty revolutionary gesture), valuable information is left in the dark. And it’s in cities — in these huge networks of diverse people and bountiful resources — that we also must form sharper judgments. And the day human beings migrate to different forms of social organization (from cities to Mars, perhaps), nothing drastic need be changed: information will need to be harnessed to confront our latest needs and problems.

All in all, entering new realities is not inherently negative — as long we accept that something new may be right around the corner.

“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” — 1984 by George Orwell
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