Bush is not Big Brother

By and

Just as Nikita Khrushchev thought the prosperity he witnessed in Iowa on a visit with Richard Nixon was an elaborate ploy to deceive him during the Cold War, George Orwell would’ve suspected the Ministry of Truth’s influence if he read a copy of today’s Chronicle.

This weekend’s performance of “1984” at Kingsbury Hall, as well as the ancillary events held on campus throughout the week, provides Orwell’s cautionary tale of government control gone awry. The central message of his familiar story, we’ve all been told, is to take everything the government says with a grain of salt.

Well, that’s the message from the standpoint of pretentious well-to-do Americans like “1984” director Tim Robbins, who believes the book’s themes are relevant to the Bush administration’s failures and the current conflict in Iraq.

In reality, Orwell’s dystopia has almost nothing to do with our free nation today. To relate aspects of “Oceania” to America is to miss his point entirely.

For starters, we have an open government and a free economy, making us the exact opposite of the totalitarian social model Orwell examines.

While some of our freedoms are limited, we still HAVE freedoms. The PATRIOT Act might allow government agents to be slightly invasive in attempting to foil upcoming terrorist attacks, but the National Security Agency doesn’t take you away for electroshock therapy when you try to read a book.

And though you can probably identify myriad examples of “Newspeak” in our current political culture, Orwell did not invent the concept of deceptive language. This is hardly Nazi Germany or Saddam’s Iraq-there are no guns to our heads. We aren’t forced to buy into manipulative fallacies. And we shouldn’t blame others when we do.

Robbins, for one, has made a habit of slandering Bush on the late-night talk-show circuit, despite supporting politicians who once agreed that there were probably weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In America, Orwell’s impotent proletariat doesn’t exist. America still responds to the wishes of the masses, not to one man in Washington, D.C. When we screw up, it’s our collective fault.

Tim Robbins included.

Orwell was more than a paranoid fool with a penchant for amusing allegory, however. He may not have foreseen that our thriving commercial empire would overcome the influence of political alliances, but he didn’t miscalculate things completely.

In some parts of the world, such as North Korea and Iran, his dark vision proves as premonitory as Jules Verne’s Nautilus’ sinking ships in the English Channel 40 years before the U-Boats of the First World War.

The real lesson we should take from 1984 is that we ought to be ever thankful for our vast freedoms and ever vigilant of any regime that follows the lead of a malevolent Big Brother.

In a world where we’re lucky enough to have responsibility, we should take it.