I recently finished reading Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and while his dystopian future has never literally come true there are many parallels to reality. If I was to update it to perhaps Twenty Twenty-Four, what would it entail?
IngSoc (English Socialism) AmCap (American Capitalism)
Instead of the capitalists, it is the politicians that are "evil" megalomaniacs who unfairly expanded government and taxes on the backs of The People and Industry. While government continues to exist in Twenty Twenty-Four, it is smaller than present day and devoted to facilitating industry rather than “entitlement programs”.
The Principles of AmCapIn Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Principles of IngSoc are obvious contradictions. In Twenty Twenty-Four, they're non sequitur instead.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, individualism is stomped out;
commitment (or at least conformance) to the Party comes via group
activities. Instead, I'd approach this like the Two-Minute Hate
which keeps people fearful and their anger focused on something
else. In AmCap, the people have lots of "treadmill choices1 " how to be an individual: what to wear,
what to drive, what to eat, how to improve their homes and gardens.
Lots of stupid, trivial decisions to keep them away from the
important ones like who they are, what life is about, and what
would make them happy long-term. Most importantly, while people are
focused on their own lives and issues, they aren't considering what
they can do to fix the world around them to treat them better.
Freedom is Slavery Choice is Liberty
Despite the group activities in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the party wanted to keep people feeling isolated to prevent them forming competing ideas, discussing them, and revolting. They did this partly via fear (Thinkpol (thought police), Spies, etc.) but also keeping the People busy with rallies and hangings, the 2-minutes hate, etc. These also created some sense of unification, of brotherhood, and at the same time was an excellent distraction. It also created pressure to conform via fear of being/thinking different.
In Twenty Twenty-Four, individuality would be exploited to keep everyone isolated. Why be concerned with accommodating someone else's wants or needs? It’s your life, it’s your time, why waste it with people who have different agendas? You don't need other people, only to attend to your own wants and desires.
The goal of AmCap, like IngSoc, is to keep the status quo. Both
must prevent revolution. As mentioned earlier, IngSoc prevents
revolution by group engagement, distraction, and focusing hate
War is Peace Destiny is Work
In Twenty Twenty-Four, hate and fear are still directed to the unliberated (socialist, communist and dictatorship) states of the world. However, since people are much more wrapped up in their individual lives rather than group activities, people must also believe their lives are a result of their behavior. Thankfully, in AmCap there is no reason to revolt—by their effort, each individual determines their outcome. If someone works hard, they can move up the ranks and have more things—they just need to choose to make the effort.
Ignorance is Strength Knowledge is Deception, or
perhaps, Thought is Deception
If ideas have any concreteness, they can become the basis of action. But if there is uncertainty, then how can one know our actions are right? In summarizing science, the news often presents us contradictory findings, evidence that scientists are confused. And sociologists tell us that when we learn about other cultures, we can’t understand them while applying our values. Moral relativism is a must.
Doublethink in Twenty Twenty-Four is rooted not only in self-deception, but in lack of trust, which is easier to accomplish anyway.
This uncertainty makes us lose faith in knowledge. We automatically distrust experts and ourselves, and since we don’t know what is true, correct, or right, we have no business creating change. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, ignorance (natural or self-imposed) gave a person the ability to survive the horrors of daily life. In Twenty Twenty-Four, knowledge is so despised people choose to live in ignorance, and those that do have a little intellect are too trained in skepticism to have the confidence act.
Doublethink may be found here too, as even the lack of solidity is flexible: anyone who changes their position is a waffler, one who decides by his whim or interest and can’t be trusted. But anyone who won’t change is an inflexible zealot who is probably biased and can’t be trusted either (but at least they’re not indecisive or a compromiser). We can’t trust solidity, but we can’t trust flexibility either.
At some point, thought itself becomes distrusted. We become even more deadlocked—how can I trust this idea, when I know I can’t trust myself? The quest to find truth becomes too much—and we give up, give in. That’s even better for AmCap.
The IndustriesOrwell’s Ministries are gone, since most of government is gone, either overshadowed by industry or dismantled because of its great expense to the People.
MiniTrue in Nineteen Eighty-Four was responsible for
propaganda, and is replaced by EntInd. Along with game (OldSpeak:
sport) and flix (OldSpeak: movies and television), EntInd is
responsible for keeping the people "informed". This typically takes
the form of fictionalized recreations, 24-hour continuous breaking
news feeds, and occasionally simplified overviews of scientific
reports. EntInd news presents raw data, not analysis; the Party
wants people distracted with drama, trained in trivia, and aspiring
from ads2 —being
well-informed is not of interest.
MiniTrue (Ministry of Truth) EntInd (Entertainment
MiniPlenty is gone since capitalism responds to supply &
demand. Instead, FineInd ensures that the values of things keeps
going up via the stock, bond, and other finance markets. FineInd
produces the measure of profit and productivity; experts using
these measures regulate the economy. Figures are reported to the
masses by EntInd, along with explanations on what it means and what
must be done to ensure continued health of the Economy. Often, this
involves government giving tax incentives or credits to Industry to
help it out. The People must also do their part by accepting wage
cuts. Since the People's retirements savings are dependent on
success of FineInd, there is disincentive to rebel; this combined
with being conditioned not to think too hard, the People give the
experts (FineInd insiders) a lot of leeway to do what they want.
MiniPlenty (Ministry of Plenty) FineInd (Financial
Defense is oddly named, never NewSpeaked to DefInd; this is partly
because it would be difficult to say, but also because Defense is
not just the industry that creates tools but the wing of the
government (the Department of Defense) that buys them to ensure
liberty. Since the best defense is a good offense, Defense is
responsible for bringing liberty to non-capitalist countries by
blowing up their infrastructure, killing off crimethinkers, and
establishing industry. Then, new governments can be created that
support capitalism (and thus liberty) by allowing industry to work
with minimal interference.
MiniPax (Ministry of Peace) Defense
Since many of Defense’s tools are bombs and ammunition, with a limited lifespan, industry must perpetually supply new tools. Taxes are collected to pay for these necessities of security and liberty. This is good for Industry, since it takes a profit on the tools it produces. It is said this is good for the people, as it provides many jobs; that the People are the ones paying for it all isn’t spoken of much, but when it is, it is observed that the jobs are not entitlement programs but honest jobs that are the real cost of security and liberty.
By doublethink, however, if a dictatorship is trading at fair prices, and liberty is a natural outcome of capitalist trade, unfreedom may be left in place. For example, in Middle East countries where women are confined to home and wearing burkas, these practices will be abandoned after sufficient trade. And in China, which creates many goods for cheap, any oppression is an anachronistic remnant in a country committed to freedom. The more we trade with them, the sooner full liberty will take root there.
MiniLove tortured and brainwashed in Nineteen
Eighty-Four; ConsInd replaces it in Twenty
Twenty-Four. While EntInd creates awareness and demand,
ConsInd supplies the product (at a profit, of course). The torture
comes from the perpetual struggle of the People to attain the
comfort and status promised by buying. Their telescreen peers,
actors not restricted to the same limited budgets, continually have
the latest exciting products and services. This leaves the People
feeling inadequate and jealous; they never quite succeed in their
struggle to keep up with the telescreen Joneses.
MiniLove (Ministry of Love) ConsInd (Consumer Goods and
Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, the proles (proletariat) make up the bulk of the population. They're busy with their individuality, buying ConsInd stuff EntInd told them would make them happy and/or unique. They watch a lot of game and flix, which keeps them busy, distracted, and isolated at home with their telescreen.
The Proles have no belief or disbelief in Party rhetoric—they simply have no interest. They could however repeat the Party fundamentals if needed, as they’ve been exposed to them for decades.
The Outer PartyThe shills of the inner party, they buy the Party story. They listen to the news, watch The O’Really Factor, and become skilled at parroting the rhetoric in an emotional, aggressive, squawking manner not entirely unlike a duck.
The Inner PartyToday’s rich conservatives. A tight-knit bunch, they own and control industry, and since industry is much larger than government, they control that too. They distract the People with EntInd, concurrently using it to promote sales or ConsInd. Their EntInd news departments ensure the people remain too ignorant and/or afraid to act, at the same time providing plausible, simple explanations that explain why any harm that the People encounter is their own fault, the nature of things, and certainly not something The Party would inflict on purpose.
Brotherhood of ProgressivesIf the progressives exist, it is mostly quietly. No one would readily admit to being Progressive; Party doctrine says that anyone wanting the return of entitlements is clearly lazy and trying to get something for nothing—such a person is clearly not worth hiring. Promoting unions is worse: anti-industry, anti-job, anti-People.
Not that the Party hates Progressives, recognizing instead that they’re just deluded and wrong. In The Two-Minute Hate, a segment encapsulated in the daily flix The O’Really Factor, the host reads the latest Progressive propaganda and passionately exposes all the flawed thinking and anti-social attitudes. “Ungoodthink, that is! Ungoodthink!” is the the host’s tag-line, which he shouts between each letter. Here’s an article on Progressives from the last edition of a textbook before the degradation into NewSpeak made it illegible to us:
The Brotherhood of Progressives twists around adjustments needed to keep Industry operating efficiently in a free market, and claims the cash injections are unfair. But without intervention, many could lose their jobs—would the Progressives see them starve? Progressives reject wage cuts, so only a few would keep their jobs rather than leaving many employed or new jobs formed. No doubt Progressives imagine they and their lazy friends will be the few to keep their jobs—how greedy!
The Brotherhood doesn’t know new business either. They say tax incentives needed to start new business ventures and create more jobs, are like entitlements. Ungoodthink! Despite history, Progressives say that social welfare programs benefit people. Only the lazy, surely, and not the working man who pays the higher taxes! What crimethink!
Progressives cite the iniquities of unions and the harm they do to the family, claiming their wanting to keep unfair pay levels is good. Progressives think the Inner Party can act irrationally, reducing profits and sharing wealth, instead of doing Good Business in accordance with the Free Market. They believe that somehow, a company could continue to survive despite making uncompetitive choices. Surely doubleplus nonsense.
Limiting language, Limiting thought
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, language shrank from a concerted effort by the party. NewSpeak was designed intentionally to confine thought to ideas that were in line with party ideology.
In Twenty Twenty-Four, thought reduction is a process with a life of its own. Prole vocabulary shrank because EntInd offerings (game, flix) were easier than reading. Game, in particular, needed simple language (the names of the players, plays, and penalties), but even news needed fewer words over time.
When EntInd started the news covered government plans and discussions, like print had done before. But print could go into detail, and the reader could choose how much to read or whether or not to read a particular subject at all. Most print covered many topics, so if you bought news to check on game, you also got news on government, industry, local and world events, and more. Since flix are time limited, they can’t go into detail; news from EntInd was shallow compared to print.
Over time, simpler news meant less understanding. Complex news would frustrate people, so they’d watch something else instead, leaving them with even less understanding. Perhaps from watching too many flix, the people’s expectation of drama was raised; government and industry news was boring.
News adjusted itself to its viewers so it could sell ads; this simpler news reported things that were happening that had little to do with viewer’s lives. EntInd news gradually became a stream of injuries on the war front, mine collapses, product releases, celebrity idiocy, job eliminations, recent Internet memes and follies, and cute animal or kid stories. By 2024, government news is limited to dramatic, pointed sound bites; FineInd news is covered in brief, except when figures suggested a problem to the economy, in which case news shifts to covering the problem in detail. The extended coverage explains to the People the tax cuts, incentives, and/or wage cuts needed to restore the economy to normal operation.
EffortTelescreens were the start of “easy life”. Next came video games, where one could achieve goals with minimal effort. The early ones were abstract, and had a life of their own; in time, video games became more sophisticated, more lifelike. But it remained easy to achieve, to win; after all, who would want to play a video game that was as frustrating as real life?
Just as telescreen news displaced print news, video games replaced real games in children’s lives. The patience and persistence of learning and refining each new talent and skill, often with little or no reward, was something children had learned for ages. Mistakes meant injury, or hours wasted; failure was possible. Now, it was replaced by easy success and constant reward, no possibility of failure—you just needed to do something over and over, until you got a sufficient score, then you could save.
The number of motivated people declined. Without discipline, without the frequent rewards and encouragements, the trouble of doing anything meaningful just wasn’t worth it. In its early days, the Internet was said to be a tool of sharing new ideas—but soon enough, it became another venue to shop, somewhere to play other video games, a way of keeping in touch with friends on your schedule, not theirs. By 2024, few people have any intrinsic motivation; the few that do work themselves into the Party, and the fewer that have motivation, talent, and luck join the Inner Party.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, a continuous war was maintained to keep the people’s fear/anger in targeted. While people were busy being angry at the enemy, they didn’t take time to consider whether "friends" treated them as such, or if their society made any sense at all.
In Twenty Twenty-Four, there is also a series of ongoing wars against invisible or undefeatible enemies. Perhaps it will have been going on for over 20 years by then.
There is also the war at home. The Democrats vs. Republicans fight it out, not with any real depth and more in agreement anything. But the news presents it polarized, and keeps the People (at least the ones paying attention) angry and upset about the disputes and worried the harm that will be done when the government acts. And behind it all, the Inner Party pulls the strings. The People have no sense of control over it, another thing to be feared, a situation they feel victimized by—yet more reason to turn on the telescreen, watch flix or a game, try to forget about being involved.
I imagine an ending somewhat like this:
“Let the Inner Party run things—they know what they’re doing. They’re trying to create jobs,” Robert thought.
“Yes, but good ones?” popped into his head.
“It's hard with the market pressures," he contradicted the errant thought. "They're working for the good of us all, but it's not easy.”
“What if they’re just getting rich?”
“They invested wisely,” he fought his own thoughts. “That’s fair.”
“How much more than I earn is fair? Am I paid too little?”
It felt as if Socialism, as if Goldstein himself had invaded his mind! “Badthink! Unlazy, doublework is the way to success! And how would I know better than market pressures?”
He concentrated on clearing the thoughts from his head, interrupted by the bleating of the cooker. He removed his dinner, still in its plastic container, flicked on the telescreen and sat down on the sofa. Football was on, Cleveland vs. Dallas.
His indiscretions disappeared, forgotten as he watched Cleveland’s quarterback hiking the ball, trying to make first down, as he mindlessly shoveled microwave pasta into his mouth.