I first read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was 17 years old. Since then, I’ve re-read it 3 more times. Orwell’s concept has forever fascinated me. For those who need a reminder, the main character, Winston Smith lives in an oppressed society called Oceana where fear is used  (by the authorities) as a tool for manipulating and controlling individuals who do not conform to the rules. As a result people live in fear, misery and repression.

A few months ago, I listened in amazement as the UK’s National Trust tried  “a 1984”- as I  now call it –  on volunteers. These volunteers were to help out during a Gay Pride campaign but were told that if they didn’t wear the Gay Pride lanyards, they would be relegated to the back rooms  (and not interact with the public). I’m pleased to say that the public outcry was immediate and there was severe criticism of the National Trust’s ‘bullying’ tactics. As a result, they back-tracked rapidly- with apologies.

I’ve found that in every area of life, there’s always a small chance of ‘a 1984’ cropping up. I’ve observed it in family settings,  the work environment, schools, churches- you name it. Look at it this way, if you feel that your free will is being encroached upon-leaving you feeling repressed- that’s ‘a 1984’ right there. A perfect example is North Korea- but that’s another story.

My formative years were spent growing up in communist Ethiopia. As young as I was, I still noticed the difference between the lives of locals and expatriates. The restrictions placed on Ethiopians in their day to day lives were obvious- from restricting the flow of information to having to jump hurdles to travel abroad. During those years, I’d spend the occasional summer holiday with my brother in what was then East Germany- another communist country. I recall the wistful, longing looks on the faces of his friends and neighbours whenever we needed to travel across the border from East to West Berlin.  They, obviously were not allowed across. It took me a while to  appreciate the German situation but I can honestly say that it was only after I’d read 1984- did the penny drop.

I’ve come to realise that although  questionable authorities are the primary culprits in acts of repression and oppression, it also happens amongst  smaller organisations and individuals who have a kind of power over others. Either way, it makes me appreciate the instinct of the human spirit to fight against this force. I could go on- but suffice it to say our free will must be exercised at all times.

A Free mind can do Anything

Because Freedom is Everything


Copyright 2017- Vivian Zems