Some thoughts after reading 1984 by George Orwell

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

Some thoughts after reading 1984:

  • Similar to INGSOC, modern governments seek to control the historical narrative. In South Korea, President Yoon has advocated for downplaying of Japanese colonialism while promoting an “anti-communist” agenda. Despite confusion among many Koreans about his priorities, Yoon continues to promote his abstract propaganda of “free society” on the global stage. No one, including Yoon himself, seems to understand the exact meaning of “freedom.” On the other hand, his actions suggest that he doesn’t value freedom of speech, as he is suing investigative journalists for reporting “fake news.” Yoon’s freedom doesn’t mean the equality of opportunity either. In contrast with his pledge to have “lots of cabinet members in their 30s,” Yoon has filled the government with old political veterans. Unfortunately, just like Yoon, too many elected officials break their initial promises and fixate on political disputes.
  • I wonder about the realist approach to understanding democracy in our society. In two countries I’m most familiar with, the US and South Korea, citizens are always left with two grandpas(rarely a grandma) presidential candidates who are so out-of-touch with the lives of most voters. People become hopeful when an election comes, but the ballot always looks the same. The winner is either a red or blue millionaire. Some questions: is there any viable path to escape from this two-party system? Is election really the best method to choose the leader of a massive community? How can we make politicians to do their jobs? Can “Network State” be an answer to these perennial problems?
  • What if most governments are jealous of China’s capability to watch its citizens through a sophisticated surveillance model? Some might say democratic nations would not allow China-level unfreedom, but many Koreans and Americans don’t mind letting AI intrude into daily lives. Lots of customers are even willing to pay hundreds of dollars to surround themselves with more advanced cameras and speakers. How can we be sure that intelligent agencies can’t access the data from tech companies? Naver and Kakao have already handed over hundreds of thousands of personal information to the Korean government. Can we trust Google and Meta to be the trustworthy gatekeepers of privacy? In the end, they are the ones bringing online surveillance to the offline world.
  • Like Goldstein in 1984, political parties like to create an evil character to incite mass movements. The target could be a former president(two of three former Korean presidents were imprisoned after their time in office) or another nation such as Russia, North Korea, or China. I’m not trying to defend these politicians and countries. I want to ensure that I’m not merely “praying for Ukraine” without trying my best to understand the history behind the war. Understanding complicated topics should not be as simple as hitting a “like” on a YouTube video. I don’t want to be the one who’s incapable of questioning the existence of Big Brother and Goldstein.
  • Orwell needed a political purpose to write novels. In his essay Why I Write, Orwell says he writes “to make political writing into an art.” Then, I wondered what topics would infuriate me the most to start writing. It’s a pivotal question. What do I hate the most? I get angry when I see injustice in my community. The rich Korean kids faking SAT scores and deeply-rooted corruption in the Korean army are some examples burning in my heart. Orwell’s advice is simple. I must turn this rage into an art.