Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Drop Down

I have a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four on my bookshelf.  Unlike many other books considered 20th Century classics, this one I did not use in the classroom.  I did not read this one in college.  In fact it was a gift.  The book was given to me by a friend who is no longer alive but happened to be in the right place at the right time.
On New year's eve in the waning days of 1983, he was at a rather opulent party in New York city.  At exactly 12:00 a.m. on January 1st 1984, along with the balloons and confetti, hundreds of copies of Nineteen Eighty Four came tumbling down on the party goers.  It was all tres chic and probably a good laugh.
Last week, I read that sales of the Orwell classic have increased sharply in the wake of the recent NSA revelations.  Guess that's not too surprising given that most of the country is wondering whether or not it's a good thing for the government to know everything. Their phone calls, their credit information, their photos, their social media contacts and content.

What would reading Nineteen Eighty Four give to anyone giving serious critical thought to the security dilemma we now face.  Does that novel adequately address the moral issues we're faced with in 2013?

We do have large screens in our homes and a media that talks in rather peculiar ways to us.  Props to Orwell for that.  But how in the late 1940s could anyone have foreseen the rapid change in technology and the specifics of a war on terror, if that is what this is about?
Like much of Orwell's writing, I hope the offshoot of all this is that we have a national dialogue about the right to privacy.  We seem, as a nation, to be obsessed with the 2nd Amendment rather than the 4th Amendment.  That needs to change.  But it does say a good deal about who we are as a culture.
So let's have a party.  A New Year's Eve party.  And let's drop a glittering ball, and let Harlequin colored balloons drift over the celebration.  Don't forget the confetti and this time, let's drop eloquently lettered copies of the 4th Amendment as souvenirs.

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