Grete Chan, 3 January 2011: Opinion – Social
The month of November 2010 saw a history in the making and a strangely familiar mirror of a precedent entitled the Pentagon Papers. What differs in this instance is that the whistleblow did not happen in the US, it was released to the world. Ironically, many Americans did not take the news lightly, with public polls discerning Julian Assange as a nuisance, rather than a reveller of truth. The government sought to vanquish Assange’s voice by shutting down Wikileaks and pressuring all servers to follow suite. In the east, a similar case occurred. Google Inc., having made an official statement that they left the billion dollar Chinese market on ethical grounds that they do not support censorship, now faces the same criticism of its country of origin. This bears the statement that both the east and the west are not so different, although their publicity of their method differs.
…both the east and the west are not so different, although the publicity of their method differs.
Whilst China became more and more involved in the global limelight, criticism from the west, who believed themselves as the forerunners of democracy, flogs China’s every known move. Human rights advocacy frequented news on the lack of freedom in China, and recently the humility of immobilizing family and supporters of Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Prize winner of 2010 for his critical published work of the Chinese government called Charter 08. As the west feels enraged over this oppression of freedom, the majority of the Chinese in China does not seem affected. Rather, some were angered by the west’s ‘meddling’ of Chinese affairs. To many westerners, this was beyond comprehension, and thus this is where we arrive at George Orwell’s 1984 paradigm.
1984 is a highly acclaimed fiction novel that modeled an oligarchical, collectivist society controlled by ‘Big Brother’ and his ‘telescreens’, which in London is very evident with the CCTV. This book was published in 1949, during the post-war depression and societal chaos. Orwell manipulated a totalitarian concept to further his philosophy of what is happening in this endless loop of revolutions and authoritarians.
“The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.” – George Orwell
Modelling the Orwellian society to China, it may strike one upon second glance that it is not vastly different. China is split into 3 classes in its society, with the majority in the lower class and poverty stricken. As China becomes wealthier, the upper class (those in the inner circle – with connections with the government) continues to enjoy riches whilst the middle class (the outer circle) were granted education and a share of these riches. The pot of gold for western businesses shone brighter as the middle class grew. The lower class ‘proletarians’ were left to their own devices, uneducated and unattended.
As Orwell mentioned in 1984, it was those in the outer circle which the inner circle took heed to, as these are the ones who may one day question the authority. This is the reason why censorship is vital to control thoughtcrime, and nationalist propaganda is ingrained into this class of citizens as early as they can. It is appalling to find that the Tianmen Square incident, and even Japanese occupation of China and Taiwan are all but deleted from the country’s history. As Orwell mentioned, history can be rewritten and people will believe in what they are told, just as one plus one equals three.
Furthermore in 1984, anyone who committed thoughtcrime were either vaporized or publicly executed after they are tortured to “confession”. The people then are led to believe that they are traitors to their country and their sovereignty and must be eliminated, like Liu. For the ‘proles’, it was just another day of work. Moreover, revelations insisted that traitors are certainly backed by the enemies who seek to infiltrate their country. In Liu’s case it was rumored that he have been funded by the west and wishes to dismantle the great governance of China which will threaten the lives of the Chinese. So the perfect reason holds that any citizen of China who dared speak are banished as traitors sent by the capitalist west. This is one piece of the Orwellian jigsaw in place.
The second follows that China rings true to its people as a well principled country, unlike the capitalist west who are only after the pot of gold. This is where doublethink comes into play. While the Chinese (middle and upper class) critiques the west for being capitalist and only interested in imperialism, the society they live in is not so different. Rather the middle class now have cash to burn, and philanthropy isn’t exactly on top of their list. While the poor continues to be poorer, the middle class, charged with purchasing power, rushes to shop to their heart’s content.
This is where the Orwellian society got an upgrade – with the government to keep the outer circle happy with cash, the middle class have no cause to stake a revolution. Without a learned representative of the middle class, the lower class would rarely dare to raise the question of human rights and justice. Moreover, the ‘proles would not know better as they do not have other societies to compare their living standards against. Again, this is where they are left to each for their own.
The third jigsaw falls in place, which may be juxtaposed to the 2 minutes of hate. With the west continually criticizing China and her methods, the people become fueled with hatred. For all the hardships and misshapen, the west was to blame. Their imperialism hurt China’s dignity and continued to humiliate her presence in the world, and the Chinese people have had enough.
…the west continually criticizing China and her methods, the people become fueled with hatred.
Of course no one society is a perfect fit for Orwell’s 1984, but the eerie likeness is frightening. The final piece of the jigsaw is that this society model is very similar in the west, where I began with the United States of America and the Wikileaks saga. Orwellian foul play exist and are heavily ingrained in the highly patriotic country whose banner is that the people who come here to live the “American Dream”. When criticized by outsiders, the people become angered, when whistleblown by one of their own, a revolt followed.
The conclusion to this endless loop is that each country is similar, only that revolutions and totalitarian exist in many sizes and appearances, but at the end still leads to the same goal – for the inner circle to continue to enjoy their power, and the ‘proles to stay poor. When one comes the other goes, and a greater power with experience from the past follows suite to another era and cycle. One example of this is Cuba, where Che Gueverra fought for the revolution, which lead to Fidel Castro assuming the place of power, a greater tyranny as some may say. Che did not want this power, and thus met his end.
Freedom is still a figure of speech, as total freedom is to find balance between the two. At the end of the day, each country should be left to each of its own and to its own revolutions. In this global age with heavy government interventions, no one country can be left entirely alone.