I have just finished (again) George Orwell’s trio of English political novels, Coming up for Air (1939), Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) Some of you know that Penguin have published new versions this year. Here are two of my copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, ( I think I have about 4). On the left is my very first copy given to me at school while doing my CSE’s in 1974, 10 years before it was supposed to happen. It features a detail form William Roberts painting, ‘The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters. The other copy is this year’s Penguin, given to me for my birthday, designed by David Pearson.
Its brilliant in that its ‘redacted’ title (you can just see the words under the black in the right light) tells us more about where we are in relation to what Orwell wrote about regarding control, manipulation of truth and ‘Big Brother’. Of course many people take Orwell’s picture of a highly controlled society too literally. They say it’s never happened and that Big Brother doesn’t exist.
Plus those telescreens in Airstrip One, located everywhere, watching your every move, listening to everything you say and to whom, never really took off.
Well sitting on the tram this morning heading into the city I was completely struck by the countless number of people staring vacantly into their smartphones. Like the telescreens those things know who you are, where you are, what you are saying and to whom and through twitter, exactly what you are thinking – all the time. Unlike Winston Smith we all seem to be very willing participants.
The key question is who is watching it all?