As occupants of a first world country, many of us don’t worry about this year’s crop harvest in the sense that there will be enough food to survive to the next day. Instead, we worry if our hand grown, organic tomatoes, will cost $5.00 this year instead of $4.50. In a similar sense, some of us even worry about how many likes our, “just woke up” selfie will receive on Instagram. Technology has allowed our desires and worries to pass basic survival and move onto more trivial matters. But, when the government stunts the growth of technology, and strip the common man of many technological advancements, their desires and worries will once again degrade to their basic needs. Therefore by degrading a citizens to their basic needs, the government is able to invade a citizen’s personal life with propaganda and surveillance.
In the book 1984 by George Orwell, citizens are under constant surveillance by the government (Orwell 2). In the modern day, such a large operation by a government can be found in North Korea. There, over 100,000 closed circuit cameras were bought from 2010-2013 to crack down on it’s citizens who are leaving the country, as well as those who are spreading anti-government propaganda (The Telegraph). By setting up such large surveillance programs, the government has instilled fear in the hearts of those who live there. You must always be on your best behavior because you never know when you’re being watched. Then those who do commit crimes against the state are filled with anxiety from wondering when the government will crack down on any form of misconduct, let alone torture them or induce a public execution similar to the course of action that Oceania’s government takes. You may be an example of what happens to a criminal or simply vaporized. Both ways you will be forgotten because psychologically when you see people constantly being vaporized or publically executed, your brain will try to protect itself emotionally by no longer forming close attachments to the people around you. Therefore shrinking the amount of grieving or even skipping the process altogether; this can be seen in Oceania because all who are vaporized are almost instantly forgotten. This is why the government has such free range over what they can do in a strong authoritarian surveillance state.
Another reason why, “Big Brother,” is still in power is because of how much control they have over what can be seen, heard, and even said in the super state. Propaganda is essential to keep all governments in power, especially those who are repressive to their citizens. When you pound propaganda into your citizens from birth and censor everything that would otherwise be said, the citizens will be brainwashed into believing everything stated by the government regardless of fact or fiction. This is being perfected in Oceania with the ultimate propaganda, newspeak, which forces citizens to think what the government wants them to think so that all words that one could use against the government no longer exist. While not yet perfected, North Korea is slowly inching there. According to an article in the Daily Mail, Khaleda Rahman wrote, “Seven decades of separation has seen even the language of North and South Korea split into two different dialects… South Koreans have incorporated many English words and phrases into their language while isolated communist North Korea has eliminated words with foreign origins and created homegrown substitutes.” This shows how North Korea is slowly approaching perfection of their propaganda, the beginning of their own newspeak. The North Korean regime has greater control over their city dwellers because those children are more likely to go to school. There are no private schools in North Korea, which allows the government to control what is taught and done in the schools. For example, Kindergarten teachers will have their students play wargames, and according to an article on the Daily Mail, who’s author was anonymized; they will shoot fake guns or throw rocks at hand drawn posters of American soldiers. Then, because the media is controlled by the government, they are able to make claims such as: a unicorn lair exist in their home country. According to The Guardian’s writer Ben Quinn, “they have “recently reconfirmed” the lair of one of the unicorns ridden by the ancient Korean King Tongmyong… The KCNA goes on to state that the location happens to be 200 metres from a temple in the North Korean capital, adding: “A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair.”” While, lies such as these don’t normally reach the countryside, propaganda still is found but isn’t as prominent as in the city. This is because everyone living in the countryside are tired and at the end of the day Therefore they are very similar to the proles, because they are more free than city dwellers because there is less surveillance, and propaganda isn’t shoved down their throats. The countryside peasants are even capable of overthrowing the regime like the proles are able to, but similarly they uninterested and frankly couldn’t care who ruled. They just want to survive. In this sense, the government doesn’t need to exert that much control over them because they don’t have the time to even think about fighting back against the government.
From fictional examples such as Oceania to present day instances such as North Korea, technological stunting and control is essential to remain in power. As we can see in North Korea the technology to improve their country is there – right across the border – but to remain in power they can not give the technology to their citizens. In order to stay in power, governments must barbarianize their citizens’ desires to wanting little more than sufficient food and shelter for survival. Both governments show they understand that, as well as the idea that their government model runs off of fear. All those who are foolish enough to go against the government, must be vaporized or made an example of. Finally they see the essential use of technology in propaganda. Oceania has telescreens that constantly play government propaganda; similarly, the North Koreans have a speaker in every household that plays propaganda. Both are potentially bugged and can never be turned off. North Korea is the real life example of Oceania, therefore we know that it is possible to create such a regime by stinting the growth of technology and controlling the technology that is available.
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