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“1984” May already be here
By Bill Hoagland
I recently re-read the book “1984”. As most people know, “1984” was written by George Orwell in 1948. It is a novel loosely based on life experiences in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s leading up to World War II. In the book, the narrator, Winston Smith, is a low-level government employee who realizes just how miserable life is in a fictional totalitarian regime. This regime features, among other things, a leader known as “Big Brother’’, who cannot tolerate any criticism about him or his regime; the “Thought Police”, an empowered group of enforcers whose job it is to control and prevent thoughts that are critical of Big Brother and his regime; “Newspeak”, the words of the regime that are now acceptable and those words that are no longer acceptable; and the “Unpersons”, individuals who dared to criticize Big Brother or the regime and who now have been relegated to re-education centers or worse. In this fictionalized regime, history is constantly being re-written, statutes removed, streets renamed and people becoming “unpersons.’’
Does this sound vaguely familiar?
If you pay any attention to world affairs, you probably realize that the political and social conditions described in “1984” appear to be developing at a very fast pace right now in China. President Xi Jinping is quickly becoming “Big Brother”, a “cult” personality for whom no criticism is tolerated whatsoever. In fact, members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party must now pledge allegiance not only to the Party but to Xi personally as well. In addition, Xi is now seeking a precedent-breaking third term as President. He is also promoting a resolution for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party that takes China back to the way in which the country was run by Mao Zedong in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Mao’s way of handling things is again being praised as “the way forward”, with Xi being presented as the only person who can run the country as Mao did. Obviously, in the process of once again embracing Mao, Xi is rewriting history in a significant and misleading way.
And yes, according to an article in the September 20 edition of the Wall Street Journal, the “Thought Police” are actively at work in China, banning “effeminate sissies” from television, ordering Chinese boys to “man up” instead of playing video games, and issuing new school books entitled “Happiness Only Comes Through Struggle”. Even Winnie the Pooh has been banned from the Chinese internet because the creators suggested in an animated cartoon that Winnie the Pooh looks like Xi. (Actually, there is a similarity.) Consider the plight of one Liu Kequing, a Chinese opera singer now based in Europe who has an uncanny resemblance to Xi; his music and image have been banned from China because his appearance “violates Xi’s looks”. I could go on about this cult that is developing, but you get the idea.
Those of us who are old enough to remember the “Red China of the 1950’s and 1960’s”, the Red Guard, the “Cultural Revolution” that starved millions and Mao’s little red book of quotations have a very uneasy feeling about where this is headed in Xi’s China. It is unfortunate that young people today have no appreciation or interest as to our perspective on this issue or why we are concerned about another non-fictional “1984” growing very quickly in our midst.
Thirty years ago, it was thought that once China got a taste of capitalism, we could not possibly see a return to Mao’s “1984” style of government. Don’t you wish we had the opportunity to rethink that concept?
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.