Somehow took me until now to crack open Orwell’s 1984, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a few days later, SOPA/PIPA freaked the free thinking world out enough that Wikipedia decided it needed to step in with their nationwide exercise in hypothetical imagination. “The Information Age” is a common phrase for the current generation, but seeing the commodity itself get witheld from the public was a sight to behold. Sometimes it was appropriately frightening. Other, rare, times it was actually entertaining.
Orwell’s foresight was embodied not only in his work, but in his life. Winston, his character in the novel, dealt with the same catch-22 that he did: that if anybody found his writings in the present state of things, it would be destroyed, and if things changed, nobody would find it relevant. While he was working on his novel, I wonder if fiction was already starting to be compartmentalized intellectually and tossed aside as pseudo-reportage on real contemporary issues. I wonder if he knew how accurate his diagnosis was, and also the apparent futility of his medium: the fiction novel.
Perhaps the world that we now live in, the world that allowed SOPA/PIPA to even be seriously proposed and manifested as a real threat, could have been amended earlier due to a culture that corporately took works of literature and art seriously. Work that was engaging about these current issues decades ago. It seems like many people on the sidelines who like to think they have a realistic perspective on these issues don’t think the internet can really be censored. However, it’s safe to assume Orwell wouldn’t be one of them. Reading has always been crucial, but now, maybe it should also be called dire.