George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 is invariably invoked when discussing misuse of government power. As a primer for the horrors of totalitarianism, the novel excels, and is enduring. But the surface horror it describes is only skin deep. The deeper horror, for me, is this: what if we lived in a totalitarian state and nobody cared?
On one level, Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984, is rejecting the conformity and control imposed on him by the state. But what adds to the psychological terror is the fact that he is alone; that the society in which he inhabits is one composed of people for whom this level of control is considered normal, where it is ok to have devices in the home that record what people do and say, and in which it is expected that coworkers and family members will turn one another in for subversive behavior. Indeed, a society where the desire for privacy and freedom is what is considered abnormal.
Thus, when a majority of people feel that NSA surveillance is ok, when a major corporation can propose a “home entertainment” device with the capability for recording sight and sound and nobody cares, when workers are encouraged and compelled to turn each other in for any behavior that may be deemed suspicious, when those who choose to refrain from posting their private lives for public consumption are considered outcasts and cranks by people and potential employers who will still use public data against you, indeed, when the whole concept of privacy is no longer relevant, then I have to wonder just far down the rabbit hole we have gone.
Yes, if you are living in a country where you can legally purchase 1984, then you are technically not living in 1984. But at what point does that become a matter of semantics and hair-splitting?