Recording events helps to keep Orwellian vision at bay

George Orwell

George Orwell

First published in Opinion

THIRTY years ago, Audrey Wilson began a handwritten account of 1984 chronicling her day-to-day family life, plus national and international events.

The choice of year was inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, set in a world of perpetual war and omnipresent government surveillance.

Back in the real 1984, it was clear Orwell’s fictional vision had not become reality. While there was a troublesome war between Iraq and Iran, the world was far more settled than today. And people were certainly not living under constant surveillance.

The Cold War existed, of course; although relationships between the East and the West were starting to thaw.

Now, Orwell’s dystopian world seems not so outlandish thanks to a succession of surveillance scandals involving intelligence agencies and worrisome conflicts like those in the Ukraine and Middle East which threaten international stability.

Nowadays people don’t have to keep a written diary to record such events because the internet provides an instantaneous forum.

People anywhere can record their distressing experiences on mobile phones and upload them for us all to witness.

There is, of course, nothing knew in recording such material.

As the Gazette has reported in its Great War supplements, soldiers sent home letters or kept diaries telling graphic stories of the horrors they witnessed.

Since the age of the quill, historians have found such testaments invaluable. They recognise we are all at the forefront of history - no matter how exciting or mundane the events we witness. In this regard, Audrey Wilson’s record of 1984 is following a wonderful historic tradition.

The internet will, of course, play an increasing role in how we record our lives and experiences, providing rich pickings for future historians.

That is good - for to counter the spectre of an Orwellian world, it is important that our urge to truly record events remains undiminished.

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