It has been sixty years since George Orwell wrote his chilling dystopian classic, 1984, and it has been thirty years since we saw the creepiest example of educated and free people willingly walking into a living dystopia. November 18, 1978, three decades ago, 918 people drank Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Jim Jones, the communist leader of Jonestown, Guyana, had become "Big Brother." Soviet and Communist Chinese propaganda films and condemnations of capitalist and imperialist America blared continually to the subjects of this island of Leftist Hell.
Jonestown ended in mass suicide, but the real horror was that ordinary people, Americans like you and I, had become so decoupled from reality and morality that they could be led to surrender everything, even their lives, intoxicated only with the venom of modern Leftism. These were Orwell's Children.
We are drifting into the sort of horrific future he described. Too many of us for comfort or solace have become just like the denizens of Jonestown: Orwell's children -- a new generation of creature enraged into constant militancy against eternal enemies, oblivious to the notion of a Blessed Creator, melded into the consciousness of the party hive, divorced from history, hypnotized by images, inoculated against reason, stripped of family, and existing only to serve the cause.
Orwell did not write his book in a vacuum. 1984 describes the Soviet Union (the book describes Stalinist Russia so well so that subjects of that evil empire wondered when Orwell had lived there, though he had just described what he saw from the outside.) 1984 also describes Nazism and every other odious totalitarianism, which its secret police and propaganda machine and atomized subjects. But Orwell was very much also writing about the democratic western nations. His book was a warning of what could happen here. Oceania, the only totalitarian superstate actually descried in 1984, was largely America and the British Empire.
There were specific elements necessary for nations with a heritage of freedom to slide into the most absolute and abject slavery. These elements existed in Nazi Germany, they existed in Soviet Russia, and they exist in our free democracies today. What are the characteristics of the Orwellian state?
Start with God. He must go. The great Russian novelists knew this: "Without God, everything is permitted." In Oceania, God simply does not exist. The Nazis bragged that they would raise a generation "...without ever having heard of the Sermon on the Mount or the Golden Rule, to say nothing of the Ten Commandments." The Soviet persecuted anyone who followed the God of Jews and Christians. God is hounded in our world today. A generation of Orwell's Children are growing up without thinking about God at all or thinking that God is a silly idea cherished by sillier old fogies.
Truth must go too. Nazis embraced the "Big Lie." Soviets denied that honesty, per se, mattered. In Orwell's Oceania, the Inner Party members learn to even lie to themselves and to hold utterly contradictory beliefs at the same time. Truth and honesty have little meaning to Orwell's Children in our world. All truth is relative, all honesty a sham.
Language must be brought to heel. The Nazis did this by inventing meaningless words like "Aryan science." Marxism foisted upon us words like "capitalism," which means nothing at all but which has so infected our minds that we reflexively use this silly nonsense word instead of freedom. Politically correct language is rampant. We come to view words like "discriminate" as inherently evil, and other words like "viable fetal mass" have replaced the reality of murdered babies.
Image and symbols replace words. Hitler, whose disciples seldom recalled what Hitler said, always recalled the raw imagery of their leader. Stalin's portrait was as inescapable in the Soviet Union as the portrait of Big Brother in Oceania. We live in a word of symbols and images. Conservatives succeed in books and talk radio, media that deal in words. Orwell's Children live in the realm of symbols and images.
The books of the Nazis and Soviets were unreadable tomes like Mein Kampf, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (the two Nazi "masterpieces") or vast empty volumes of Marxist-Leninism. Is it an accident that the giant who most resisted this evil, Solzhenitsyn, was a devout Christian who mastered the written word better than any stooge of Hitler or the Politburo ever could?
Immutable oppressors are the final nasty element in dystopia. Hitler blamed Jews for everything. Stalin blamed kulaks and his enemies in the party for everything. Subjects of Orwell's Oceania saw Emmanuel Goldstein as the eternal, immutable enemy of the party. Today there is a drearily predictable list of oppressors. Christians, men, white people, the "rich" (whatever that is supposed to mean), America, and Israel are oppressors and nothing can ever change that.
Orwell even told us, by name, the professionals who would lead us into the nightmare of 1984: "sociologists," "teachers," "bureaucrats," "journalists," "professional politicians," "scientists," "trade union organizers," "publicity experts," and "technicians." (The term "community organizer" was unknown to him.) Those who enslave were those who taught students, who created the news, who sat in the halls of government power, and who defined official "truth" (at least truth de jour.)
Orwell's Children live among us now, not in tiny numbers in weird Marxist cults like Jim Jones' People Temple, but as leaders of Congress, as the establishment of academia, as the producers of news and entertainment, as the administrators of public schools, as the "experts" in a thousand myriad and odd fields of putative "expertise." They infatuate our bored children with the only reality and the only diversion that many can find. They wait for the rest of us to grow older and to die.
Will these children inherit the earth? History, not theology, has shown a single defense against the spreading contagion of Orwell's Children. Solzhenitsyn found God in the godless Gulag. Michael Power in early 1939 wrote: "In the Christianity of the German people, the National Socialist has found the one enemy it could not vanquish" - and Christians in Germany, alone, chose to voluntarily seek death before selling their souls to Nazism.
The Jewish refusniks proved indigestible to the brutal Soviet police state. When all else failed the Jewish people under the Nazis, devout Jews like my wife's mother clung to the Blessed Creator and survived the Holocaust. God can touch us all. God can protect us all from evil (not from harm - we all suffer and we all die - but from the much greater danger of the sort of evil Orwell described.)
Education, science, technological gadgetry, good medical care - all of this can not stop us from sliding into a massive Jonestown, a realized Oceania, a place marked by Dante's grim caution "Abandon hope, all you who enter here." We are all anchored in belief, but it is what we believe that matters. We can believe in the lies of Big Brother, which change each day with the needs of the party or we can believe in the truth of a living God. We can become the children of Orwell or the special creatures of God. Everything -- our nation, our world, our families, our communities -- flows from that choice.