By Mayank Goel
In 1949, Eric Arthur Blair, known around the world by his pen name George Orwell, got his novel 1984 published. The novel set a landmark in dystopian literature. As a crude allegory of Stalin’s rule in the Soviet, which Orwell abhorred, 1984 portrays a dark future of the world where the masses will be ruled, or moreover controlled, by a totalitarian state. The world of 1984 had an Inner Party that controlled the state affairs and hence the minds of the people. The masses of the world of 1984 were brainwashed into believing that the party was their liberator from the misery their ancestors had to face due to capitalist plunder, and that the party was increasing their standard of living every year by ardently following the rules of socialism. All traitors and even suspects were exterminated without trial or trace. The party controlled all media and knowledge of the present and especially the past, in order to control the minds of the proletariat masses. The party rationed all scarce resources from food, clothes to water, keeping the maximum for its own members. Even in such grim conditions, the people were instilled with an almost hysterical love for their rulers. This was the grey picture Orwell painted years ago to describe what a totalitarian nightmare would be like in the future.
One of the most apparent of these manifestations is the situation in North Korea. The recent news of the execution without trial of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, who was at one time was the second most powerful person in the country, shows us another nuance of what a brutal totalitarian state North Korea is. The only reason that was given was that Song-Thaek was a traitor who was going against the supreme leadership of North Korea and the principles of the party.
The Korean people as per probe reports live in an isolated bubble within the country and their knowledge of the world is shaped by what the ‘state media’ feeds them. All news, reports, available literature or any other source of knowledge is regularized as per the wish of the government. To them their dictator has a birthright to rule over them as in their eyes he is like their messiah, as the state makes him out to be. The economic condition of the country’s masses is also in a despondent condition with a large population living in poverty while the government focuses on pushing forward its state-sector economy and spending a huge amount in developing its military arsenal. But even living in abject poverty, a lot of North Koreans have strong allegiance to their rulers and their principles. Even after the disintegration of its biggest communist supporter, the USSR, North Korea strives to be a strong communist regime, which shows the dogma under which the nation as a whole thrives.
Apart from North Korea, which has a dynasty of de facto leaders, we see many countries where popularly elected leaders turn oppressive on their people due to a lack of a strong opposition in the bureaucracy. One example can be the presidency of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and another can be that of Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, who currently has his hands full due to the protests in Kiev. Even Russia to this day shows a lot of elements of the residual totalitarianism that has remained since Stalin’s time. Apart from supporting dictatorships such as those of Assad in Syria and Yanukovych in Ukraine, even in his own country, Vladmir Putin, the Russian President, enacts policies and moves which are very akin his soviet antecedents. Recently, Putin dissolved the RIA Novosti, a state owned news agency and Voice of Russia, an international radio station that were the relatively liberal elements of the Russian media spectrum. The new news agency launched is Russia Today, which will lean much more towards the state’s anti-Western propaganda.
The reason that dictatorships thrive is because they deny the masses self-enlightenment, so the masses cannot decide whether a regime assures them a decent and free life or not. We see that in countries like Ukraine where the people are progressive and aware, they rise against the state to demand for clearer and more transparent governance. But on the other hand, we have the people of North Korea, who are stricken by the drudgery and difficulty of their own lives, eat up whatever the state feeds them and the de facto leadership survives, generation after generation.
The author is a second year student at SRCC pursuing B.Com(H). But his interests stretch way off from his college-course combination. Coming from a family of artists and journalists, he has been an amateur drummer for a long period of time (long enough for someone to move on from amateur). He has a keen interest in subjects like economics, behavioral economics and even philosophy and psychology. Although open to opinions, he can spend hours on frivolous talk just to win an argument.
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