Archive for September 22, 2010

Orwell’s Classic & Vietnam Today

Posted in Books, IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on September 22, 2010 by Ian Pham

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

When George Orwell wrote the novel 1984, who could have predicted that the Party in his book would be a spitting image of the Communists in Vietnam and China today?  I’ve thought about this for a while, but never realized the incredible impact Orwell’s novel played in warning us of the evils of the Party.  This book was published in 1949, a time when Communism had not yet taken hold in Vietnam.  At this time, since China was till a young Communist country, the Soviet bloc was the only true Communist force.

Communism is a very secretive system, and back then, information on their activities were not widely understood.  Which brings me to my point: how did George Orwell, someone who never lived under a Communists regime, paint such a vivid picture of what such a regime was like?  In his novel, 1984, George Orwell successfully paints a picture of how devious and cruel the totalitarian dictators can be, long before the crimes of the real Communists were even known to the world.  From the way he told his story, George Orwell literally predicted the future.

If you have never read Orwell’s 1984, here is a quick summary.  Winston Smith, the main man of the story, lives in Oceania, one of three future empires perpetually at war with one another.  Oceania is run by a powerful political force simply known as The Party.  At the very top of The Party is Big Brother, a figure of unprecedented power who’s authority is rivaled by no one.  Everything inside of Oceania is controlled by the Party and Big Brother, nothing is out of their reach.  Through relentless surveillance, terror, and propaganda, the Party controls every aspect of the citizens lives.

The more Winston Smith thinks about it, the more he sees that something is not right.  As a government employee for the Ministry of Truth, the propaganda branch of the Party, Winston begins to ask questions.  Since the Party controls the flow of information, along with everything else, Winston finds himself trapped inside their system and is determined to find out the truth.  These questions eventually lead him on a path of rebellion against the Party, searching for others who share the same viewpoints as him.

This is by no way an easy task, since the government has implemented many elaborate techniques to crackdown and punish anyone who dares question the Party.  Any kind of political opposition is watched closely by the “Thought Police,” a special section of law enforcement who specializes in reading peoples’ thoughts through their actions and moods.  Surveillance cameras are set up in every corner of the country, keeping track of the peoples’ every move.

The Party tries to forcefully control the social order by implementing “Newspeak,” and “Doublethink,” psychological techniques that influences the way people act and speak.  Anyone who does not follow the regulations get severely punished by The Party.  Chillingly, a recurring event in 1984 are the sudden disappearances of characters who start questioning Big Brother and The Party.  At one moment they exist, but the next chapter they are just gone.

In Oceania, no one can be trusted.  The Party has secret spies planted everywhere throughout the state, anyone could sell you out.  Despite all this, Winston manages to find a certain few who support his cause.  One notable person by his side is named Julia, a beautiful woman who also hates The Party and wants to defy them as well.  Her relationship with Winston, complicated by the many twists and turns in Orwell’s classic, makes for an incredibly enjoyable read.  The uncertainty of their existence, mixed with the danger of opposing the totalitarian dictatorship of Big Brother and The Party, keeps us guessing all the way to the exciting conclusion.

So what does all this have to do with Vietnam, exactly?  The system created by George Orwell in 1984 resembles the situation in Vietnam so much, it is frightening.  From the VCP at the very top of the pyramid, all the way to the citizens at the bottom, George Orwell has painted the perfect picture of totalitarianism and The Party.  The VCP, and the CCP, control every aspects of their citizens lives.  The Party plants spies, tries to reshape the social order, spreads relentless propaganda, rewrites history, and destroys any form of dissidence.

In Vietnam, the Party reigns supreme over everything else, even the state itself.  Every act that The Party performs in 1984, the Communists are doing right now.  The legendary figure, Big Brother, can be compared to the mythical, yet fabricated, prowess of the evil Ho Chi Minh.  It is just quite amazing to see Orwell, who did not live long enough to see the true horrors of Communism, paint such a beautifully, yet frighteningly, vivid picture of their System.  This is dedicated to all the Winston Smiths in Vietnam right now.  To all the people who continue to fight for the freedom of Vietnam, braving the abuses, crackdowns, and wrongful arrests by The Party, please stay strong, and know that we support you all the way.