Monday, February 21, 2011

Nineteen Eighty-Four

I just finished rereading George Orwell's 1984. I am fascinated at this book's ability to go from excitement and hope to utter despair in an instant. Of course stories that do not end well frustrate me (like Message in a Bottle), but of course the main message of the book is a social and political one. It is ashame that today's government is often called Big Brother because it really minimizes the point of Big Brother in the story.

A few weeks ago we were discussing this book with a young professional (early 20's) who had never read it. He was only familiar with the term Big Brother in reference to our police-state mentality, but Big Brother is so much more than that.

There is a part of the book where Winston is reading the contra-band book written by Goldstein where Orwell lays out some interesting notions which I ended up pondering a lot. In simple terms, the statement is made that machines could eliminate scarcity, but scarcity is required for hierarchical society, so war is needed to consume additional resources to keep scarcity a reality.

What is interesting to me is that while we have advanced to the point of amazing machinery capable of performing many tasks, and reducing costs for complex problems, we have failed at eliminating scarcity. Instead we have grown our personal need for more and better things requiring more resources. Instead of Orwell's war solution, our own personal greed is keeping us in a scarce society. It is unfortunate that we live this way. I am guilty. I long for the latest TV, tablet, dishes, cars, food, etc. while my fellow man starves on the other side of a shrinking planet.

Morally, I wonder if Jesus would see eliminating scarcity as a positive for society? Is that what we as the Church of Jesus should be striving for?

Is it even an attainable goal, or is man's morality so broken that any advances made to lower scarcity will be swallowed back into making the wealthy more so?

These are the questions that have been plaguing me recently. If you have never read 1984, and you are of age, go read it. It is a fascinating book about human sociology, politics and freedom.

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