I recently finished reading George Orwell’s “1984.” I’ve been hearing about the book for as much of my life as I can remember. I was 10 in 1984, and I believe I had heard of the book at that point. Growing up in an Air Force family during the later part of the Cold War, especially when you lived close enough to the Eastern Block to realize you would be dead by the time the nuclear warning could be put out or the air raid sirens activated, you get to learn a little about communism and the Soviet system. I was walking to school on morning in 1983 when the Ramstein headquarters was blown up by a truck full of explosives driven onto base by terrorists. I have no idea how terrorists got a truck full of explosives as the gate guards seemed pretty sure that an Air Force noncom and his children couldn’t get on base without a thorough check. In any case, they did, and drove it right up to the steps. We lived in Vogelveh Military Housing, about a 15 minute drive from Ramstein Air Base, but I remember the ground shaking and seeing a cloud coming up over the horizon. I wasn’t in any danger. Of course, being in the days before cell phones my mom was in a panic all day until my dad could get in touch with her to let her know that he was all right.
That isn’t the main point behind this post. Orwell seemed to be very insightful into how the communist system works. I’ve heard that he was a socialist and rather than writing as a warning against communism, his books were written as sort of praise toward it. I plan to follow that up at some point, but I haven’t yet.
1984 was a good read, and I highlighted a few passages that seemed insightful to either the communist system or even into how people think today. I wrote a post last year about the lottery. I’ll admit, I have little use for the lottery. I don’t play it. I see it as a voluntary tax on people who have no ambition and little ability to process math. I don’t play it myself, and though my wife doesn’t agree with me, she has yielded to my request to find other ways to waste our money rather than buy lottery tickets. I found a quote in 1984 that seems to back up what I’ve thought all along:”
The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made a living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. Winston had nothing to do with the running of the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary. Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being non-existent persons. In the absence of any real intercommunication between one part of Oceania and another, this was not difficult to arrange.
The only part of that section that may not apply is the last, yet how much real intercommunication would have to take place in the matter of the lottery?