George Orwell

The tone of the 20th century was set long before the first day of its first year. The 19th century had begun with a new and profoundly different presence on the world stage. Born at the close of the 18th century, the United States, with its huge expanse, vast resources and independent spirit, would lead the western world into the intense industrialization of the 19th century. Thus, the 20th century dawned on a world which had become both master and slave of the great mechanized society. And no part of 20th century society would seize the power created by this massive industrialization more than its politicians and, in their service, its warriors.

Terror, in both war and peace, had been with mankind since the first man realized that a stick or a stone could get you your way not only with a woolly bison, but with your fellow cave dwellers, as well. But, prior to the 20th century, wars were fought by armies which met on a field of battle far separated from civilian life. During the 20th century, however, from the Somme to Guernica to Coventry to Dresden to Hiroshima, mass terror against civilians during wartime had become an instrumentality of national will. (Even during the relatively peaceful last half of the 20th century, the threat of mass terror, that is, psychological terror - the mad policy of Mutually Assured Destruction - was employed by the American and Soviet superpowers.) And politicians and government leaders, who had so willingly employed these new and profoundly inhuman tools of war soon realized the effectiveness of terror as an instrument of domestic social policy, as well.

Within the 20th century, the campaigns of terror and murder by the Russian Czar and the Soviet and Nazi governments against their own citizens and, to the same end, the apartide and terror practiced by the American government and its citizens against African-Americans through the late 1970s (and in subtle forms, even to this day), the capitalist led and government condoned, if not controlled, violence brought to bear against labor organizers and the McCarthite campaign of the United States government against the American people are but a few examples of the use of such terror.

As leaders well know, such domestic terror has the effect of fragmenting the society in (and against) which it is practiced, and of alienating individuals from each other and from the group as well, the end goal and result being an atmosphere of fear and conformity; i.e., 1984. The better to control the populace.

Orwell's writings are, and, in fact, his life itself was, concerned with the process and mechanism of alienation, and, more importantly, with the consequences of this alienation. This itself is not wholly different from some other writers. What separates Orwell and his writings from the others, however, is his view of the connection between the form of social interaction and the individual's psychological/emotional, and ultimately his spiritual well being (or often the lack thereof).

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