AN ODD thing arrived today at the office: an Amazon package containing a brand new copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It’s not the book itself that is odd – I read it for the first time nearly 30 years ago and it’s a rollicking good yarn, with a great plot and a very dramatic ending.
What was peculiar was that I didn’t order it from Amazon – apparently it was a gift from an anonymous benefactor. The following text was written on the packing slip:
Young man, This is a reminder that this book, contrary to what your leader might think, is NOT an instruction manual, but a warning. REMEMBER – WE are YOUR masters.
Hmm. Where to start, where to start…?
Well, first of all, how about the arrogance of anyone referring to anyone else as anyone’s “masters”?
Secondly, there seem to be an awful lot of people out there – perhaps dozens of them – who seem to get strangely exercised at the prospect of a “police state”. Except that what they define as a “police state” is a million light years from what Orwell himself described. CCTV cameras in the street? That’s just like Nineteen Eighty-Four, when families were monitored in their own homes, 24 hours a day! Can’t use racist terms to vilify people any more? Well, surely that’s thought crime, just like Orwell predicted!
What rubbish. As I’ve written here before, this is all paranoid fantasy, and why so many people get off on it, I’ll never know. I recently had the latest in a series of requests from constituents regarding CCTV. Requests to have the cameras removed? No, no, no… Requests for more cameras.
(Incidentally, despite a previous appeal, I still haven’t been contacted by any Tory MP or candidate who has volunteered to wield the axe on any of their own local schemes. Funny, that.)
I well remember the miners’ strike of 1984-85 and the claims by some on the Trotsyite left at the time that Thatcher had inaugurated a police state in her attempts to control violent picketing. And again I say: rubbish.
We live in a democracy, and just because those – including my anonymous benefactor – who get excited about such things are unhappy that Labour is in power, that does not make us anything other than a democracy. And democratically-elected governments govern with the consent of the people. Yes, even this one!
While the strange person who sent me my book and others like him might claim that everyone in the UK is utterly consumed with fury over a perceived decline in civil liberties in this country, the facts are that we still enjoy a level of freedom that maintains our position as one of the great democracies of the world.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to duck now…
UPDATE at 3.07 pm: It seems my objection to the term “masters” is causing some annoyance. For the avoidance of doubt, I regard my constituents as “employers” rather than “masters”, fellow citizens to whom I am accountable. But “masters” is so 18th century, don’t you think?