1984 – George Orwell

Title: 1984poster_1984_lrg
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 267
Category: 41. Read a book that has been on your to read list for more than a year
Format: Paper

Date Started: January 30th 2017
Date Finished: February 5th 2017

In all honesty, I started reading this one a really long time ago, straight out of high school and trying to read the classics. I made it 30 pages in (maybe) before giving up on it. The writing style wasn’t for me, the story was boring and nothing was really happening. In the back of my mind I’ve always intended to go back to it and now seemed like the perfect time.

You may or may not have noticed that lately 1984 has made it into the news and back onto bestseller lists (part of what prompted me to pick it back up). In the wake of Trump’s inauguration people have turned to 1984 to make sense of the world. Indeed it’s not hard to find an article that compares the current state of affairs in America with Orwell’s classic. But is that actually an accurate depiction of the book?

I would argue, no, it’s not. While there’s certainly some similarities there are also fundamental differences. While it’s true that we’ve seen the truth twisted slightly by Trump we have yet to see the past erased, and there are still those who feel free to speak out against what they see, one would not have dared to do such a thing in Orwell’s world, even in the privacy of their own home.

1984 paints a much bleaker picture of life than what many of us could imagine, a world where food is bland and scarce, work hours are long, you are watched constantly, everybody wears the same clothes and goes to the same community events after work and believes the same propaganda because there is no other alternative. History books and newspapers are revised with the latest version of the truth so that the all knowing, all seeing Big Brother is always correct. People are erased from history if they step out of line. There is a lottery but never a winner, only small prizes to appease to poorest citizens. Your own children would happily turn you into the Thought Police. Love is not allowed, sex is for procreation only and not to be enjoyed.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell

Perhaps this picture of life is even bleaker than Orwell imagined it to be in a world that has changed since the writing of the book. Today it is creativity and individualism that the world values, slogans like ‘be yourself’ are everywhere, this was slightly less of a focus in the post World Ward II society.

Ultimately, I think the connections between Trump and 1984 have been greatly overstated but if you haven’t read it already then 1984 is still definitely worth a read. It’s a little slow to get going which appears to be a deliberate choice by Orwell to truly immerse you in the world he created. The prose is not what I would usually enjoy and the plot somewhat bland if you’ve grown up reading the likes of JK Rowling and Michael Crichton, but Orwell’s world is both terrifying and immersive enough to make up for it.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things in Life (2015)

Title: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things in Life
mv5bmtkwnzu1oteznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwody5nza3nte-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Year: 2015
Director: Matt D’Avella
Genre: Documentary
Date Watched: January 28, 2017
Category: #6 Documentary

I’ve had this one in my Netflix list for a little while now. It’s an interesting notion for someone like me who often has grown up surrounded by things, I’ve certainly always had more than I’ve needed and I’m not one to throw things out ‘in case I need them again later’. I’ve kept books I didn’t enjoy and know I’ll never read, clothes that don’t fit, shoes that are uncomfortable and match nothing I own, school books from reception right through university. I don’t need or use most of them so why not get rid of them and make space for the things I do want and use?

For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, the idea of Minimalism is that you clear all the clutter from your life, that is things you don’t use and the ones that don’t bring you joy. What’s important to one person won’t be important to others, but that’s totally fine according to the Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

There’s people all over the world embracing the idea that less is more, quality over quantity, people who have chosen to move into smaller homes using all their space as efficiently as possible, all of their things easily fitting into these small areas. Now, I could never see myself moving to that type of extreme as someone who currently has hundreds of books and DVD’s which I enjoy and for the most part could not see myself parting with. That doesn’t mean that there’s not things that I don’t have much use for (I mean, how many broken laptops does one person need to hold on to?).

Perhaps the most eye opening aspect of the documentary for me was a study which explored the ways that people in America were using their homes. That is to say, the majority of the activity was occurring in a very small potion of the space available, entire rooms going completely unused and ignored. The study explored this in terms of the environmental impact of maintaining a larger house and the impact on urban sprawl costing more resources to travel to and from places and so on.

While there are many reasons explored in the documentary that one might want to adopt a minimalist approach to life, however, what attracted the minimalists was that of happiness. I won’t expand on that one since they can explain it far better than I can, suffice to say that having more things does not always mean one is happier.

If your house feels too cluttered, or you’re always searching for the thing you want amongst things you had forgotten you even owned or haven’t used in years then take a look at this documentary (Available on Netflix) and you might be pleasantly surprised by tidying things up a bit.

Rating: 3.5/5