I have read and re read George Orwell’s prophetic masterpiece 1984, and each time I close it I get overwhelmed by despair and helplessness.
In what once was Great Britain, “the golden country” is the country where the party of Big Brother rules. An omnipresent god-like party with a draconian law, that makes sure to dispose of everything with a hint of rebellion, even the thoughts; Thoughts which are a person’s most intimate and treasured possessions.
I eventually realized that the reason I get so upset when I read 1984 is because I feel like I’m living the story’s plot as a reality. I see what today Hezbollah is: a miniature party like Big Brother’s party. Of course the party in the novel is more theoretical, powerful and is bigger. But it’s only safe to expect the worse from our reality.
Orwell portrays a state where the government monitors and controls every aspect of the citizen’s life to the extent of having “thought police”. It’s no secret that once you’re member in Hezbollah, your life and hobbies and people you like become their life and hobbies and people they look into. Your job, your money and even your kids are invested in the growth of the party of god. And I daresay the adherence to the party is often a one way thing, because god forbids you decide to leave it and get labelled as a spy and watch your life get taken away from you.
When it comes to non-party members, non-supporters, they don’t exist in 1984 because that is not an option. In my reality, Hezbollah has done what it can to ostracize those people, feeding the supporters thoughts that a person against the party is not only delusional because he’s passing out on god’s path but also prohibited as an acquaintance. The difference is that Big Brother is more powerful and immediately gets rid of those people and even mentioning them becomes a social taboo because they never existed. Hezbollah just doesn’t have enough strong roots to do that without being questioned like Big Brother.
Big Brother and Hezbollah choose who you speak to and what you talk about making sure that you believe that it is all your free will.
I have made a list of some and I’m sure not all of the common elements between Hezbollah today, and Big Brother’s party and the way it exercises its power.
1- In the novel wherever you are, even at your own home there is what I assume is a television that blasts on streaming propaganda and speeches of big brother telling people what to think and who the enemy is.
Hezbollah fans on the other hand are worse: They willingly turn on their TV, put the party’s channel on and sit down happily listening to what the leader is saying, and change their loyalties depending on what he says without even questioning it to the least, not even to the human level.
2- Big Brother wastes no time in recruiting members: starting a very early age kids are enrolled in some organization where they become the respected Junior Spies who are entrusted with watching their parents and all the adults looking for thought crime.
Of course Hezbollah has to be more discreet and doesn’t really dare create junior spies explicitly; he does have other crafty ways though: The Mahdi scouts.
Mahdi scouts are told that they are training to become the soldiers of The Mahdi and that fills them up with feelings of importance and grandiosity. And it’s a perfect way to teach a child whatever it is you want him to learn because kids’ brains are pure and very flexible and moldable.
Not only that, Hezbollah hosts military training for teenagers as young as 14 years, and considers them members after it. Meaning a 14 year old boy is monitored and watched by a political party and has to express loyalty to it and sometimes that means considering their parents state enemies.
3- One of my favorites and also one that infuriates me deeply.
Every day before people start their work, a speech of Big Brother is run on screen to remind them who the enemy is and the bigger better goal of the Party. The fun part is everyone is standing up out of respect for Big Brother who is recorded and on tape. They stand up like some leader walked in the room but conveniently for the party this dodgy leader is only on screen and no one has ever seen him.
When the leader of Hezbollah makes his not so frequent appearances, on screen of course, people who left their house to go sit in a hall and watch their leader speak on a giant screen, stand up in a robotic synchronized manner and start screaming out cheering for him.
This brings me to another point which is the sanctity of both Big Brother and the secretary
Today, you can’t speak about the Hezbollah leader without referring to him as “Sayyid” because you’d be offending his religious sanctity. Whatever the Sayyid says is true, the Sayyid tells no lies, even if the day before the truth was a different truth than today, he is right.
He makes live appearances close to never, because many are waiting for that day when he appears so that they assassinate him. Or so says the Party.
In a country of supposed free press and media, mentioning him in a comedy parody show sets all hell loose and angry protesters burn tires on the streets and the makers of the comedy show should fear for their lives.
Both Big brother and the secretary general of Hezbollah have reputations of righteousness that you don’t dare question.
4- This last point is one that left me agape while reading the book.
Throughout the book we are told that Oceania’s enemy is Eurasia. In one of the speeches, Big Brother changes the identity of the enemy mid- sentence, and Eurasia becomes Oceania’s friend country now replaced with the enemy Eastasia who must be destroyed. The saddening part is how no one reacts to this immense change of country politics but believe that Eastasia has in fact always been the enemy.
It’s very similar in Lebanon’s reality. If Hezbollah doesn’t approve of another politicians thoughts and opinions it immediately makes a speech stating that. Every follower who watched the speech immediately starts disapproving of this politician’s thoughts and even rant about him harshly. If the next day the same Hezbollah said that it is pleased with this same other politician’s actions, all the same followers, who were ranting the day before, are now praising him and posting pictures of him.
People have been deprived from individual thinking, from freedom of action and speech. It’s not very absurd to think that in the near future the freedom of thought will be no more, and people will be scared to think because they will be watched and punished.