English period 5
February 10, 2010
What Do People Really Know?
People throughout history have forewarned that society as a whole needs to tread carefully while moving forward in time. The question becomes whether or not society takes those warnings to heart and uses them to plan ahead. Two people who have given society a great deal of warning not only in the past but in the present are George Orwell with his book 1984 and Cory Doctorow with his book Little Brother. George Orwell’s 1984 was written in 1948 and was his personal prediction as to what the world would look like in 1984. The story is about Winston Smith, who lives in a society completely controlled by a political party run by a man named Big Brother. The story is about how Winston comes to realize how much he hates The Party and tries to rebel against its power through personal acts of treason to their way of thinking. Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is about Marcus Yallow, in present time, who is in the wrong spot at the wrong time when a bomb destroys a major bridge in San Francisco. He is thought to be a terrorist by the Department of Homeland Security and is taken to a secret prison on the shore of California. Upon his release, he vows to get his revenge on the DHS by causing as much mayhem as possible. What society has learned from George Orwell’s 1984 and Cory Doctorow ‘s Little Brother is to not be a living depiction of their books, to not trust all technology, and if this continues society is on the correct path to learn what society needs, or wants, to look like.
The first trait that society has learned is to not be a living depiction of their books. In 1984 there is one political party and one dictator in charge of the entire country. The people never question what he says and blindly follow the ways of the party. In today's society in America there are two parties in control the Democrats and the Republicans. A small difference from the book but a difference none the less. No matter what Big Brother does, people thank him for it and follow him blindly. In this quote Winston talks about exactly this, "It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grams a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grams a week" (Orwell). Even though Big Brother is not helping them they still follow and love him. People do not blindly follow leaders today but when the leader gives one plausible or even partially plausible justification for their actions people, as a majority, do not question further. Again although the difference is small it is still there. People know they can not look exactly like Orwell's depiction but the proximity of actuality and Orwell's fiction is frighteningly close. The same is true in Little Brother compared to society today. In Little Brother after a terrorist attack on San Francisco the Department of Homeland Security gains an unprecedented amount of control over the people of the city, such as, being able to track their fast passes wherever they are. The DHS has been given access to people's debit cards, but Marcus does not know this until he tries to buy coffee from his usual spot, where the owner tells him why they are allowed to in this quote, "'The government. They monitor it all now, it was in the papers. PATRIOT Act II, the Congress passed it yesterday. Now they can monitor every time you use your card'"(Doctorow). With this piece of legislation the government handed over some of the most intimate information about people's lives for an infantile reason. In America today police are not allowed to do this but something close to it thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act("USA"). Police are allowed to search a persons home with out their knowledge and they are allowed to have a roaming listening device on any person suspected of being a terrorist. Previously authorities had to inform a person their home was being searched and they were only allowed to put a wire tap in a single spot, they could not have it in multiple places. The parallels of Doctorow's novel and reality are far to close for comfort. Orwell and Doctorow have created to separate but equally powerful warnings for society and although society has heeded these warnings they have only succeeded in making sure they are not carbon copies of these novels.
Another important lesson society has learned from these books is to not trust all technology because most technology, even though it is designed to help you, when in the wrong hands can hurt you the most. In 1984 the party had monitoring devices in every home in the country except for the incredibly poor. These devices could be used to help people when they find themselves in a situation of peril but instead they watch a persons every move to make sure they are thinking the right thoughts at all times. It is these devices that Winston is talking about in this quote," Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as herd" (Orwell). Winston was in his own home when he said this quote. Even though in society today the government does not have cameras in every home of interest, they do put cameras in all available spots in the public to make sure the people are being watched at all times when they are out of the security of their own home. This link takes you to a web site that is constantly monitoring where the government is putting cameras ("VideoSurveillance."YouAreBeingWatched.Web.03Mar.2010.<>). The same is true in Little Brother where the government is allowed access to an unprecedented amount of information about the people of San Francisco. The police have just brought Marcus home to his mother and are explaining to her why they have her son in their hands. They say,"' The Fast Pass,' he said. 'It tracks voyages'"(Doctorow). Even though the "Fast Pass" is intended to make the voyage timelier and enjoyable for the person using it, which it does, it also enables people to track the person at all times. In today's, world technologies such as the "Fast Pass" do exist but the government is still not allowed to access the information. The proximity to the government gaining this power is getting smaller and smaller every day. Doctorow and Orwell have taught society many lessons, one of which is not all technology should be trusted.
Finally if society continues on this path they are on the generally correct path to becoming what they want to look like or at least what they need to look like. There are groups of people who are specifically dedicated to making sure all human rights are respected and the government is kept on a short leash of power. One of those societies is the American Civil Liberties Union, or the ACLU. In this video, they are protesting in court, the policies and abilities of the government to put more security cameras in the Sacramento area, even though there is no evidence to prove the cameras work ("You"). There have even been a multitude of studies that show this to be and some of these studies have been put into one spot at this link (."Video Surveillance." You Are Being Watched. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <>). It is groups like these that still hold the flame of hope that society will one day learn what it needs or wants to look like. Even though at this moment the flame is more of a small inconsistent flicker it is still there, and it shows the true value of human intuition to protect basic liberties. Society is still headed on the correct path to becoming what they want or need to look like thanks to groups like the ACLU but, society as a whole must step forward and take control of what is going on around them or they will be living in a nightmare that even Winston himself would be afraid of.
In conclusion what society has learned from George Orwell's 1984 and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is to not trust all technology and to not become living depictions of their books; and if society continues down the path it is on it will become something Orwell and Doctorow would be proud of. Even though technology makes life easier people must remember how ever much it helps it can also hurt more. The government needs to be on a short leash of power or one day 1984 will become a biography instead of a story. People as a whole must step forward and take control of their surroundings or suffer the consequences dearly. Learning takes many forms and knowledge comes from many places, it is the job of people to learn and use that knowledge to their advantage to shape tomorrow's future today.

Works Cited
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. New York, NY: Tor Teen, 2008. Print.
Orwell, George. 1984. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
"USA PATRIOT Act (H.R. 3162)." Electronic Privacy Information Center. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <>.
"Video Surveillance." You Are Being Watched. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <>.
"Video Surveillance." You Are Being Watched. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <>.
"YouTube - Big Brother Coming to California's Capital?" YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <>.