BOBSERVATION: Dinner with George Orwell

By Bob McDonnell

The Surveyor

There used to be a set of questions used for interviewing job candidates that had no right answer. These queries helped determine how the applicant thought on his or her feet and how creative and resourceful the person was.

One of the questions that sticks in my mind was, “Who (one, two or three people) would you want to have dinner with?” 

With some downtime during our ongoing pandemic and Colorado’s ongoing state of emergency status, I had time to reflect on this topic. With all that is going on, my dinner partner choice would be George Orwell.

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. He lived from 1903 to 1950. He wrote the novella titled Animal Farm but is best known for his novel, “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” or “1984,” which he wrote in 1949. Some say he switched the numbers 1948, when he started the book, to 1984.

Writersdigest.com says “1984” tells the story of 39-year-old Winston Smith who decides to do a thing that “if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced labor camp.” That thing, which he began on April 4, “1984,” was to begin a diary. Once he commits this act, there’s no turning back.

I would ask George about some of the statements in the book. I might also bring him up to speed on what has happened since 1950, and especially this year. Research shows that George liked drinking beer in moderation. I think a fine Colorado craft brew (or two) would be in order after he heard what has transpired in the world.

I would tell George about the riots/protests and the desecration and destruction of statues and monuments happening now. I would ask him how he could foresee this by writing in the book, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building renamed, every date has been altered, and the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except and endless present in which the party is always right.”

George would be shocked to see all the video cameras on light poles, outside buildings and on the ceiling in many establishments. Would I dare tell him about the doorbells that hide a camera in them?

George predicted all this surveillance when he said in “1984,” “You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” George’s statement rings true except he did not know about night-vision cameras.

I might show George a video clip or two from our Colorado Governor’s seemingly never-ending press conferences on COVID-19. I would wonder if George thinks these lectures fall in line with what he said in the book about power. The quote is, “‘The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power – pure power.”

As we wrap up our meal and discussion, I would touch on the topic of common sense. I could point out some of the inconsistencies in the rules, laws and decrees around COVID-19. I would start with the fact that “big box” stores remained open but churches, school and parks were not open. I would remind George that in “1984,” he said, “The heresy of heresies is common sense.”

Lastly, since we couldn’t sit at our socially-distanced restaurant table all night, (no mask needed at the table. The virus doesn’t lurk there.) I would like to order dessert–but I want a brownie and black coffee, and I’m not sure if I can say those words anymore.
Welcome to 2020, George Orwell—Big Brother is still watching.