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Has ‘1984’ Come to Life?

Choi Hae-won / Korea Times | August 30 2006

LONDON - Amid the chaos of London’s morning rush hour it is easy to overlook many things. Surveillance cameras are one of them. People either ignore them or have gotten used to the numerous cameras sited all over the city. Paying a little bit of attention though enables you to realize the vast number of cameras in use . be it a subway station, an office building, a museum, a street, or a store, surveillance cameras are there. There are even cameras placed at the entrance of some ladies’ rooms. It is virtually impossible to find a public spot that is free from the constant stare from them.

This bears a resemblance to George Orwell’s 1984. The story also takes place in London. Winston Smith, the main character, lives in a totalitarian state, which censors everyone’s behavior and even their thoughts. Big Brother constantly monitors everyone and if someone commits a “crime” he or she is instantaneously removed. Often, readers cringe at the thought of living under such circumstances. The thought of every single move being watched deprives people of the right to privacy and can seem inhumane.

Of course, today’s situation is very different from the one described in the novel. Whereas the totalitarian government in 1984 installed cameras everywhere with the intention of monitoring the people in order to secure its rule, the current placement of surveillance cameras is a part of the country’s security measures. Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the international community has been obsessed with security.

Britain, as a country that has suffered terrorist attacks of its own, has all the reasons to be cautious. It is only reasonable for the government to take all measures to secure its country and people from any possible acts of terror and crimes in general. Placing cameras is a part of such security measures. In fact, the surveillance cameras played an important role in identifying and capturing those responsible for last year’s London Liverpool Station explosion.

It is true that without the government’s active involvement in public security people would feel less. More policemen and cameras liberates the public from the burden of constantly worrying about safety.

Yet, it is still difficult to shake off the uncomfortable feeling of being watched and the lack of privacy. It is saddening that today’s world has reached a point where people can no longer feel safe without cameras everywhere to protect them from possible future crimes. Although different in many aspects, today’s society more and more resembles that of 1984.

 

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