1984 vs The Hunger Games
Debate Rounds (3)
What the heck; having been accused of cowardice and immaturity this evening because I happen to think that posting pictures of dead fetuses on DDO is un-kosher in the extreme, I could do with something light.
Like oppressive dystopias. Yeah. That'll do.
In referring to The Hunger Games, I'll assume that we're talking about the society presented in all three novels of the series (references are made to aspects of this society in later books that aren't in the original), so don't read this debate if you don't want spoilers. Same goes for 1984, of course, on the off chance no one here has read that.
We are debating which society would be more likely to arise. Since Pro has stated the resolution as a resolution, I'll assume that he has the burden of proof -- but since this will be a short debate, I'll ask the readers to not use a too-strict standard of evidence.
I'll also let Pro have the first word. Over to him.
1. In 1984 the proletariat are controlled through their minds, but in the Hunger Games, the equivalent of the proletariat, the outer districts, are controlled through hard labor. A society that relies more on mind control is easier to arise because the mind can change. For an interesting read, The Brain That Changes Itself by M.D. Norman Doidge. The point is that the brain is a mold-able entity. This is essentially how the porn industry is so big, they can literally change the firing of neurons in the brain. Back to the point. A society that relied on the control of the brain has already essentially rose. Hitler's rise in Germany is very similar to the rise of Oceania. In fact, Orwell's book is specifically designed to attempt to parallel Nazi Germany. (1) (2) Thus, unless point 1 is refuted, my opponent will need to show that either Nazi Germany was not a parallel society to Oceania, or that a society similar to The Hunger Games has also arose.
2. Secondly, a society similar to Oceania would arise due to a poorly informed proletariat. However, in The Hunger Games, it seems the outer districts are subject to the Capitol due to a broken will as opposed to lack of conscious thought. Thus, the rise of Oceania only takes a slow massaging away of the common man's conscious, something our technology today is dangerously nearing today, whereas the broken will in The Hunger Games can only be caused by great wars and even greater oppression after those wars, which is much more difficult and costly than the former.
Oceania-One of three powerful empires in 1984.
First, let's examine some important similarities that 1984 and The Hunger Games have in common.
1) Ruling minority.
In both Oceania and Panem, there is a pyramidal hierarchy. In Oceania, there is Big Brother and the Inner Party at the top, the Outer Party or middle class after that, and the Proles, which make up 85% of the population. In Panem there is President Snow and his top officials, followed by the residents of the Capitol, followed by the residents of the first few districts who live in moderately better conditions than the others, and finally the remaining districts.
2) Diverted majority.
In both Oceania, the Outer Party and the Proles are diverted by alcohol, pornography and the constant state of war and promise of victory. In Panem, the Districts are diverted by similar forms of entertainment from the Capitol, and the constant state of intra-national conflict provided by the Games.
3) Perpetual conflict.
Oceania is in a state of perpetual war with two other superpowers, Eurasia and Eastasia, who have similar ideologies and with whom Oceania has a tacit agreement to always keep the war going, both to divert the masses and to channel labor and resources. Panem again has the inter-District conflict of the Games.
4) Thought control.
Oceania changes history, social values, even language itself in order to control the thoughts of its subjects. Panem's form of thought control is more limited; it involves promoting certain social values, and a simple ruthlessness against anyone who opposes the Capitol. This is relatively little compared to Oceania, but it is false to say that the Districts are controlled only through hard labor.
Pro makes a point here, by the way, that Orwell's book was designed to parallel Nazi Germany. This is not true. While parallels certainly exist between Oceania and Nazi Germany, Orwell was far more concerned with Stalinist Russia.
5) Limited micro-control.
Oceania and Panem mostly do not interfere with the daily lives of most of their populations. Oceania only tries to "cure" the members of the Outer Party, which it views as the greatest threat to the ruling elite. Panem also focuses most of its corrective efforts on those who pose the largest threat -- specifically, the victors of the Games. When Haymitch wins the 50th Annual Games, for instance, he does so in a way that the government does not approve of, and as punishment they kill his loved ones, leaving him a hapless drunk with little will to live. This is what Pro means by "broken will," and as the character of Haymitch shows, it would have proved effective if not for a combination of circumstance (Katniss Everdeen going through the games) and external pressure (District 13 plotting the Capitol's overthrow).
Now let us examine some important differences:
1) Technology versus Sociology.
The society as depicted in 1984 cannot possibly come about in the sense that the year 1984 has come and gone, but we can disregard this as a triviality, perhaps -- after all, the narrator admits uncertainty about the date. But what we cannot ignore are technological anachronisms.
Most significantly, Orwell did not have the foresight to anticipate computers. All monitoring via two-way telescreens would have done by sheer human labor. Given the nuanced art of facial expressions and giveaways, the need for 24-hour surveillance and the limited attention span of humans, Isaac Asimov estimated that five people would be needed to constantly watch one person without the aid of computers. And, of course, the watchers themselves would have to be watched, and so on. This makes the "slow massaging" of the common man that Pro refers to a remarkable feat of sheer sociology, rather than technology.
Panem, meanwhile, lives in a futuristic society, although relatively few of its citizens benefit from the advanced technology. The Capitol uses technology for defense, to control the Games, and to keep the residents of the Districts physically in line. Yet this technology is almost never used for micro-managing the thoughts of those who pose the greatest threats; instead, brute force is commonly used. Sociology is not as far advanced in Panem as in Oceania, perhaps because in the history of Panem there has not been as much need for it.
2) Types of distraction.
In Oceania, when the telescreens are not displaying war news, it is all Party propaganda, all the time -- and, indeed, the former can be considered a subset of the latter. The entertainment in Panem is more subtle: it takes the common entertainment of today's "reality shows" to a new level, which can only be a logical extension of what is happening today. We know from experience that we are drawn to this form of entertainment, where alliances are made and broken, where morality is of necessity discarded, and where the only object is to be the last one standing.
3) Other societies.
The only reason Oceania is able to work is that there are two other superstates, Eurasia and Eastasia, with nearly identical ideologies. These three states have a tacit consent to fight one another, and to do so only in the "disputed zone," a place where no state holds territory and thus where no one will actually lose anything. Without this particular system, Oceania could not work.
Panem, by contrast, stands alone. Other than District 13, with which it has only a tacit agreement to leave one another alone, there are no external factions in the world of Panem, no indication that any other nation or community even survived the apocalyptic events of the past.
Having laid all of that out, here are a few reasons why I think a society like Panem is more likely to come about than a society like Oceania:
A) While micro-sociological control might be more effective than macro-sociological, technological and/or militaristic control, the latter is more likely to come about than the former, simply because the infrastructure for the latter already exists. War may be more difficult and costly, as Pro points out, but we already know how to do it, whereas there is no evidence that we can turn a Winston Smith into a gin-soaked Big Brother lover. Put simply, there is no need to create an Oceania when we can create a Panem.
B) The precedent of intra-competitional reality TV has already been set, and its ability to influence, is common knowledge. Panem relies heavily on it in at least one important aspect, while Oceania disregards it.
C) While it is unlikely that any dystopian society in the future would stand alone, as does Panem, it is even more unlikely that such a society would be created at the same time as other such dystopian superstates, and would come to a tacit agreement of perpetual war in designated zones, which is a state of affairs upon which Oceania relies heavily.
D) Much more likely than any of the above is that a dystopia would share a world with other, freer societies. Countries like China and North Korea have shown how an isolationist policy can maintain their own particular brands of dystopia, but even so, technology is making it more likely, as time goes on, that the people in these dystopias will be exposed to ideas from our own societies. Indeed, the "Arab Spring" last year was largely the result of the rise of social media. Oceania depends on the sort of informational isolation that the technology of 1948, the year in which the book was written, could provide. Such isolation is now, or will be in a few decades, impossible. Panem, meanwhile, having no outside factions with which to war other than District 13, has concentrated much more on internal, physical security. Such security did not prevent Panem's downfall against the rebellion of the Districts in the end, but imagine how much quicker the rebellion would have been if Panem had relied less on that and more on sociology.
I contend, then, that Panem is more likely to arise than Oceania.
 Asimov, I., "Review of 1984" (1980), available at http://www.newworker.org...
A) The logical fallacy in my opponents argument here is that he assumes that since we know how to war, we can create a society like Panem. However, this is not the case. There have been a vast number of wars in the history of man, but not once has a society like Panem been created. However, whether it is Stalin's Soviet Union or Nazi Germany (I was taught Nazi Germany, but the society that Orwell was attempting to parallel is really arbitrary), the important part is Orwell was describing an existing society. Since I have granted to my opponent to use the Soviet Union, let us look at the similarities.
1. The thought police and the KGB are very similar.
2. The Ministry of Love is comparable to the headquarters of the KGB.
3. There were posters of big brother all across Oceania just as there were posters of Stalin all across the Soviet Union
4. Lots of Military parades in both 1984 and the Soviet Union
5. Both the Soviet Union and 1984 relied both on propaganda and the deprivation of the common person.
Thus, the Soviet Union is extremely similar to 1984 and thus my opponent claiming we do not have a blueprint for such a society is false.
B) While I agree reality TV is already a part of the world, Oceania does not require reality TV as it relies on much more effective forms of mind control.
C) There is no proof in 1984 that the societies of Eastasia and Eurasia actually exist. Their existence is only claimed in Goldstein's book as well as endless amount of propaganda. However, the propaganda of other superstates would be necessary to show the triumph of Oceania. Also, Winston finds out from O'Brien that Goldstein's book is not actually written by Goldstein, but by a committee, and although O'Brien says that the book is true as a description, he has deceived Winston countless times, and this could easily be another deception. The lack of proof of these states might mean that Oceania does indeed stand alone.
Even if my opponent does prove that these did exist, I do not see how it follows that it would be rarer to have 3 superstates that would war in certain areas. Indeed, throughout history it has seemed there has been 2-3 major countries that have controlled the vast majority of the power in the world, and whether it was the African territories or American continent, or the Middle East, these powers have always seemed to find a place to war.
D) My opponent seems to stray a bit from the debate topic here. He claims "That the people in these dystopias will be exposed to ideas from our own societies" The important part for our debate is the rise of the society, not sustaining. The people being exposed to outside ideas might cause the society not to be sustainable, but that doesn't mean it has not risen. Similar how the Soviet Union could not stand, but it did arise.
In Round 2 I claimed that my opponent would need to show either that Nazi Germany was not a parallel society to Oceania, or that a society similar to The Hunger Games has also arose. He sidestepped the argument slightly by claiming that one source has it as the Soviet Union, not Nazi Germany, this still does not defeat the idea that a society like 1984 has already risen, whereas a society like The Hunger Games has not. Unless my opponent proves one of these points incorrect, I urge you to vote Pro
In defense of my arguments above:
A) Pro correctly identified a number of similarities between Oceania and Stalin-era USSR; it is not entirely incorrect to state, as did Pro, that Orwell was describing an existing society. However, Oceania has additional traits, or takes Soviet traits to further extremes.
For example, there is no indication that the Marxist Dialectics pervaded the minutiae of everyday life to the point of Oceanic Doublethink -- i.e. having people believe that the chocolate ration had been decreased to 20 grams, and simultaneously that it had been increased to 20 grams. Nor is there any indication that the "curing" of Winston Smith had any counterpart in Soviet reality.
Orwell took existing characteristics of the Stalinist regime and exaggerated them to make them more obvious, and more anger-provoking, to the reader. In order for Oceania to come about, these aspects of Stalinism would have to be re-introduced and exaggerated manyfold.
By contrast, as I've indicated, military force, both intra- and international, is a way of life in many or most parts of the world. Converting this into a dystopia would be, in the minds of those who would seek to create such a society, more efficient than attempting to revolutionize sociology. Con does not seem to dispute that the infrastructure for Panem-type Peacekeeping already exists; by contrast, the micro-control infrastructure that Oceania would have over the Outer Party would need to be partly reintroduced, and partly invented, nearly from scratch.
B) Pro correctly states that Oceania does not require reality TV. This misses the point; reality TV is already with us, already a fact of life, and given its influence in popular culture, a dystopia-building would be quite likely to build upon it, to wield its influence for his own benefit. It is no fault of Orwell's that he did not anticipate reality TV; he wrote six decades before Collins. Nonetheless, this is something we must take into account when deciding which society would be more likely to arise.
C) Pro disputes the actual existence of Eurasia and Eastasia in 1984. This is a very interesting suggestion; he is quite correct that their existences are only inferred, from Winston Smith's point of view, from Party propaganda and from Goldstein's book, which was also produced by the Party. In addition, Julia raises the idea that the rocket bombs falling on Airstrip One are a false flag operation, fired by the Party in order to maintain an atmosphere of war. This is paralleled in Mockingjay when Coin bombs her own army and the Capitol's children under the Capitol's emblem.
However, in the first place, Airstrip One was kept on a constant wartime footing, and it would be impossible to channel all of those resources to nowhere without some segment of the Proles noticing. In the second place, O'Brien confirmed the descriptive accuracy of Goldstein's book, and while he did deceive Smith in the past, by the time of that confirmation he had been captured, and there was no reason to lie to him anymore. Which is not to say that O'Brien could be considered a pinnacle of reliability even then . . .
I consider this an open question, and thus leave it to the reader to decide. If we assume that Pro is incorrect, and that Eurasia and Eastasia exist, then this argument stands unrefuted. If we assume that Pro is correct, and that Eurasia and Eastasia are fabrications, and that Oceania -- or perhaps even Airstrip One -- stands alone in its world, then my C argument does fail. However, if we make that assumption, then my D argument, discussed below, is strengthened -- for something has to be in those other parts of the world in 1984, and to deceive everyone in Airstrip One into thinking it's Eurasia and Eastasia, when in fact it's something else entirely, would require a level of isolationism that would make Kim Il-sung blush with envy.
D) Pro's point that information technology relates more to the sustainability of the societies in question is well-taken, but I contend that this is also a factor in whether such a society can arise.
In 1948 -- and, to a somewhat lesser but nonetheless real extent, in 1984 -- the technology did not exist for an instant worldwide exchange of facts, opinions and ideas. The Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, Qaddafi's Libya, and so on -- all these societies began to exist before the internet age began, and before social media in particular. If we post-date 1984 to 2034, Airstrip One cannot possibly come about; there is simply too much awareness in Britain and elsewhere.
Nor can another Soviet Union or North Korea come about; other states might come about with similar ideologies, but they cannot maintain the level of isolationism needed if, as Pro suggested in his response to C, Airstrip One stands alone. The only way to create a dystopia in this information age is with a combination of sedation and brute force -- e.g. Panem.
Finally: I do concede that a society similar in some respects to Oceania has already arisen, whether it's Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. The parallels do exist. But these parallels are not sufficient to establish that Oceania, in all its (in)glorious detail, has existed in the past; any more than Survivor and the "War on Terror" is sufficient to establish that Panem exists at present. But it does make Panem more likely to come about.
In sum, I have argued that, contra Pro's initial arguments, the difficulty in achieving an Oceanic level of micro mind control and the already-existing infrastructure of the military makes Panem more likely to arise than Oceania. I have also argued that reality TV can be built upon in creating a dystopia, and that Oceania requires a level of informational isolationism that is no longer possible to achieve in today's world.
This has been an interesting and enjoyable debate for me; I thank Pro for the opportunity. I also thank the readers for their attention, and urge them to vote Con.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by FourTrouble 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I thought there were some strong arguments for both sides (Pro by drawing strong parallels between Oceania and societies that have actually existed; Con countering by showing that these parallels were not sufficient to prove Oceania was more likely to arise than Panem). Con's overall support outweighed anything Pro could come up with. (As a side point, I was very impressed with the way WriterDave articulated his arguments. His style was crisp, fully engaging, and crystal clear).