Aug 31, 2011

We are living in 1984

When you look at the way we live nowadays, George Orwell seems to be looking more like Nostradamus than well Nostradamus. Yes his fiction might have been dystopian in nature, but the sheer reality is that much of what he wrote in his magnus opus is as relevant today as ever. Our language is truncated to the point of utilizing acronyms and abbreviations in regular speech. Seriously, if you are not in the know, you definitely don’t know what the hell people are talking about... actually you can barely tell what they’re saying.

Going back to 1984, two topics very present in that work of literature are the control of information and the quality of information. Having worked for quite a few years now, I can’t help but feel as if Human Resources personnel and supervisors alike are given transcripts of selected parts of this novel to implement said practices. In the book, there are various ministries in charge of maintaining order… one is the Ministry of Love which contains the Thought Police, another is the Ministry of Truth.

For example -

Scenario 1: Someone gets fired. In 1984, when someone is black bagged and taken by the Thought Police, the Ministry of Truth do their best to basically eradicate any trace of the existence of that person. Records are edited, photos are manipulated, and everyone stops talking about the person in question, quickly becoming the faint ghost of a memory. Recently a co-worker got black bagged by the Ministry of Love AKA Human Resources, and the supervising team of my department has acted as the Ministry of Truth, basically omitting him from all records. This type of behavior is not atypical… actually, in an economic climate as the one we live in, it’ll actually become more common. That’s because even if people get fired, we the company are doing well, even if people are left with no options, we the company must prevail, that’s because even if you give your 110%, you don’t matter, WE matter… as in the company matters. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the whole commentary on the greater good, but sometimes it’s just a bitter pill to swallow. The topic of information control is pushed to the forefront especially when it comes to someone you’ve worked with and come to appreciate for their genuine sense of duty and now you’re being told that they weren’t that good or worthwhile.

Scenario 2: When you break down the communications you receive from your company, there’s never any bad news. That's all the work of The Ministry of Truth, a combination of Human Resources and PR. They show that numbers are up, sales are better than last year and God has us in his good graces… but people keep getting fired. When you ask what’s going on, you get half answers, limericks or meeting rescheduling because the fact of the matter is that a group of people is deciding what you should be told. I know this sounds like either a conspiracy theory or the most logical thing ever written, but the fact is that a lot of people forget this. They think they’re being told the truth instead of the lines of information that will assuage any feelings of discontent so they keep being productive. By the way, this is also the time when a company starts holding raffles, giving bonus free days off and letting you wear jeans every day to work. They’re looking for cost efficient ways to make you complacent and people bite and are content to be reeled in by the illusion.

It’s been a couple of tough weeks of seeing good people losing their jobs. You feel morale sinking further and no matter the amount of corporate trickery, resentment runs high among most strata. The most curious part is that what is happening in this corporate nation I currently reside in is happening throughout most other companies.

In 1984, one of the central mottos was:

Their mission was control of the masses.

In most companies however, the motto goes something more on the lines of:

Interestingly, though the mottos are different, their objective is the same.


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