We are in a post-1984 world. That's hardly surprising - 1984 is now a long time ago. When Dr Grumble first started reading George Orwell, 1984 was still a long way off. Neither Animal Farm nor Nineteen Eighty-Four seemed terribly meaningful books then. Themes of pigs taking over or incessant public mind control seemed fanciful. Others knew better. Lauded though Orwell's books were, he did not come over to the young Grumble as a man with a remarkable prescience. It was all just too unreal for Grumble. The world could never be anything like the fantasies created by Orwell.
But Grumble was young then. Youth lends an inevitable naivety. Some of us can shake this off with age. Some can't. For most, as we near the time we must leave this world, truths we could not see before may begin to dawn. The future matters more to the young than the old but they know less about it that the old. Knowledge of the past gives insight into the future. Perhaps that accounts for a strange paradox: the old, you see, worry about the future more than the young. The young are only interested in the present. That's where their concerns lie.
Blogging is a young person's thing. It's new. The old can be slow to adopt new things that they have never needed in the past. Grumble is not of the Facebook generation. He does not feel the need. But he does feel the need to blog. Most of the medical bloggers with a message are, to put it politely, not young. They all have a substantial mileage behind them. Take a look, in contrast, at the few medical student bloggers. They are preoccupied with the present: exams, boyfriends, a new placement - these are the things that dominate their lives. They have little in the way of a past. Not long ago they were at school. Their limited past makes them unable to see the future. Grumble was once like that.
How has the passage of time altered Grumble's view of Orwell? Does he now realise that the lauding of Orwell was justified? Now that we are living in the future, just how prescient has Nineteen Eighty-Four turned out to be?
Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in 1948 not long before Orwell died. Sadly, he wasn't that old but he was old enough to have some mileage and a considerable insight into the future. It's sad now to read of Orwell's illness and physical decline. If he were to see Dr Grumble as a patient today, he could easily be cured. But in 1948 the treatment of tuberculosis was in its infancy. Streptomycin was not readily available. By the time he received it, it was too late.
Just imagine that world in 1948. Not only was there little in the way of effective treatment for infectious diseases, technology of all sorts was very primitive by the standards of today. There were few televisions, no video cameras. Computers as we know them were non-existent. The internet was beyond anyone's dreams. Yet much of what Dr Grumble considered fanciful when he read Orwell in his youth has come to pass. We live in a world of all pervasive surveillance. Not only do we have cameras on street corners and in shops but there are cameras to recognise your car's number plate and log it on Big Brother's computer. We have no secrets any more. If you are younger than Grumble, you will seek out your sexual partner online on sites built for the purpose. Your drunken antics will be recorded on Facebook. Young doctors, whether they like it or not, have their whole working lives immutably entered into their eportfolios. Few worry about any of this. Not the young anyway.
Newspeak is all around us. For 'plurality' read 'privatisation'. For 'contestability' read 'commercial'. For 'polyclinic' read 'private provider". The NHS is riddled with examples. What could be worse than not saying what you mean? Is it lying or concealing the truth? Do they intend to deceive? Does it matter?
The world has moved on to technical levels undreamed of by Orwell. Google's computers essentially know how you think. Employers log every web page you have ever looked at. Your service provider may do the same. Emails are scanned by the people in Cheltenham for subversive words. The workings of your mind are known. Whether anyone cares or not is another matter. The important point is that the technology to see into your mind is there.
If you own a Kindle your reading habits will be known. If Amazon were to decide that you should no longer be reading Nineteen Eight-Four, they can just delete it without your permission. Of course you might think that they never would. But don't forget that Nineteen Eight-Four has been banned as intellectually dangerous to the public. Anything could happen. In fact it already has. Amazon has already seen fit to delete Nineteen Eighty-Four from your Kindle. The reasons were not actually too sinister but the incident does reveal the frightening control Amazon now has over our your personal virtual library. They don't need your permission they just delete your books. It's just like Big Brother.
Grumble could go on. If we do not already live in an Orwellian world, today's technology certainly makes it more possible than ever.
But let us be thankful that we still have control of our own minds. We are free to express our views in blogs like this. There is no way the ruling class can touch our minds, is there? In any case why should anybody want to? We all agree that we should be free to think and do as we please.
OK. Grumble is bamboozling you. No government, democratic or otherwise, has ever wanted us to think or do as we please. You might think you are free but you are not.
Dr Grumble has some sceptical readers who by now will think that he is well and truly off his trolley. There is obviously no way that there is anybody close to government working on controlling your mind. That is just ridiculous.
But, dear reader, you might just be wrong. There might already be an institute for government working on how to control your thinking and your behaviour? They might even have hired a surgeon to help them. Which can only mean one thing. Brain surgery. OK. That last bit cannot be true. Or is the world even more Orwellian than we realise?
By the way, there is another Newspeak word that Grumble has just come across. It is Mindspace. What do you think that really means? It couldn't be Newspeak for mind control could it? Brain washing even? And could there be a surgeon involved? Surely not.