1984 by George Orwell

Photo: independent.co.uk

Photo: independent.co.uk

One day, I recognized that every residential building that I had every walked into in the Petrzalka section of Bratislava had a metal grate below the front door, which would make the simple mistake of dropping your keys while opening your front door into something so much worse than it had to be.  What a terrible place to put a grate.

Eventually, I came to realize that George Orwell had so presciently described the future in a totalitarian country.  Perhaps people were intentionally dehumanized in such countries, or perhaps no one ever seriously stopped to ask “is this dehumanizing?”  Either way the outcome is the same.

And, even in the residual little details of life that were dehumanizing in the year 2002, when I first stepped foot in Slovakia, I could see a small glimpse into the dehumanizing nature of communism and central planning.

The peepholes on so many apartment doors that would allow either person to clearly see what was on the other side.  The construction of bathrooms that allowed a person from another apartment to hear quite a bit of what was happening in the apartment above or below.

Privacy had come to be  something very different in Slovakia than it had come to be defined in the United States.  Perhaps the only privacy one could get in a totalitarian society, Orwell tells us, is in ones own thoughts.  And then he goes on to paint a picture of how the privacy of the human mind is not off limits either and how that can be violated as well.

I never lived in communist Czechoslovakia, but my experience has caused me to believe that Orwell got at least part of the picture right, even it was written in 1948, before he had any chance to see this outcome with his own eyes.

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