A federal judge blocked Southwest’s pilot unions’ attempt to temporarily block a vaccine mandate.

Southwest must follow the mandate according to rules for federal contractors that the Biden administration issued the previous month. So as it stands: Southwest employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8th.

There’s many people who have drawn parallels to vaccine requirements such as vaccine passports being Orwellian and it pains me that it’s being used inaccurately.

But where does the term come from, what does it mean, and is it applicable to vaccines?

Origins of the term Orwellian

George Orwell was the pen name of English Novelist Eric Arthur Blair. He wrote six novels, four documentary studies, and many essays over the course of his lifetime.

Animal Farm and 1984 are his best known novels and Orwell has been widely studied and regarded as one of the best writers in history due to his works in literature, culture, politics, and language.

When people call something Orwellian — they’re referencing the totalitarian government in his 1984 novel.

And the story would end here if I mention that healthcare or vaccines is never mentioned in 1984. It was about a totalitarian government but even the themes in the book are referenced incorrectly.


1984 follows the protagonist, Winston Smith. Working at the Ministry of Truth, Smith rewrites the historical records to align with the “Inner Party’s” version of events. They destroy any books printer earlier than the 1960s. The Inner Party are the one-party government who use fear and propaganda to run the country. Smith is a member of the “Outer Party”, the working class, and dreams of rebelling against the totalitarian government of Oceania. The state is symbolized by “Big Brother” who is ostensibly the leader of the the Party.

Smith initially suspects his co-worker, Julia, of being a spy, but one day, she hands him a love note and the two begin an affair. Smith eventually realizes she’s apathetic to his cause and thus has no intentions of actually over-throwing the regime.

Vaguely suspecting his superior, O’Brien, of being a member of “the Brotherhood” — Smith goes to O’Brien’s flat and O’Brien seemingly confirms Smith’s suspicions. He reveals himself to be a member of the Brotherhood and gives book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism written by Emmanuel Goldstein who is the principal enemy of the state.

However, it’s all a ruse. Smith and Julia are betrayed by Mr. Charington, the owner of an antique shop (Smith and Julia had relations in a room above the shop). Both Mr. Charington and O’Brien reveal themselves to be “Thought Police”.

Smith is tortured and starved for several months. The Party brainwashes him into aligning his belief more closely with theirs. To complete the re-education process — he’s taken to Room 101 which is where his worst fear is realized: cage frenzied rats are brought before him.

In order to avoid the torture, Smith is given the choice of having Julia take the punishment instead to which he agrees.

He’s permitted to return to his public life and he goes to the Chestnut Tree Café he frequented prior to his capture.

At the café, Smith encounters Julia. The two admit they betrayed each other and they no longer have feelings for one another.

Smith recounts just experiences and eventually professes his love for Big Brother.

Ah, it was more than a Eurasian army that had perished! Much had changed in him since that first day in the Ministry of Love, but the final, indispensable, healing change had never happened, until this moment.

The voice from the telescreen was still pouring forth its tale of prisoners and booty and slaughter, but the shouting outside had died down a little. The waiters were turning back to their work. One of them approached with the gin bottle. Winston, sitting in a blissful dream, paid no attention as his glass was filled up. He was not running or cheering any longer. He was back in the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

After Oceania defeats Eastasia, Smith takes solace in their victory. The last passage suggests that Smith actually does truly love Big Brother. After longing for death during his torture; the symbolical death occurs to his hopes of rebellion.

The totalitarian government presented in 1984 was virtually omnipresent. The people’s public, private and political space is dominated by the government.

But the Inner Party also kept “The Proles” politically ignorant through terror, ignorance and also complacency with the appearance that the country was always wealthy and every Party member was not expected to be alone with their thoughts for too long.

Misinformation and complete fabrications to satiate your followers seems Orwellian. If they’re so use to your corruption and lies that they take everything as truth, even in the face of the facts, because you tell it like it is and you’re not politically correct, that seems Orwellian. If the politicians you’ve dissed come around to support you, that can seem Orwellian.

Compare that to vaccine recommendations and a change in your career/field if your current employers requires it so they can protect their employees, clients, and assets.

None of it is in the end. You don’t live in a totalitarian country or even an authoritarian country. Even if it’s supposed to be hyperbole; you’ll come off as smug.



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