Nineteen Eighty-Four has caught up with us in NZ



This blog is written by my husband, Pat Booth, a NZ journalist. It’s his weekly column, and I think it’s important for several reasons.

He writes:  “It’s a pattern that an author would die for. Actually, he’s dead already. But interest in his book is at its highest level in decades. Latest figures: Sales up 6884 per cent in 24 hours.

An unlikely sales team is working on the project world-wide – the CIA, presumably MI6, some secret group called Prism, China’s deceptively tame-sounding Ministry of State Security,  the Five Eyes partnership and NZ’s GCSB.  New Zealand’s promotion team is headed by the Prime Minister, John Key.

The book? A brief  resume (with credits to Wikipedia): “Nineteen Eighty-Four”  by George Orwell, published in 1949, is set in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thought crimes.

“Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good.  “The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, (Aha!) is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism.

“His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line. Smith is a diligent and skilled worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.” Of course, any spy epic must include sex.

But Orwell would never have produced  anything quite as cute as whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s girl friend, Lindsay Mills, who labels herself in her blog  as “specialising in pole dancing, partner acrobatics and aerial dancing”. She knows her “Man of Mystery as “E” … As I type this on  my tear-streaked keyboard I’m reflecting on all the faces that have graced my path …” etc etc

All this is good for a giggle –  if only it didn’t reflect so clearly the sort of world we live in. Today’s facts are as worrying  as anything in Orwell’s fiction. Digital science has outdated him.

Modern scandals represent so much of modern life – the ability in our society to dig into phone and e-mail records to identify who we call and when, phones that take and send photos, so called security systems on streets and in buildings intended as a protection from crime which can be tapped as to who was where and when, charting  movements by vetting data in those same mobile phones.

Here is a guide to aspects of the spying world you may never have believed  existed. The GCSB: The NZ Prime Minister, Mr Key chairs the committee which in early July will hear submissions on the “Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill” (to those in the know, “the Spy Bill.”) It allows the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in set circumstances. GCSB’s web site boasts that it “employs the cream of New Zealand’s talent… many recognised as leaders in their field of expertise.”

PRISM: What’s most troubling about the U.S. PRISM isn’t that it collects data. It’s the type of data it collects. According to the Washington Post it collects: “…audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs… [Skype] can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone, and for any combination of audio, video, chat, and file transfers when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance.”

PRISM’s masthead has familiar massive white inflatable globes on its masthead – like those  in that secret US base at Waihope in NZ’s South Island that no one will talk about!

Insisting that broad national security requests seeking users’ personal information were unconstitutional, Yahoo went to US court fighting a PRISM demand  that they  join the spying programme and hand over data. They lost. A secret US court operating under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) sided with the National Security Agency and forced Yahoo’s hand. Most recent figures show that Facebook got up to 10,000 requests for data from NSA in the last six months of 2012, involving  between 18,000 and 19,000  Facebook users on a broad range of surveillance topics, from missing children to terrorism.

Microsoft had between 6000 and 7000 orders, affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 accounts, but downplayed how much they had revealed. Did you get all that? Similar “depth of access” applies to Facebook, Microsoft, and the rest. Just to be clear: This covers practically anything you or I have ever done online, up to and including Google searches as you type them.

Five Eyes:  This “intelligence community” grew out of close UK-US intelligence cooperation in World War 11. Early in the Cold War, “faced by growing Soviet conventional and nuclear threats, American and British intelligence cooperation grew.”  Out of that came a Top Secret sphere of sigint  (secure integrated global network) cooperation whose existence was denied by participating governments  – including ours – for many years. Its website includes an up-beat statement from Canadian Brigadier General James Cox:

 “Cyberspace is now an accepted domain of warfare and Five Eyes sigint agencies are the principal ‘warfighters’, engaged in a simmering campaign of cyber defence against persistent transnational cyber threats… “…to provide governments with foreign sigint in support of national decision-making. In doing so, Five Eyes partners – the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and  New Zealand  – rely on each other to share the collection and analysis burden.

“Today, technological and computational advances create innumerable opportunities for the interception of diplomatic, military, scientific and commercial communications, as well as the extrapolation of radar, spacecraft and weapons systems. While it cannot always reveal what an opponent is thinking, sigint can tell you what he is saying and doing, Most critically, sigint can provide warning of imminent enemy activity at various levels.”

The general also says rather unconvincingly: “Five Eyes partners apparently do not target each other, nor does any partner seek to evade their national laws by requesting or accepting such activity. There is, however, no formal way of ensuring such eavesdropping does not take place. Each partner is trusted to adhere to this ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between allies.”

“Apparently” is not good enough. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister says: “It is the Prime Minister’s view that New Zealand’s relationships with its partners are of overwhelming benefit to New Zealand’s national security.  I’m not convinced.  Are you?  It’s worse than “1984”. It’s real.”

End of my husband’s thoughts on spying, and Canadian spy chief’s gobbledegook. Noam Chomsky has suggested that younger people may not be as outraged by this invasion of privacy as older people, since they’re already used to the open slather of Facebook and Twitter. But if so, I think they haven’t, in the words of the old joke : “realised the gravity of the situation”…

On the other hand, while a sinister interpretation can be put on these spying measures, in another way it shows us how we are all interconnected – that no-one is not, these days, part of the global village. The US and its allies have unwittingly united us all in their network of operations, and in so doing  may well unite us all too, in our resistance to being swallowed up in the phantom fears of fighting terrorism and in the brain-washing of the so-called fight for freedom.

This determination to monitor the citizens of the world may back-fire and show us all that seeing every-one as a potential enemy, terrorist or undesirable person is not the answer to peace. Peace is a state of mind, not a war on anything.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

All the family came for lunch yesterday to celebrate my birthday. Too many to sit round the dining room table, so I had to devise a menu to eat on our laps. It was a cold meal, so I made some hot mulled wine to warm everyone up on a freezing day before we began on the champagne and the rest.

It was quick and easy, using one bottle of good red wine ( I used some local Sangiovese), quarter of a cup of brandy, a peeled and sliced orange, eight cloves, three cinnamon sticks, two teasp ground ginger, and at least a third of a cup of honey… you can use more or less, depending on your taste.

Gently stir /mull for about twenty five minutes without boiling. I served it in coffee cups. This amount is enough for four to six people, but serving it in little coffee cups stretched it out to more than that.

Food for Thought

From the centre which we call the race of men

Let the Plan of Love and Light work out

And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth

The last verse of The Great Invocation, channelled by Alice Bailey 1880 -1949  writer  on philosophy and occult themes






Filed under books, cookery/recipes, great days, peace, philosophy, politics, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

55 responses to “Nineteen Eighty-Four has caught up with us in NZ

  1. Happy birthday Valerie. One of my sisters had a birthday yesterday too and mine was the day before on the 20th.

    I do wonder what George Orwell would say today?



  2. I like your positive spin at the end. And you’re right … The idea of fighting for peace is moronic. We need to be the peace we wish to see in the world. This means, of course, that we need to make peace with our personal demons first which, sadly, most people may never have the courage to do. Still, where there is life there is hope. Talking about it is a first step. … Thanks for sharing, Valerie … Be well, Dorothy 🙂


  3. Late happy birthday Valerie. I will go back and read this again tomorrow but you two have hit this nail on the head. What is going on in the U.S. is atrocious and if we are the standard, God help the rest of the world. I think Obama is tap dancing as best he can but I know that Angela Merkel isn’t happy. I doubt France and Britain are thrilled with this news and then it filters on down and the Chinese are laughing at all of us. This is an important post and I hope I see more likes on it tomorrow.



    • Magge, thank you so much for your encouraging and supportive comments ( and for your birthday wishes). I never enjoy posting depressing topics, but I did feel we needed to know the facts, which tend to get dissipated…So good to hear from you, XXX


  4. An excellent post and one that we should all read more than once.

    I remember reading 1984 when I was a teenager. I was frightened for weeks. I have come to believe in the power of ordinary citizens to make a difference. And I agree – Peace is a state of mind, not a war on anything.

    “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”
    ― Noam Chomsky


    • Hello Rebecca – thank you for your comments – what a wonderful quote from Noam Chomsky – how do you find these perfect quotes for every occasion? I’ve read it several times, it’s so inspiring, thank you


  5. Happy Birthday!!! 🙂
    Big Brother is certainly here; Snowden was charged yesterday with espionage and theft. 😦


  6. O tempora, O mores!


  7. Firstly a very Happy Birthday to you Valerie. It seems it was well celebrated. The mulled wine would have been warming and good. Interesting to read your husband’s column and your thoughts too. I am concerned, but much of my concern is about the sheer waste of resources involved in this ridiculously over zealous and largely pointless surveillance. The other day I heard that there are changes to be made to money transfer surveillance. The Government wants the police to be notified of every transaction over $1000.00 to control money laundering. Is the problem really that serious? Have I heard incorrectly? Do the police and the government not have better things to do. You may like my post today which is a light hearted look at a new type of governance.


  8. Good evening Rumpelstiltskin! just back from the Met opera Julius Caesar, and checking my e-mails. Will bustle off to look at your blog in the morning… I have got very behind with my blog-reading in the last few days, but hope to catch up shortly…..


  9. Luanne

    Happy birthday, Valerie! I’m so glad you had a lovely get-together. Pat’s column is accurate and frightening, regardless of the inspirational ending.


    • Thank you so much for the birthday wishes Luanne – I’m intrigued that having buried this fact in the Threadbare Gourmet’s thoughts, everyone seems to have read it !
      Yes, I don’t enjoy posting depressing blogs, but I also think we have to face facts… but I also try to look on the bright side if I can !!!! My Pollyanna instincts !!!


      • Luanne

        I was well trained in Pollyanna since it was one of my first movies AND I read my mother’s books, Pollyanna and then one of the sequels (by another writer) Pollyanna’s Jewels. Sometimes I am so depressed over something and then just forget about it because my internal “thermostat” automatically regulates me back to Pollyanna setting. But it is getting a little more difficult to be actually cheery recently . . .


  10. While you winter we are summering. The mulled wine sounds wonderful nest winter. I will have it and think of you across the earth and down. Happy Birthday Valerie. You are 100% correct with all stated here. At times I think to myself: “I am grateful that I will not have many years to live.” Then again I am brought back to life knowing that my function is not to bemoan the current but to assist the future with positive energy. Many thanks for this post!


    • Thank you for the birthday wishes, Liz… I know how you feel about knowing the end is in sight, the race nearly run – and then knowing too, that every moment is to be lived with joy and zest !
      Mulled wine is good! Where are you enjoying summer in the Northern hemisphere.?.. I guess the US, but it’s a very big place!!


  11. Amy

    Late happy birthday, Valerie! Thank you for sharing your husband’s insights. I, too, want to come back and read it again.


    • Thank you for the birthday greetings Amy… I’m amazed that you and so many others noticed the announcement tucked away in the Threadbare Gourmet’s thoughts!
      And thank you for your encouragement about the blog… I felt it needed to be known…


  12. Happy Birthday, Valerie!!! I hope you are feeling better! Your husband’s post is so right on…the whole thing is well, frightening…and sadly our government is at the head of the whole mess. My hat is off to Snowdon, he has forfeited his life so the world will know. Now if we will all send out positive energy of love and healing maybe we can get all of this turned around into a better place.! I sure hope so.



    • Hello Linda, thank you for the birthday greetings ! I’m still fragile, but I’m getting there slowly!
      Yes, Snowdon is a real hero, and I’m so relieved he’s on his way to a safe haven… I hope his family support him with their love too.
      Yes, peace begins with me, and I’ll be sending energy along with yours, and all the other bloggers and concerned citizens of the world…XXX


  13. Did I miss your birthday? Terrible, well I will wish you a lovely Happy Personal New Year, all the very best new discoveries and peaceful wandering through the world you inhabit.

    Both you and your husband have it so right on this issue, though I think he has it exactly right with his statement regarding the younger generation not being bothered as much as we are. It is a terrible situation we are in I think, giving up so much of our liberties and our privacy for that elusive ‘safety’. Peace can never be achieved this way, not when we see danger around every corner.


    • Hello Val, no you didn’t miss my birthday… I simply mentioned mulled wine and champagne to celebrate with in my Threadbare Gourmet musings!
      Amazing how many people noticed ! I loved your alternative birthday wishes…thank you….
      Yes, I don’t think the world is a safer place because we mistrust everyone so much that we spy on them !!!
      But at least we know where we are, and what we have to guard against…
      It’s a funny old world that we can never give up hope on…


  14. Hmmm, sobering stuff. I’m of that annoying ‘X’ generation. Stuck somewhere between cynicism and idealism. I guess there are always pros and cons to any social change. But I think we’re in for some interesting and frightening times in years to come. Bc at the end of the day, us users don’t control the tools of communication we’ve come to rely so heavily on. So when it no longer is deemed to serve the ‘greater good’ – what then?


    • Hello Alarna..
      What an interesting comment… I think one of the things that electrified me was Snowdon’s comment that when power obsessed agencies want to pin something on you, they can go back through all the records, and make your past activities Sound incriminating… and I know how easy it is to be incriminated if you are a free thinker, and have an open mind.
      If the US could call an eighty- two year old Catholic nun who left peace pamphlets at a nuclear centre, a terrorist and try her under terrorism laws and ask for a sentence of life imprisonment, then they can pin anything on anyone!!!


      • Well, yes! If they can do that to a nun, there’s no hope for us!

        But on a lighter note, browsing the comments, I realise I overlooked your birthday! So sorry! Many happy returns Valerie…hope it was a special one – and that mulled wine sounds absolutely delicious. Xx


      • Thank you Alarna, I didn’t make a formal announcement! I didn’t expect everyone to notice and comment !!! Amazing !!! Yes, it did seem like a special one – my 75th – don’t think I’ll make a big deal of the next big one at eighty, that really does sound old !!!!


  15. Michele Seminara

    Thanks to you and your hubby for helping us to open our eyes Valerie. I can’t help but feel our complacency will backfire on us also. (On a lighter note, your birthday sounds like a blast – I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it!)


    • Thank you Michele for your encouragement… If you have the inclination to read my reply to Alarna Rose’s comment above, you’ll see why I feel it matters..
      And .I want my grand–children to feel safe, and I don’;t think spying on everyone is going to do that !!!
      And thank you yes,good friend, I had a lovely time with the afore-mentioned grand-children and my children…


  16. First of all, although slightly belated:
    I hope you had a wonderful day and am wishing you the very best for all there is to come!

    About your post:
    I believe I read the German translation of "1984" in 1989 on the recommendation of one of my teachers. It took me three days to get through and I felt nauseous all the time. Seeing it all happening in one way or the other, now, feels different, though. Of course words like "national security" make me rather feel scared, these days. And I agree on many things you shared, here.
    And I also remember James Redfields "Celestine Phrophecies", written in the 90's, I believe. I am not sure if it is described in the first or in the second book, but I remember how they explain that these attempts of control are only twisted and unconscious varieties of reaching out to the All-Oneness.
    I once heard somebody from Estonia speak about everything being very transparent in their country – where every data seems to be saved online and you can scan everybody easily. Being asked if they would not find it scary that every information about them is so easily available they said: "No, because everybody is just as transparent, even the authorities."
    Well, I don't know if that is currently true. But I like the idea that eventually all this may lead to the understanding that there is nothing to hide and nothing to control because we are all-one.

    Thank you for inviting us to pay attention to these things and to create a positive outcome.

    Much love,


  17. Hello Steffi, thank you for your lovely long letter, and all your best wishes..
    Yes, I re-read The Celestine Prophecies quite recently to remind myself of all the excitement about it at the time…
    I think it must have been the second book which I haven’t read which talks about reaching for Oneness the way you describe
    Estonia sounds the ideal, but I don’t have any confidence that the Western power-crazed agencies who are busy keeping themselves in a job, will use the information they collect for our benefit.
    It feels as though it will be used against people rather than for them… if you can be bothered to read my replies to the last few comments above,
    I’ve also made some other points.
    And yes, I still believe that so many people are changing their consciousness, and lifting the planet to new levels of understanding that we shall overcome the negative aspects of this power grab ! So many people want peace, harmony and love between nations that things can only change ..thank you for your encouragement and support, dear Steffi, with love, Valerie


  18. Excellent, thought-provoking post!

    Since I have researched this topic as well and put together my findings on my blog, in reply I would like to share the links to my respective posts here:
    “Big Brother is NOT watching you – he fully trusts your narcissistic nature

    On the one hand I am convinced that there is a lot of hot air and false alarm regarding the “NSA – Big Brother et al watching”. They feed the frenzy and expose some isolated and/or crafted instances in order to intimidate and push us into self-censorship. Unsurprising if we consider that their ultimate methods are lies, manipulation, deceit, fallacies and all forms of creating appearances.

    The reason behind the pseudo-Orwellian atmosphere they maintain is: they are deadly afraid of the truth spreading over the net. Hence my other post on this:
    “The wimpy nature of dictators and why to speak up against them”

    If there is anything to be afraid of is not an Orwellian world but the real threat of a future like a Hunger Games- and new feudalism sort of scenario, at the end of which only ca 50 families will live – an estimate by leading scholar and social scientist David Harvey – the rest will die starving in the wilderness.

    On the other hand, even if these “watchers” could track us – which I seriously doubt- if we intensify the truth-campaign regarding their project and on how to neutralise it – as I have explored these topics on my blog – what can they do against so many millions on the side of the pro-democracy forces? Nothing. A dictatorial rule is by definition the rule of a thin minority, which can succeed only on the back of mislead and intimidated masses. However, as the saying goes, the truth sets us free – to which I would add: truth – and courage – set us free, while the lack of these is a sure ticket to captivity.

    I so admire your blog showing your adherence to both values, and am deeply grateful for all your very precious support.


  19. Was Cox the valedictorian of the 1985 graduating class at Geo Orwell U?

    Our Harvard Justice prof responded to questions about Snowden’s actions and the infringement upon citizen’s privacy by highlighting the need to maintain focus on the privacy issue and not on Snowden’s actions.

    Snowden’s a different sort of whistleblower because he ran. He is not prepared to deal with the consequences. This is adding an extra ingredient into the justice bag)

    However, focusing on Snowden could cause the main point less focus and provide yet another smokescreen

    Through other related questions, around the useful threat of terrorism as an excuse, Prof Sandel added that during wartime data collection and subsequent secrecy are vital.

    It’s all so full of fear. Stir the ol’ fear pot and win consent.


    • Interesting Amy… thanks for the comment, it gave me real food for thought… It’s a good thing I’m not on your course, I think I’d find the judgemental point of view too hard to take… The remarks about Snowden running, and not dealing with the consequences I found fairly one dimensional… why would anyone, trying to help the world, as Snowden was, remain like a trapped rabbit, to be treated the way Brad Manning has been. and spend the rest of his lie in a horrendous US prison? He actually Will be dealing with the consequences for the rest of his life, and in many ways, the world has now become his prison now that the US is hounding him and revoking his passport etc…

      And yes, the privacy issue matters, but so do the rights of citizens to be able to speak the truth without fear of reprisals… and though collection of war-time data and secrecy are vital, the fact is that we are not at war, whatever the paranoiac purveyors of violence and totalitarianism in the Pentagon may think !!!

      Sorry to be so brutal…don’t tell your professor !!!!


      • I hope they never get him back or he’ll be prison and they will throw away the key. He was doing all of us citizens a favor by disclosing this info the government doesn’t want us to know. Bravo for him, being brave enough to speak out! What about freedom of speech? We do still have that for now. I don’t see Snowden’s actions as a security threat at all. They’re just pissed off that he did this and want to shut him up. Just my two cents.



      • Love your two cents Sunni !!!!


      • I agree, ‘ Evil thrives when good men do nothing’. 🙂


      • Hear – hear… trouble is, so many good men are also timid men/women who don’t want to get involved


      • Oh, Valerie, your comment is not brutal – it’s very much along the lines of ideas expressed by many students. I especially concur with your well stated last paragraph. War is stirred and declared by humans and can be stopped by humans – but the process of moving from ego and fear to compassion is beyond too many in power it seems.

        My comments are just for consideration – they are NOT Dr. Sandel’s stand on these issues. I’m merely showing what kinds of seeds he’s planted! Student paradigms are challenged and that’s what I wanted.

        Dr. Sandel is a superb educator, introducing new factors, nuances, facets so that our “ruts” are challenged. He doesn’t declare them right or wrong. While we students may FEEL right and wrong as we try to express our stand, we quickly see the pitfalls in all of the different philosophies. Every one of them! 😀

        We learn how both ‘head or heart’ have holes and pitfalls. The key is to be aware of them.

        I’d like to listen to opposing moral and just views and have a better understanding of their bases. I don’t have to agree, but I want to understand the source so I can respond with some compassion instead of reacting with judgement, intolerance or resentment.

        I feel that Dr. Sandel gives “thought bombs”. To me, Snowden is a hero. Sandel revealed (and these are my words) that there will be people holding the opinion that Snowden is devaluing himself by running instead of facing the consequences.

        Since that thought never crossed my mind, now when I hear it I will recognize the source without thinking the world has gone mad. It’s just another opinion, but does it carry weight?

        When talking about Snowden, I indeed noticed when Sandel added in very positive tones that appropriate actions are underway to investigate Snowden’s allegations.

        Good grief. I should hope so.


  20. Wow, Amy, great thoughts, thank you so much for your explanation… I can see how you and your Professor are approaching it now, in a spirit of honest inquiry and open minds…
    We had a judge here who once said that a trial is not a search for truth, but is about justice, and the two are not necessarily the same !!!
    Oh dear !!!!


    • That’s the problem with the adversarial system of justice; the inquistorial system however (in Sweden, for example) is more open and is supposed to look for the truth. 😦


  21. Yes, I also find way the justice system has developed with lawyers pushing the envelope as far as they can, regardless of whether the client is innocent or guilty, bothers me…


    • Makes you wonder about their conscience. 🙂
      “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”
      – Mahatma Gandhi


      • Wonderful quote… one just has to live in the world but not be of it….
        Hope I’ve managed to get myself on your followers list…
        I have real difficulty with some blogs…


      • I received notification, thanks, Valerie. :0
        You’d like this one: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
        – Martin Luther King, Jr.


      • I go along with that !
        I can also apply that to the progress of the individual – Human progress also requires ‘sacrifice, suffering and struggle…’ to free ourselves from old patterns and the chains of the past…I speak with heartfelt knowledge after the past few weeks of throwing off some of my oldest chains!!!


      • Good for you, I’m struggling with a few of my own! (。◕‿◕。)


  22. well done and good luck… it’s hard but it’s worth it for freedom and peace of mind, and the knowledge that one has broken through patterns of life-times


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