First published in 1949, George Orwell’s book “1984” created quite a controversy describing the ever-watchful Big Brother. Big Brother is everywhere, hears and sees everything, and knows just what you want. If you get out of line, Big Brother will see that you get punished.
Got news for good old George, growing up on Flamingo we didn’t have to wait until 1984 for Big Brother to know everything. He already did. Back then, he wasn’t a faceless entity in a government office somewhere either; he lived in the bedroom down the hall. I knew his face all too well. In fact, he didn’t have one face, he had two. Welcome, Dear Reader, to Big Brother Flamingo Street style.
For those seven years we spent growing up on Flamingo, Twin Brother Mark and I shared the same bedroom. Right down the hall Big Brother James and Older Brother Richard shared another.
Being so close they could hear whenever we crept down the hallway during the night or tried to sneak outside using our sliding glass door. When they caught us, they’d either blackmail us or report us to Mom and Dad. My big brothers seemed to always know when we did anything wrong inside the house. When we were outside, it was no different.
Up or down Flamingo, Mark and I couldn’t get away with anything. One of my big brothers was there whenever we did anything wrong and told on us. That time I crashed into Old Mrs. Crabtree’s mailbox? It was Richard who told on me. When Mark took a coconut out of the church’s dumpster, James tattled. And when Mark and I snuck out late one night to toss water balloons at passing cars, we got busted not by the police but because both of my big brothers told on us. Our big brothers’ oversight and reach didn’t stop on Flamingo; it stretched all the way to school.
Being only a grade or two ahead of us, our big brothers always knew when we got into trouble. News of my twin brother or me getting into trouble and being sent to the principal’s office traveled fast when you grow up in a small town — especially if you’re told on by one of your big brothers.
Throw a spitball at Mt. Olive Elementary School and even before it hits the blackboard, it seemed that my big brothers knew. And when we got into a fight after school, they would be the first to tell our parents.
When we all were attending Briarwood High School, Home of the Mighty Buccaneers, things were no different. One of my big brothers told on me when, in 11th grade, I changed my English test grade from an “F” to an “A.” (That or my parents couldn’t ever believe I got an “A” on an English paper!)
Either way, the omniscience of Big Brother has been in my life for as long as I’ve been alive.) But recently the invasiveness of Big Brother has gotten way out of control … and I’m not talking about my big brothers.
Don’t believe Big Brother is real and out of control? Try this little exercise and you may change your mind. At home have a conversation about your next beach vacation, where and when you want to go. By the end of the day, there will be endless ads on your social media feed pitching beach vacations and the cheapest air fare to get you there.
Still not convinced Big Brother is listening? Switch on your Smart TV and search for a movie and then watch it. Then for the next month, when you go to any movie channel, you’ll get suggestions for movies to watch just like the one you already watched!
Just like my big brothers knew everything back on Flamingo, it seems as if Big Brother knows all your wants and needs before you even know them. It’s like someone’s invented a device to put on the kitchen table, windowsill or in the Smart TV so Big Brother can listen in on every conversation going on inside your house … and decided what you need even before you need it.
I think George Orwell’s book needs to be retitled “2021.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]