In 1949 George Orwell published 1984 where the fictional Oceania (formerly known as England) is a totalitarian state that has instituted a new society designed for the survival of the country. Oceania had introduced methods and techniques designed to protect the government at all costs: Big Brother is Watching You; Thought Police (don’t speak out or question, or else); Doublethink, creating the ability of the people to hold and accept two contradictory thoughts at the same time; Newspeak, the official language, replacing English, that redefines words and concepts; Ministry of Truth, the agency of propaganda and historic revisionism; and the Ministry of Love, the agency of regulations and enforcement.
Many can see the parallels and extensions of Orwell’s 1984 in the real 1984, and current world, of homeowner associations (HOAs) — authoritarian private governments. Let’s take a look.
The principles of 1984 can be identified within the HOA regime: Ministries of Love, the boards and HOA managers, coerce compliance with outrageous fines and claims of violations. The Thought Police, through the HOA vender organizations and lobbyists, use Doublethink and Newspeak to redefine everyday usage and meanings of words. Newspeak, or simply propaganda — lies and half-truths — to advance one’s interests, is extensively employed to defend the HOA regime. And, of course, there is the ever present all seeing eyes of the HOA — Big Brother is Watching You.
Of course, there are benefits to the state, the community and the residents, including the alleviation of irrational fears of the loss of property values. But at what price? At what cost? At the cost of leaving the American Zone (as expressed by Shu Bartholomew in On the commons.com) and the loss of member rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities protected by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The influence and acceptance of Doublethink has people believing that HOAs are democratic and not authoritarian regimes, because residents can vote – like in Cuba and China. That de facto HOA governments are businesses and not quasi-governments, because it is so declared. That it’s the members’ fault for not making desired reforms to the HOA legal structure, which contains a very high bar to effective member participation in HOA governance. That the members’ are expressing their individual rights and freedoms by surrendering them and accepting that the authoritarian board speaks for them. However, the board is legally responsible to speak for the HOA corporation in accordance with the CC&Rs that do not recognize the rights of individuals as set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution.
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Read the complete paper at 1984