[Marxism] Orwell vs Huxley
dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 7 08:50:08 MDT 2017
*Today's encore selection -- from Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public
Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman.*
The first half of the 20th century saw two competing visions of the future
from British authors George Orwell (1903-1950) and Aldous Huxley
(1894-1963). Though it came 17 years later, Orwell's dystopian novel *1984* is
better known; however, Huxley's *Brave New World* has proven more relevant.
Written in the shadow of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, *1984* shows a world
ruled by an oligarchical dictatorship with perpetual war, pervasive
government surveillance and incessant public mind control. Set in 2540
New World* was published in 1932 and began as a parody of H. G. Wells'
optimistic and utopian novel *Men Like Gods*. Neil Postman contrasted the
two visions in the foreword to his 1985 classic *Amusing Ourselves to Death*
"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and [Orwell's]
prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves.
The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had
happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But
we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another --
slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous
"Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did
not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an
externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is
required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he
saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the
technologies that undo their capacities to think.
"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was
that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who
wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of
information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be
reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be
concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of
"Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would
become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies,
the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in *Brave
New World Revisited*, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever
on the alert to oppose tyranny 'failed to take into account man's almost
infinite appetite for distractions.' In *1984*, Huxley added*, people are
controlled by inflicting pain. In* Brave New World, they are controlled by
inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin
us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
"This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right."
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