As authors both George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were masters at the task. But as visionaries (yes, for the last time 1984 is a warning, not a guidebook), they differed in a very fundamental way. Orwell has always rooted for an external oppressor who shall conquer us and rule our thoughts, lives and the world in total - the infamous Big Brother. On the other hand, Huxley had portrayed an even more outlandish concept, where the people accept and in fact, love the thing that incapacitates them from rational thought. In the Brave New World, there is no necessity for an oppressor to deprive us of our autonomy, individuality or maturity, we would gladly give that up for the security and convenience the oppression offers.
Orwell dreamed of a future where information would be denied, kept hidden from the masses and handed out in small enough parcels. A totalitarian regime where information is the currency and control was achieved by denying it. Huxley feared the opposite, where the important information is drowned in a mass of irrelevance. Where nobody picks up a book because there are far more convenient distractions to choose from.
1984 controlled people by pain, hurt when you try to enter the forbidden corridors of knowledge, while the Brave New World enslaved you with pleasure. Given you so much that you have no desire for anything more, perfectly content to watch the feelies and drink soma. Reduced to passivity and egotism, ever fearful of any disruption which would destroy the comforts that were traded in for free speech and thought, yet oblivious to their own slavery.
Yet, when the year 1984 came, there were those who rejoiced that the world hadn't fallen to a Big Brother. But the Brave New World couldn't be denied, the quest for a happy living strays too close to the ultimate paradise of ignorant bliss. As you watch an everyman sit in front a TV, sipping whatever gets him high and wondering about what exactly is happening with Paris Hilton's latest boyfriend, you do have to wonder is this a Brave New World ? The critique on the free press and its role in oppression is contrary to common belief, but some corner of my mind it is happening today (ok, pickup a Times Of India).
Huxley's message is chilling in its content and cynical in its perception. The fact that people will sacrifice essential liberties of free speech and thought to enjoy a comfortable life sits in opposite to the loss of paradise that the Adam & Eve suffered. In our deepest psyche this is a holy grail we yearn for, even at the cost of our individuality, history or autonomy.
1984 ends the same way the Brave New World began, love instead of hate.
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.
The golden cage that we built for ourselves, the only way these two differ is how we got into the cage. So who is right ? I'd say Huxley, but 1984 is yet to pass.--
If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.
-- Robert Frost
posted at: 18:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink |