Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Like all the famous dystopia novels, Huxley's world did not come to pass verbatim, but you can see elements of it that have manifested themselves in reality - a Soma-taking public concerned wholly with self-pleasure, the increased alienation and breakdown of family and community, focus on consumption as the purpose of life, and a general "televized" populace largely disconnected from the world and uncaring about what is going on around them.
As Neil Postman put it - "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 irrelevance. 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, Orwell 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."
Chapter 1 - "And that," put in the Director sententiously, "that is the secret of happiness and virtue— liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny."
Chapter 3 - "Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption. It’s madness. Nowadays the Controllers won’t approve of any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games."