George Orwell and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World In 1984: whose vision holds true?

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley both had a vision of the future that was inspired and prophetic.  Commentators often cite George Orwell’s 1984 as an accurate representation of the current state of affairs, while society already accepts elements of Huxley’s Brave New World.

Huxley’s vision seems inevitable in a world with the exponential growth of technology, genetics being a key component, with morality flagging behind at a pace more on par with evolution.

It was not just the gift of foresight which inspired these two intellectuals, but an understanding of human nature, of history, and of the essence of power.  They understood that dominion over Mankind through war and force alone would never be a lasting affair.  

Instead, both authors envisioned a world where the enslavement of the human mind was paramount, be it through Big Brother or a loss of self in the distractions of the senses through drugs, sex and entertainment.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley
George Orwell & Aldous Huxley

While in both visions of the future Mankind is enslaved in a way as to bypass their own perception, a Brave New World creates the illusion of an idyllic world, while in 1984 the day to day existence is less appealing from an outside perspective.

Examples of George Orwell’s 1984 Doublespeak In Our World

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.

George Orwell in an essay on Politics and the English Language (1946)

Politicians are masterful at doublespeak.  The GOP is particularly adept at it, given their think tanks and the likes of Frank Luntz, but the Democrats are in truth little different.  

The Democrats might be more insidious, as their rhetoric is far more benign, though the legislation they support is a little different in most respects, save on some social issues where money is not involved.

US Capitol Building - Does Citizens United make this a corporate owned and controlled government?
US Capitol Building – Does Citizens United make this a corporate owned and controlled government?
Credit: Image by 1778011 from Pixabay

‘Citizens United’ is an almost textbook example of doublespeak.  

It sounds wonderful!  Why shouldn’t citizens be united?

What Citizens United actually accomplished is solidifying, in effect, corporations and big moneyed interests to legally purchase politicians to work for them.  

Given that they have corporate personhood and giving money to campaigns is considered free speech under the 1st Amendment, politicians become dependent on big money to finance their campaigns, and as a result, are beholden to their paymasters, and not their electorates.  

It’s the perfect way to create a corporate owned and controlled government that leaves a thinly veiled illusion of democracy in its wake.

‘The Patriot Act’ is another classic example of doublespeak.

What could possibly be sinister about the Patriot Act?  It sounds friendly.  It’s a good thing to be a patriot, right?  The legislation, passed in 2001 after 9/11 and exists through to this day. It undermines a citizen’s right to privacy, a blatant violation of the letter and spirit of the constitution.

The legislation is supposed to make Americans feel safe from terrorism, but as many have come to realize, the ‘War on Terror’ feels a lot like a trip into George Orwell’s 1984, and the expense of real freedoms in return for the illusion of safety is a poor trade-off.

A drone with a camera watches people under the Patriot Act. Could this be George Orwell and 1984 come to life?
Drones make it increasingly easier for surveillance under the Patriot Act.
Credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The ‘NDAA Act, or National Defense Authorization Act 

While not exactly doublespeak, the NDAA Act hides within it the seeds of tyranny.  This act effectively allows the US to permanently detain US citizens without a trial.

The US has been in a perpetual state of war for over 10 years, and there’s no reason to think the threat of the ‘Other’ is going to disappear anytime in the near future.  

Having an enemy called ‘Terror’, and going to war against it, is an impossibly abstract concept.  The very war itself creates enemies and fuels aggression for valid reasons.  Occupations and drone strikes aren’t likely candidates for a peaceful future.

This ‘Other’, or outside threat, is a central theme in George Orwell’s 1984, as it a cornerstone necessity into cowing the populace into believing the government is protecting them and has their best interests at heart.

The Current Facets Of Our Brave New World Revisited

In the non-fiction book, Our Brave New World Revisited (1950), Aldous Huxley examines how the world holds up to his vision of the future captured in his book from the 1930s, which was a challenge for humans to take control of their future.

In the book, he turns to philosopher-psychiatrist, Dr Erich Fromm to clarify how technological gains have affected individuals. Huxley quotes Fromm, who proposes that the evidence of mental health symptoms are indicators that humanity still fights for integration and happiness.

But “let us beware,” says Dr. Fromm, “of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symptoms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting.” The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish “the illusion of individuality,” but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized.”

Aldous Huxley in A Brave New World Revisited (1950)

Automation and assembly lines, telephones, televisions and computers were well on their way to being publicly entrenched in American society by the 1950s. And while the “Age of technology” didn’t begin until the mid-1950s, it’s interesting to reflect on how Huxley would perceive the world now.

1950s Educational computer - part of the problem or solution to mental health problems in Huxley's A Brave New World Revisited?
1950s Educational Computer
Credit: © Photobulb | Dreamstime.com

While the US has been in a perpetual state of war for over fifteen years, there are plenty of distractions to keep us entertained.  You don’t have to be wealthy and successful to own a TV, a computer, and a game console.  

These devices fully envelop our sense perceptions much in the same manner as narcotics.  You can fall into a hypnotic state watching the most boring of television programs.  

In fact, the less stimulating the program, the more likely you are to zone out.  Good for advertisers, that’s when their bullshit really sinks in nice and deep on the subliminal level.

Video games, movies and the computer are great.  I wouldn’t be so daft as to rant against them while typing away on my laptop while periodically checking Facebook.  

First person shooter games, as much as they’re sometimes demonized in the media or by politicians, have scientific research supporting that they help develop better hand-eye coordination quick decision making, and enhanced perception of surroundings.  

Now all of that aside, there’s no denying that given the majority of people in developed countries have access to one or more of these mediums, they can allow, or even cause people to tune out from actively participating in society, or having a realization of the impact they could have if they did.

Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell and 1984?

So, which one had it right: Albert Huxley or George Orwell?

Those in power want to stay in power.  This, as I see it, is the basis for the visionary futures George Orwell and Aldous Huxley painted out in their novels that seems so evident in today’s society.  

They knew that with technology would come surveillance and control, such as in 1984. As well, the grand means of mass distraction, as is seen in a Brave New World would also come.  

The fact that people who have power don’t want to give it up, and that people can be cowed into submission unwittingly and unconsciously, is a part of human nature and has historical roots throughout history.

The opium wars between the British and the Chinese, where one side used the narcotic opium to subdue an entire nation serves as one historical example that can be extrapolated into Huxley’s vision of the future.

In Rome, where a TV wasn’t an option, the Colosseum served as an excellent device to distract the masses and to give them an outlet to funnel their own discontent.

In today’s world, surveillance cameras, drones, austerity and the steady erosion of people’s rights reeks of 1984.

Student demonstrators with flags standing up against racism and Islamophobia march in London against the new world order.
Students march in London.
Credit: Photo by Yeo Khee on Unsplash.

Don’t Panic; it’s not too late to change the new world order.

If these facets of human nature are so ingrained and the tools for those in power to control the masses evolving faster than Mankind’s moral compass, what then can be done in such a world to change it for the better?  

One thing that always makes me uncomfortable is when people blame one another for being ‘sheeple’.

But no matter how awake you believe you are in respect to everyone else, you’re subject to some programming, be it from your nature, nurture, or the group you’re a part of that labels everyone else as ‘sheeple’.

Your mind is the best ground to do battle.

So, instead of finishing this article myself, I’ll leave it to a better mind by sharing Gandhi’s actual quote, the one the misquote ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world‘, stems from.

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do ” 

Mahatma Gandhi, Collected Works, 1920
Women's rally for change in the world where protester carries sign saying we are better than this!
We are better than this!
Credit: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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This article on the aftermath of The Great Flood was originally published in December 2013 and updated on 29 June 2019. Good to see the folks at Conservapedia revisit their original theories.

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