Brave New World: Comparative Dystopias
“Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at One with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release.”
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at One with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release.”
As I stalk the comments sections of news articles and YouTube videos I continually find people comparing the (post)modern state of affairs to the grim world in George Orwell’s 1984, especially with regard to newspeak, doublethink, and the “Ministry of Truth” (a branch office of which is apparently in Berkeley, California). But it appears to me that there are a wide variety of fictional dystopias out there to choose from, and that the world of Winston Smith and his friend O’Brien is probably not quite the one toward which we are headed, despite current governments’ electronic surveillance of their citizens, the dishonest propaganda of the mainstream media, the authoritarian control of language and ideological redefinition of words, and the indoctrination of university students into an ideology of hysterical muddle-headedness.
I don’t know when dystopian fiction began as a recognized genre. H. G. Wells was writing of dystopian societies back around the turn of the 20th century—The Sleeper Awakes and his story “The Country of the Blind,” for example—and of course pretty much everything Franz Kafka wrote was dystopian, although in a more surreal and less science-fictional mode than most. Even earlier, in the 18th century, Jonathan Swift had his hero Mr. Gulliver travel to a few places more morbidly silly than contemporary London. Even “classical” novelists like Dickens, Hugo, and Dostoevsky could be called dystopian, the two former especially in their descriptions of the slums of London and Paris, and Dostoevsky just about everywhere, from squalid villages and prison camps to aristocratic drawing rooms. Actually, almost any fiction may be interpreted as dystopian if one is cynical enough.
Much more recently a whole slew of science fiction stories have been generated in the form of sociopolitical tales of horror, not all of them involving zombies. In fact dystopian fiction occupies a number of science fiction niches such as the post nuclear holocaust world (or PA: “post apocalypse”) subgenre and the later cyberpunk subgenre. One of my all-time favorite specimens of the former is Russell Hoban’s novel Riddley Walker; and a classic example of the latter is the movie Bladerunner. (Another really gritty, icky cyberpunk dystopia that I found intriguing, and which is just a few years down the road if we play our cards wrong, is portrayed in the movie Paranoia 1.0.)
But the best known straightforward dystopias in anything resembling “classic” literature are George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984, both inspired by Soviet Russia; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; and maybe Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Atlas shrugged (Anthem is clearly dystopian but not so well known, whereas Atlas Shrugged is classic but not so blatantly in-your-face dystopian). There are no doubt plenty more respectable literary dystopias out there that I’m not thinking of; I suppose Golding’s Lord of the Flies would also qualify as a classic dystopia, even though the society is one of a few dozen English schoolboys stranded on an island. The island is a symbol for the world, and the boys are the human race.
With regard to Huxley, he wrote another dystopian novel, a really bleak post-holocaust one, called Ape and Essence, which had to have been a side effect of some really dark, morose phase in Huxley’s psychological life—it involves a satanic society, literally worshipping the Devil (since he obviously runs the show at that time), in the violent, poisonous, blasted wastelands of what was once the United States. But Brave New World is much better known, and less traumatic to read. In fact as dystopias go, it’s pretty mild—but still creepy, partly because of its very mildness.
It seems to me that two classic novels form a set of bookends, so to speak, on the whole dystopian library: Brave New World and 1984. The latter is better known in the west because it is a portrayal of what western civilization could become if Stalinist totalitarianism took over; it is thus pro-liberal, pro-democracy, pro-west propaganda, useful for “red-pilling” potential communist sympathizers during the Cold War. On the other hand, Huxley’s book portrays what civilization could become if our own liberal consumer culture continues on its present trajectory. This latter dystopia is gradually becoming reality. Consequently, it is understandable that people in the west are less inclined to take it to heart—it tells them what they don’t want to hear. So these two books, written about sixteen years apart, represent the logical conclusion of two very different political systems, lying on either side of the divide of the old Iron Curtain.
Considering that Brave New World was an attempt to prophesy what our own culture would eventually become, it should be no surprise that it comes closer to what we’ve already got. This is why I intend to discuss it. The so-called Progressive left especially seems to be aiming directly at just such a brave new world.
The novel was written in 1931, and attempts to describe life in the year 632 A.F., “after Ford,” or 632 years after Henry Ford’s car company began producing the model T, which I calculate to be 2541 CE; and so it is quite understandable that many of the technological predictions have failed to be realized. It’s sad to see good science fiction proved wrong; for example all those stories having the Soviet Union lasting well beyond the 20th century. (One of my favorite science fiction authors even predicted back in the 70s that by the beginning of the 21st century dolphins would be members of the United Nations! Sad.) But despite Huxley’s failure to predict computers and digitization, his prediction of rocket planes instead of jets, and the fact that his futuristic elevators are still operated by black-clad Epsilon Semi-Moron “liftmen,” his extrapolation of social trends into the future were prescient.
Considering that Huxley couldn’t possibly have foreseen the results of current irrational PC hysteria, it shouldn’t be too surprising or disappointing that his futuristic London is almost entirely white, with dark-skinned people mainly working as menials, that feminism is pretty much a non-issue, with the dominant elite apparently being all male, and that society is divided up into an officially maintained caste system based on intelligence. But we still have five hundred years to go before 632 A.F., and PC is so impractical and unrealistic that it could hardly last for fifty years longer, maybe only five if we’re lucky.
The World State of the Brave New World is obviously intended to be the culmination of liberal consumerism guided by a central socialized state. The names of people in the story—Lenina Crowne (after Lenin), Bernard Marx, Polly Trotsky, Sarojini Engels, Herbert Bakunin, Morgana Rothschild (presumably in part after J.P. Morgan), etc.—indicate that the heroes of the past who molded the Brave New World were mostly socialists and industrialists. Helping to balance out with all the Marxist names is the practically deified Henry Ford, who brought about the new era by bringing about mass production, and thereby mass consumption as a way of life. Ford has been conflated with Jesus, Freud, and probably many others, and his name has even become a common expletive. If you stub your toe in the dark or drop something you exclaim “Ford!”
One of the most obvious differences between our world and the Brave New one is that the family has been completely abolished in the future. The very word “mother” is an obscenity, and asking someone “Who’s your mother?” is a deadly insult. Monogamy is discouraged, viewed as a perversion, and marriage nonexistent—it is considered virtuous and respectable to be sexually promiscuous. Women no longer bear children, and all babies are fertilized and brought to term in vitro at “hatcheries,” after which they are raised by the state, and conditioned to be relatively thoughtless consumers. All children are conditioned in their sleep with nightly repetitions of slogans like, “Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today!” and “Everyone belongs to everyone else,” until they accept the mainstream attitude without question, as a kind of second nature.
Although baby hatcheries might be a good idea in the near future simply because people don’t want the burden of having to raise children, especially if importing migrants doesn’t work out, the main purpose of abolishing the family in the Brave New World is to abolish deep feeling and interpersonal attachment. Another slogan: “When the individual feels, the community reels.” The Resident World Controller for Western Europe, Mustapha Mond, explains it like this:
Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet. My love, my baby. No wonder these poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable. Their world didn’t allow them to take things easily, didn’t allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy. What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty — they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?
…Impulse arrested spills over, and the flood is feeling, the flood is passion, the flood is even madness: it depends on the force of the current, the height and strength of the barrier. The unchecked stream flows smoothly down its appointed channels into a calm well-being….The decanted infant howls; at once a nurse appears with a bottle of external secretion. Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation. Shorten that interval, break down all those old unnecessary barriers.
Thus in order to create a stable, secure society, strong feelings, like love, have to be eliminated, and a convenient way to do this is to encourage unrestrained indulgence along psychologically conditioned, politically correct lines, resulting in emotional shallowness, high consumption, a burgeoning economy, and thus stable, passive conformity. And whatever passions conditioning and sensual indulgence can’t eliminate, the government-distributed drug soma can. Regardless of any idea of social stability, the current “progressive” tendency toward unrestrained sensuality, especially with regard to sex, is prophetic. Another way of keeping everyone contentedly passive is feelies, a mainstream entertainment consisting of, essentially, virtual reality porn. That also was an astute prediction way back in 1931. Another correct prediction: the encouragement of sexual awareness in small children. In the Brave New World children are taught sex games in preschool.
The entire society is designed and managed by government to keep everyone contented, docile, productive, and mass-consuming. Even pastimes which involve solitude or little expense, like reading or hiking, are discouraged. If boredom or depression begin to set in, there is always the MDMA-like soma; or in more extreme cases Violent Passion Surrogate therapy.
In addition to systematized hedonism, mindless consumption, conformism, neo-Marxism, and promiscuity, some other parallels with the (post)modern progressive agenda are: not merely the control of the historical narrative but a socially organized ignorance of history and disdain for it (even talking about what happened to oneself years previously is considered to be bad manners—live only for today); government-controlled science, with anything threatening social stability banned; infantilism, following “Ford’s” teaching to become as little children, with “infantile” being a word of praise; and of course, the system is emphatically, quintessentially globalist.
Religion, by the way, has been replaced with Fordism (crosses across the country transformed into T’s by cutting off the tops) and a regular Solidarity Service of singing, drugs, and orgiastic sex, apparently intensified by hypnosis.
The main difference, it seems to me, between this mild, gentle dystopia and Orwell’s more violently nightmarish one, is that in the world of 1984 the government controls the people through pain and fear; whereas in the Brave New World the government controls them with pleasure and desire. Although punishments and rewards are found in both worlds, Orwell’s world emphasizes the former, while Huxley’s, and ours, emphasize the latter.
Thus, ironically, although the Brave New World is meant to be a dystopia, the people are more or less happy. “Everybody’s happy now” is even one of the slogans fed into the minds of sleeping children, and almost nobody is able to doubt it. The cost of this happiness is shallowness, absence of deep feeling, inspiration, love, originality….
“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.”
“But I like the inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.
This is it, isn’t it. The difference between the civilized, feminized elitist and the primordial masculine Savage.
Yet, the end of agony, disease, decrepitude, starvation, terror, and war is good; there can be no denying it. Even a world government of some sort, if it is managed wisely, would probably be a blessing. But there must be a better way, a way that won’t turn us all into moral nothings and superficial automatons. It may be that most people already are superficial automatons, but it shouldn’t be mandatory.
The horrible thing about it all is that Huxley’s book was intended to be an alarming dystopia, yet a great many postmodern progressives nowadays would consider the Brave New World to be practically ideal in most respects: misery abolished, unlimited sex and pleasure, good drugs (“All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects”), affluence, comfort, security, peace, and unanimity of worldview, with “hate speech” not only outlawed, but conditioned (brainwashed) right out of existence, so that it doesn’t even occur to people to want to speak it. In short, the Brave New World is a postmodern Progressive Utopia. Some progressives would be drooling while reading the book, indulging in ideological porn—“Oh, if only we could do this! If only it could really be like this!” They no doubt would disapprove of an intellectual caste system with black people toward the bottom, lack of gender fluidity, etc., but a lot can change in five hundred years. Maybe by the year 2541 the stratification of society into a eugenic caste system and an acknowledgement of biological maleness and femaleness won’t seem like such a bad idea. Besides, everyone in the Brave New World is conditioned to consider their own situation to be the best one. No one feels victimized, or identifies as a victim.
Anyway, if you want to read a best-case scenario of where the progressive left is heading, read the book. (It’s a good read, and can be found here if you don’t have a copy.) But rapid decline and fall, or seizure of power by neo-Stalinist sharks, would be a much more likely destination.
|cloned Bokanovsky gammas: equality through sameness|
“My dear young friend,” said Mustapha Mond, “civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended — there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense. But there aren’t any wars nowadays. The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much. There’s no such thing as a divided allegiance; you’re so conditioned that you can’t help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there really aren’t any temptations to resist. And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears — that’s what soma is.”
“But the tears are necessary. Don’t you remember what Othello said? ‘If after every tempest came such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death.’ There’s a story one of the old Indians used to tell us, about the Girl of Mátaski. The young men who wanted to marry her had to do a morning’s hoeing in her garden. It seemed easy; but there were flies and mosquitoes, magic ones. Most of the young men simply couldn’t stand the biting and stinging. But the one that could — he got the girl.”
“Charming! But in civilized countries,” said the Controller, “you can have girls without hoeing for them, and there aren’t any flies or mosquitoes to sting you. We got rid of them all centuries ago.”
The Savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them ... But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.”