2011: A Brave New Dystopia

16 posts / 0 new
Last post
al-Qa'bong
2011: A Brave New Dystopia

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from "Brave New World" to "1984." The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley's feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. 

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

 

Chris Hedges

 

Twenty or thirty years ago I thought that Nineteen Eighty-four was a little far-fetched and that Huxley's vision of the future was the more accurate possibility.   (Back in the eighties though,  I did see corporate feudalism as a problem, and it's way worse today).   Now that I see an even greater clampdown of intellectual diversity than before and evidence that the surveillance state here, Hedges' position looks about right.

6079_Smith_W

It is important to remember that 1984 is written from the perspective of party members within an enclave - not the general public. We aren't shown too much of how the proles live - except that they are in poverty and terror. Though the inclusion of lotteries is probably a tip of the hat to mindless distractions.

Really, I think both visions co-exist in much of our societies.

 

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Both Huxley and Orwell "borrowed" liberally from Evgeni Zamyatin in his famous work "We". Does Hedges deal with this? His article would be richer if he did, methinks.

al-Qa'bong

Few people know of Zamiatin, so a reference would have been fairly meaningless to his readers.

Papal Bull

Precisely. Also, where Huxley and Orwell borrowed ideas from 'We,' they made it more broadly applicable and realistic than Zamyatin. Zamyatin wrote an absurd account of science gone amok - it lacks that bone-chilling pervasive reinforcement of the stat's logic through the subtle means. Zamyatin's 'We' was influential and dystopian for sure, but it isn't something that people can sink their teeth into and say 'Well, damn, that could happen here.'

 

Plus, yeah. Al-Q said it, beyond a few afficiandos of the dystopian/sci-fi genres and Russian literature nerds it does not have much currency. It isn't a scholarly book, but it is look upon by scholars more than readers. At least that's been my experience. I've had to have read the book a dozen times by now.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

yea, well, I am a sucker for Russian novels and such. Plus my college English prof taught Zamiatin ... uhhh .... 3 decades ago or so. Damn, I'm old.

Anyway, I think the point still stands in that both Huxley and Orwell fessed up to the "borrowing" that I'm talking about.

I've been meaning to read more Hedges anyway - I don't want anyone to think this is a really big deal or critique for me. just sayin' is all.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I thought it was a great article. With the Family in Washington and the religious right like Cheney it makes me fear that Atwood's Handmaid's Tale is what is missing from his attempt at describing our impending dystopia.

Papal Bull

N.Beltov wrote:

yea, well, I am a sucker for Russian novels and such. Plus my college English prof taught Zamiatin ... uhhh .... 3 decades ago or so. Damn, I'm old.

 

I learned about it from a text book in one of my Soviet history classes when I was still a studytenka v Toronto. I ended up just outright buying a copy and reading the crap out of the book and a lot of surrounding essays. I haven't picked it up in a few months and given I just finished BNW, it would be a good time to brush-up. Thanks, N.B.

6079_Smith_W

The thing about most dystopian fiction is that it says more about the present (read: the past) than any possible future. Not to say it isn't sometimes good or even prophetic. It's just that it is usually leaves out the nuances and fine details.

If I want to really think about what might happen I reach for a book of history or historical analysis. Truth usually IS stranger than fiction. Plus, times may change, but people don't change all that much,

 

 

 

al-Qa'bong

Nineteen Eighty-four satirised the Soviet system of the 1930s and 40s (Orwell came clsoe to being murdered by Russian Communists in Spain during the civil war) and post-war England.  He also drew on his experience of working in the Ministry of Truth (the BBC) during the war.  What he described was taken from his own life - he didn't have to apply very much imagination to create his dystopia.  Huxley took cultural trends that he'd watched develop for decades, and extrapolated from them.  So yes, neither work was strictly meant as prophecy.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Orwell was also a police officer while in Burma. That might have helped him with his torture descriptions.

6079_Smith_W

N.Beltov wrote:

Orwell was also a police officer while in Burma. That might have helped him with his torture descriptions.

Though if you have read "Shooting an Elephant" you probably noticed that his class analysis isn't in vogue any more.

al-Qa'bong

Zing!

6079_Smith_W

@ al-Q

BTW, have you read "The War Broadcasts"? I know I have mentioned it in here before. Most of it is scripts from Orwell's work with the BBC India service. But in the forward they go through some of the things in his work environment that were sources for 1984 - some of them exact copies and descriptions, including the styleguide language they used - Basic - which was the model for Newspeak.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture