Orwell vs Huxley

Discuss literature (e.g. books, newspapers), educational studies (getting help or opinions on homework or an essay), and philosophy.

Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Ranbir » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:29 am

Saw this comic strip and figured it would make a good starting point of discussion.

It gives a look* at the two books, by the respective authors, Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World and their visions of the direction we are heading. What do you think?

*Using Amusing Ourselves to Death as its reference.
"The imaginary number is a fine and wonderful resource of the human spirit, almost an amphibian between being and not being." - Gottfried Leibniz
Science snobbery.
User avatar
Ranbir
For Queen and Country
 
Posts: 8503
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2003 9:27 am
Location: Your heart. <3

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Duncan » Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:29 pm

In 1948 Orwell's fears were real - all of those things were overtly out there - Britain had a Ministry of Information for instance. Censorship and self-censorship had played a large role in the last world war. Many of these fears are submerged now - although we all know official information is controlled and spun, we are also more distrustful of government information than at any time in the past. Huxley's fears seem to be more pertinent to today.

Both books take their central tenet to an extreme. Comparatively I thought Huxley's book was poorly constructed, less gripping and not as believable an extreme as Orwell's.

Another interesting note is that WALL-E rhymes with Huxley.
"No more 200-yr-old flakes of parchment getting trapped in 'problem areas'..."
Liu Yuante
Duncan
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1846
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2004 12:49 pm
Location: The Scholar formerly known as Sun Hua

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:49 am

I'm embarrassed that I've never read Brave New World, so I can't comment on the main point. I'll just say a little bit about the idea that, "Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us." I think this is kind of a misreading. Orwell's key insight is that there's something really awful that's deep inside all of us that makes us want to be slaves. In one pre-1984 essay he called this "nationalism":

the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.


Duncan is correct that 1984 reflects the war that had just taken place, but Orwell was singularly conscious that there was an even bigger war still going on (in fact, he may have been the first person to use the phrase "cold war"). He could see that propaganda, partisanship, and loyalty to a given political ideology that no one should be allowed to question were not things we hate, in fact it is our sick, self-annihilating love of these things that will ruin us.
Mithril! The dwarves tell no tales. But just as it was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled.
User avatar
Tigger of Kai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 4171
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 12:26 am
Location: Scarborough, Canada

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:18 pm

Tigger of Kai wrote:He could see that propaganda, partisanship, and loyalty to a given political ideology that no one should be allowed to question were not things we hate, in fact it is our sick, self-annihilating love of these things that will ruin us.


... says the guy who gets his information from ideology-driven talk radio and sneers at anything resembling internationalism or bipartisanship.

The truly dystopian aspect of our society seems to be that some have their senses of irony surgically removed at birth.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
User avatar
WeiWenDi
Hedgehog Emperor
 
Posts: 3830
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:09 am
Location: L'Étoile du Nord

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby agga » Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:27 pm

huxley and orwell were both very perceptive, but about different aspects of society. huxley maybe had a better idea of where human culture and social life were going, whereas orwell better perceived how political and state development might go. since these are different realms, it's hard to say who was 'more accurate'. ranbir's cartoon focuses on more everyday matters like factors of consumerism, which makes it appear that huxley's novel was closer to the truth.

still, one could easily come up with a cartoon listing factors of the 'eternal wars' of recent decades accompanied by deeply illogical villainization of other nations, steady acquisition by states of sublimely coercive power against their citizens, etc, which are substantial in american life as well as in other nations. these are things which have existed for millenia - orwell simply described them in the most depressing, oppressive context he could imagine. i live a comfortable, healthy life as an american prole, so despite the "freedom is war" that gets fed out by our government on a day-to-day basis, it's hard to see, outright, the parallels between 1984 and my everyday life.
造反有理!
User avatar
agga
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1060
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 6:45 pm

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Sun Jul 19, 2009 6:38 pm

agga wrote:one could easily come up with a cartoon listing factors of the 'eternal wars' of recent decades accompanied by deeply illogical villainization of other nations, steady acquisition by states of sublimely coercive power against their citizens, etc, which are substantial in american life as well as in other nations. these are things which have existed for millenia - orwell simply described them in the most depressing, oppressive context he could imagine. i live a comfortable, healthy life as an american prole, so despite the "freedom is war" that gets fed out by our government on a day-to-day basis, it's hard to see, outright, the parallels between 1984 and my everyday life. (emphasis added)

"Steady" is not a word I would use here, since the past two centuries have been much more spectacularly horrible than preceding ones. This is because the surges in state power have accompanied the surges in technological advancement — a key theme of 1984. I think what interested Orwell, even more than the mass production of guns and bombs, was the bureaucratization allowed by modern technology. That's where the Thought Police come from.

We proles of today have to deal with bureaucrats far more than our ancestors ever did. One example is the rise in my own country of government "Human Rights Commissions". From their name, and our reading of Orwell, we know right away that such commissions will inevitably take as their mission the censorship of magazines and the internet.
Mithril! The dwarves tell no tales. But just as it was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled.
User avatar
Tigger of Kai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 4171
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 12:26 am
Location: Scarborough, Canada

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Jul 19, 2009 10:25 pm

Oh, this is rich. Luddism was generally not a defining feature of Orwell's work. Orwell was much more interested in the destruction of language, how words can take on definitions that they did not originally have and how new forms of language can develop to systematically exclude and control people (as in 'all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others'). In the West, though, it generally isn't government bureaucracies that are to blame for the spread of Newspeak, but people like this guy and the pundits who parrot his talking points - who claim that the only 'real' racists are people whose skin is not white and/or whose surnames are not Anglo, who discredit accepted facts about human evolution and participation in climate change by inventing 'controversies' and using them to anger poor rural whites and deflect their attention away from their economic exploitation, who claim that 'Ignorance is Strength' we have the best health insurance system in the world and that we have always been at war with Eastasia Afghanistan Iraq (and who moreover loudly proclaim that 'War is Peace' 'if we don't kill them over there we'll have to kill them here').

And, true to form, when your favourite blowhard's feely-feelings get hurt, you rush to his defence rather than calling him out for his wilful destruction of the English language for political leverage and profit.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
User avatar
WeiWenDi
Hedgehog Emperor
 
Posts: 3830
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:09 am
Location: L'Étoile du Nord

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Ranbir » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:04 am

I think we have elements of both. The growing authortarians which we are too dulled with "stuff" to care about opposing.
"The imaginary number is a fine and wonderful resource of the human spirit, almost an amphibian between being and not being." - Gottfried Leibniz
Science snobbery.
User avatar
Ranbir
For Queen and Country
 
Posts: 8503
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2003 9:27 am
Location: Your heart. <3

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:57 pm

I think we've got drugs because we crave them and we'll get totalitarianism because we crave that, too.
Mithril! The dwarves tell no tales. But just as it was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled.
User avatar
Tigger of Kai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 4171
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 12:26 am
Location: Scarborough, Canada

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby agga » Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:56 am

Tigger of Kai wrote:we'll get totalitarianism because we crave that, too.


i don't get it. of course, i haven't read brave new world since high school.

orwell's dystopia wasn't about the populace desiring certain things and then ironically getting what they asked for. it was about how party, politics, and state can hold power by controlling information above all else.

today's totalitarian states (depending on your definition - i would count only one, the DPRK, with a number of other 'aspirants', though more have existed in the recent past) didn't come to exist because people wanted them in some twisted, irresponsible and unintentional way. they came to exist because of a combination of rigid, top-down political structure, and immense violent conflict. in other words, you must have an authoritarian political system and a civil war in order to 'get totalitarianism'. even then, you're more likely to avoid it because of democratic pressures.

i don't see how any western state is headed towards totalitarianism. our government spreads misinformation about itself and other countries, but it doesn't exert any significant control over public information, except in what it lamely labels "matters of national security", i.e. military and administration business. this sucks in general, but is hardly related to totalitarian control over the populace.

what we *are* heading for is more and more efficient masking of government behavior - the interests of the state are becoming more and more detached from the interests of the populace. when i mention steady acquisition of coercive power, i'm talking about the long view, over the last couple of centuries. printed propaganda, radio speeches, television commercials for warplanes and political officers, all incorporating implicit threats to the populace that The Enemy is coming, for them, soon, unless.. there was a spike in this stuff ~60 years ago, but it's still progressing. e.g., the Iraq war was masked against public discontent, in multiple ways, much more efficiently than the Vietnam war.

the only thing tamping things down (in the US), and just barely, is the split-party system we have here, where each side defends its own style of masking and warmongering, while trying to tear down the other side. the root *notion* of masking and warmongering, however, is never really at stake. the public goes along with this not because we are slaves, but because we are saps.
造反有理!
User avatar
agga
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1060
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 6:45 pm

Next

Return to Literature, Academics, and Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 2 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved