Orwell vs Huxley

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

Re: Orwell vs Huxley

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:14 am

agga wrote: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.

Seems to me it’s about a person, named Winston Smith. He struggles with what’s going on around him, and then the struggle ends, thusly:
He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Just as poignant, to me, is the fate of Winston’s neighbor, who gets nicked for thoughtcrime by his own young daughter:
'Are you guilty?' said Winston.
'Of course I'm guilty!' cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen, [...] "Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."

It strikes me just how predisposed we humans are towards abasing ourselves before a Great Leader. “Are you guilty?/Of course I am!” is a good paraphrase from when I used to say confession at church.


agga wrote: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)

I think you’re right (though in Burma there’s a joke that Orwell actually wrote a trilogy about their country: Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and 1984).

agga wrote: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.

That’s a neat definition, but I think it downplays just how widespread totalitarianism was back in the Thirties. Even aside from the Axis, and Spain and Portugal, and the Communist countries, there were fascist or proto-fascist movements in every Western country, even places like Ireland, Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

I think we would do well to reverse the question, and ask, what are the conditions needed to get liberty? Really, the idea of government as a contract between free, self-reliant citizens only ever arose in one country, on a cold, gray, rainy island in the North Sea, and via an improbable series of events got spread around the world. In the fullness of time, this notion may be seen to be just as wonderfully wacky as everything else about the English.

If liberty has run its course, then something will replace it. We’ve been enjoying a nice holiday from totalitarianism, but isn’t it possible that our holiday is now nearing its end?
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 Duncan » Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:37 pm

Tigger of Kai wrote: I think we would do well to reverse the question, and ask, what are the conditions needed to get liberty? Really, the idea of government as a contract between free, self-reliant citizens only ever arose in one country, on a cold, gray, rainy island in the North Sea, and via an improbable series of events got spread around the world. In the fullness of time, this notion may be seen to be just as wonderfully wacky as everything else about the English.

Thanks Tigger - i'll take wonderfully wacky as a supreme compliment! Oddly though, lots of other people have had the idea of a contract between government and free self-reliant citizens. You look at the origins and foundation of many states and that pattern is there, more or less. But careful comparison with conditions on our cold, gray, rainy island in the North Sea will reveal that there have been limitations on freedom and self-reliance in every case. The contract with government we currently enjoy has been pushed along by the European Enlightenment, the foundation of the American Republic and the impact of the French Revolution, all of which frightened people into one camp or another - either extend the contract to a larger proportion of your citizens or repress them by totalitarian means (sometimes doing both at once!).

Tigger of Kai wrote:If liberty has run its course, then something will replace it. We’ve been enjoying a nice holiday from totalitarianism, but isn’t it possible that our holiday is now nearing its end?

I don't think Liberty has run its course. Not by any means. Nor have we thrown off the risk of totalitarianism, but I don't see a top-down bureaucratic totalitarianism coming to a democracy near us any time soon.

What I do see, and I fear, is a Huxley-esque contract where the citizens trade tacit approval of government excesses in exchange for entertainment. Have I mentioned Silvio Berlusconi before?
"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

Previous

Return to Literature, Academics, and Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

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