Orwell or Huxley ?
In his book ‘1984’ George Orwell’s vision of the future was of an authoritarian government that rules by brute force and by restricting the flow of information and communication. Aldous Huxley, on the other hand, envisaged a society in his book ‘Brave New World’ where people are distracted into passivity by a constant flow of trivial information and entertainment.
So who got it right ? Well personally I think they both did. Kind of.
Most of the time you can clearly see Huxleys vision prevailing in our society. We float along unthinking in a world of constant, 24/7 distraction and entertainment. Music and movies and the internet and social-networking and American Idol and celebrity gossip and shopping and advertisements and all of the shiny gadgets and sound-bytes of disinformation leave very little time to either think about or question the state of our society. We’re too busy consuming to revolt.
But what if, rarely, a few people manage to unplug themselves from the distraction for long enough to take a serious look at the way we live ? What if they understand what is going on and rebel against a society where the majority is exploited for the benefit of a tiny, privileged minority ? What if they understand the harsh truth that there’s no hope of fundamental change through the present deeply corrupt political system and instead challenge the status quo with direct action ?
That’s when it can switch in an instant to Orwells vision of the future. That’s when we see the force of militarized police and a legal system that works for our rulers. If you ever cease to be a good consumer and actually look like you’re threatening the system you can expect to be met with clubs and pepper-spray and dirty tricks and smears and even jail-time. Orwell said “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face forever.” Not forever, just when there’s any real challenge to the status quo. Then you see the ugly face behind the mask.
Between them, I think Orwell and Huxley were scarily accurate in predicting the future but what neither foresaw was that we would end up with the worst of both worlds. Being squeezed relentlessly by an iron fist disguised in a velvet glove.
Still, what can you do ? I wonder whats on TV tonight ?