Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brave New World vs. 1984

When I knew Huxley was a student of George Orwell, I began to have more interested in the book of “Brave New World,” but I found Huxley and Orwell actually described two very different worlds, though they were both anti-authoritarian. Since I read “1984” during last summer, the comparison between these two books is more attractive to me.

“Social critic Neil Postman contrasts the worlds of 1984 and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He writes:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.”

For me, “1984” is not only a fiction, but an ironic version of the reality. Many things in the book are not only imagination, but truly happened and still happening in the world, which is the point why I was kind of terrified by the book, because I could relate to my real life. Books being banned, information against authority being deleted, truth being covered or revised, fear dominated in any invisible ways… As long as authoritarian society exists, all these characters are real, no matter in 1984 or 2084.

Comparatively, “Brave New World” seems more out of reach, at least it still sounds like a fiction, and many things in the book are still beyond imagination. But the interesting thing is, when thinking about the overwhelming information we have today, the preference of popular entertainment rather than reading or thinking, our desires more and more getting out of control of traditional morality, I’m not sure the world Huxley described would never happen in the future.

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