Brave New World, 1984 and Our Society
Having recently read both Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” & George Orwell’s “1984” I was not only struck by the sheer beauty and eloquence of which both men were able to put across their ideas but also the similarities with our modern society. It is probably not a surprise to learn that Huxley taught Orwell French at Eton where they became life long friends as well as members of the influential socialist think tank and lobbying group “The Fabian Society” (who’s symbol, rather curiously, is a sheep in wolf’s clothing), who were prominent in the creation of The Labour Party. Without ruining the story for any would be readers I intend on examining the themes that co inside in both books and the links I think they have to modern society.
The centralisation of government
In 1984 we learn that the world is controlled by 3 world super states, all at war with each other and in Brave New World the world is controlled by one government with different points of power, in the case of the book in Western Europe. You might well think, upon seeing the words “centralisation of government” and ideas of one or a few authorities controlling a mass of land that I was about to spout of some conspiracy non-sense. Well, I’m not, I am going to mention Europe however. We have both a European Commission and a European President that were unelected by the people of Europe. Not to mention that we have been countlessly promised referendums on our involvement in the EU and yet these promises have never been delivered. In short we have had laws given to us that have not come from elected members of our parliament, but a large centralised European government.
Ah yes, my old foe. In fact, 1984’s view consumerism is a slightly more interesting approach, the idea that consuming and manufacturing can be kept on the up and the suppression and deprivation of the people can also be kept equally high through continuous war. We clearly don’t live in a society too aligned to that (though interestingly, I have to go back as far as 1990 to find a time in which Britain was not involved in some sort of conflict during my life time) we can find more parallels of consumerism with Huxley’s book.
Brave New World see the inhabitants of Western Europe obsessed, through conditioning, with new leisure activities, new clothes and new machines. Infact there is a commission set up that looks into all new games and activities and assesses the amount accessories, parts and add-ons that can be bought on purchase and at later dates. Part of their conditioning is the remembering of phrases including “Ending is better than mending” in terms of clothes.
I’m not suggesting we walk around in rags throwing sticks at each other, but when thinking about that point then looking at products like Ben 10, a cartoon that was brought out along with a long range of toys you could throw at your screaming child or from my very own childhood, Pokémon. “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” but to do so you’re going to need to buy two different versions of the same game, I did love Pokémon though…
Just two left and I’ll keep them short!
The oppression of the underclass
In 1984 the main character, Winston, wrote “If there is hope it lies in the proles (underclass)” and then questioning his own logic “but how’d you make them listen?”. Never truer words said, after all the working and underclass are in the majority all over the world, and if we wanted to instil real and positive change we could. In the two books they are controlled through education, conditioning and diversions. They are never quite allowed to see who is pulling the strings and take no interests in it anyway.
In my home town of Birmingham there is a child poverty rate of just over 30%, a third of the people living in the UK’s second biggest city are dealing with poverty. We can see from education figures that the rates of working class people going to higher education are fairly low in comparison to the middle classes and are abhorrently low for the top university places. The recent scandal in the press have shown the media’s readiness to lie to make a decent story, and more often than not are more concerned with celebrity. Lobbying companies work in the dark with politicians and money men pushing for legislation affecting us, while we do not know the source. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy but it’s certainly not something we should put up with in a one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Now we’re at the crux of the lunacy and conspiracy! In 1984 constant surveillance by the authorities and brain washed children would ratting out any abnormalities controlled the people and in Brave New World any difference in thought was frowned upon and you were outcast from society if it went any further.
I don’t think a totalitarian society exists to enforce that, but I do think the media is more than willing to crucify anyone who offers different opinion. George Galloway in constantly attacked by media on both sides of the Atlantic. From Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly calling him a communist and accused him off accepting tokens of friendship of Saddam, Channel 4 accusing him of cosying up to Fidel Castro a “dictator” and even the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, who when Galloway won the Bethnal Green seat as an independent asked him “Are you proud you got rid of one of the few black women in parliament?”.
He is not alone, we have seen the Murdoch empire manipulate us politically as well as slandering and praising celebrities with lies and deceit.
I will leave you with a quote from a letter Huxley sent to Orwell praising him on 1984 and adding his own thoughts…
“Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”