George Orwell’s book 1984 paints a picture of a dark, gray world. People are afraid to say anything contrary to the official party line, and surveillance is universal.Even thinking contrary to the party is a crime, and thoughtcrimes may be treated by radical psychological intervention. Information is closely controlled by the party media, and the historical record is routinely edited, so as to conform to the latest party statements.
By contrast, in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley paints a colorful, superficially pleasant world. Personal freedom of all kinds is encouraged, even to the point of being a cultural imperative. In the book a young boy is referred to a therapist, because he doesn’t want to play sex games with a girl classmate.An adult character is considered aberrant, because he is drawn toward a monogamous relationship. Drugs and distractions are readily available for mood enhancement.Central to Huxley’s world is the abolition of the family. Sex never results in pregnancy, and embryos are grown in a production process, based on selected seed material.
From embryo to adulthood, the state has fine-tuned control over the development of the person, and of their thinking. In the resulting society, people behave as they were programmed to behave, and can’t imagine things being any different.
In Orwell’s world, wrong-thought (thoughtcrime) is detected and suppressed. In Huxley’s world, wrong-thought is unlikely to arise. Orwell’s world suppresses the individual; Huxley’s world manufactures the individual.In both cases, mind control – control over what people are able to think – is the strategy of the regime, as its means of social control generally. Orwell explores a brute-force approach to mind control, while Huxley explores a scientific approach.
Echoes of Orwell
Consider the world of mainstream journalists, in particular TV news anchors. There we have a world with echoes of 1984, where what is said must conform to the party line.Any thoughtcrime – such as an anchor commenting onscreen that he doesn’t buy the official story of 9/11, or he thinks Russia isn’t an aggressor – would be quickly punished by the equivalent of death – expulsion from the world of journalism.
Even though our society doesn’t fully resemble Orwell’s dystopia, his mind control methods are operating in very critical places, where the population’s ‘information’ is generated.And of course we do have universal surveillance, courtesy of the NSA, omnipresent CCTV cameras, and cell-phone tracking. Big Brother is with us, but he stays behind the scenes, he sees all, and he decides what stories we will be told about the world by the mainstream media.
Echoes of Huxley
Huxley wrote a review of 1984, where he talked about the two different future visions. He suggested that we might go through some kind of dark period, reminiscent of 1984, but he thinks such a regime would be unstable and transitional.He goes on to say that the scientific approach to mind control, based on programming people’s belief systems, would be the more sensible choice for a modern totalitarian society.
US Government research into scientific mind control began at least in the 1960’s, and has been ongoing. The first approach , the CIA’s Operation MKULTRA was heavy handed, reminiscent of 1984. This research involved giving people psychotropic drugs, along with post-hypnotic suggestions. Interestingly Huxley became a cult figure during the 60’s advocating sexual liberation and Halluciongenic drug use for the masses.
The society described in Brave New World is in fact a cult-based society. Each of the classes (alpha, beta, etc.) is a cult, and the programming begins at birth.No charismatic leader is needed, when so much control over programming is available. Each cult has its own core belief system, along with packaged arguments to maintain those beliefs.(Big Brother becomes irrelevant, because the population will police themselves)
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