I just pulled my 1985 copy of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death off my shelf and read there words:
“Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell [in 1984] warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision [Brave New World], no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
“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, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
That is from the Foreword. This is from the last chapter::
“There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first – the Orwellian – culture becomes a prison. In the second – the Huxleyan – culture becomes a burlesque….
“What Huxley teaches is that in an age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch hm, by our choice. There is no need for wardens or gates or ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversations become a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, that nation finds itself at risk.”
Now, with ears to hear, re-read slowly.
©2017 by Charles Strohmer
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
1984, George Orwell
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Charles – excellent reflections on Huxley and Orwell. Thank you so much for alerting me to this. I am particularly interested in Huxley because of his advocacy of the perennial philosophy which is very influential today and in my humble view needs combating. Great blogging.
I had to resist the temptation to talk more about Huxley’s perennial philosophy when I mentioned it in Chapter 3 of “Odd Man Out.” I take your point about his PP. I’d say that, like Jung’s psychologized occult cosmology, Huxley’s PP was his reaction to not wanting to be suffocated in the box of philosophical materialism and rationalism. So, like Jung, he does point us to something other. Also like Jung, he sadly pointed to the wrong One. Both of their lives are so fascinating that I’m wondering, now, if there aren’t some apt illustrations from their lives that wouldn’t make good additions to your teaching and new book. E.g., apparently H. spent a lot of his own money transporting Jewish refugees out of Nazi Germany. And did you know that H., CS Lewis, President Kennedy all died on the same day?
Thank you for your continued support, Mark, and for taking time to send this note. To followers of my blog, I recommend Mark’s new book on creative ways to share the Christian faith: https://www.amazon.com/Spy-Rat-Bed-Nails-Christian/dp/0995757208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494342771&sr=8-1&keywords=mark+roques+the+rat