Orwell, Huxley, and John Spartan

Jonolan at Reflection from a Murky Pond presents an interesting question regarding the trend of leftist totalitarianism. Is our future one imagined by Orwell’s 1984, in which a brutal, repressive government relied upon fear and force to control its population? Or are we headed down the road of Huxley’s Brave New World, toward a future where social engineer has produced a population so narcissistic and dependent upon the government for its pleasures that it eagerly submits?

Orwell depicted a future society where books were banned and where the State would deprive us of information. Huxley posited a future society where would be no reason to ban a book, because there would be no one who would want to read one, but where so much data would be provided that we would be sunk into egoistic pacifism.

[…]

Conservatives, especially those referred to as the Religious Right or Social Conservatives are in Aldous Huxley’s camp. They fear that venality, lusts, and the pursuit of unrestrained transitory pleasures will create a society lost to itself and sunk in depravity.

Liberals, on the other hand, are in George Orwell’s camp. They fear that the State, under one pretext or another, will become forcibly despotic. They fear that hatred and fear will create a totalitarian regime ruling over a captive populace.

I think that Jonolan’s initial assessment in the difference between these two possible future is pretty accurate, but I disagree with his right/left division of who proposes what.  You cannot convince me that the most brutal Socialist regimes in history, run by dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro, and their supporters, feared the implementation of pain and fear by the government. That the Left constantly attempts to demonize the Right for advocating this approach only emphasizes the hypocrisy and dishonesty inherent in Left-wing philosophy, and I’m a little surprised that Jonolan fell for it. This is embodied most clearly in the Left’s continuous demonization of the Right as “fascist,” despite the fact that by every objective analysis of  fascist ideology, it is inherently left-wing.

As Ann Coulter said, if you want to know what the Left is doing, look at what it’s accusing the Right of.

I’ve also not seen many indications of the Right advocating any sort of coherent totalitarianism approaching anything like what either Huxley or Orwell speculated. The most I’ve seen are calls for theocratic rule, which would support something more similar to a monarchy, and have never been anywhere near what was seen in 1984 in terms or either severity or implementation.

As for myself, I think that Huxley’s fears are the more likely to be realized in the near-term. I think it far more likely that the populace will blithely cede its liberty to some oligarchy in the course of its own decline into self-serving venality. Of course that doesn’t mean that, once in power, that oligarchy won’t begin to shift to a more Orwellian model.

I’ll disagree with Jonolan again here, but only to a point. I don’t see a Huxley-esque oppression develop and then morph into a Orwellian oppression. I see them developing hand-in-hand and meeting in a middle that encompasses the oppression that Orwell feared with the narcissistic pleasure and distraction that Huxley feared. Both stick and carrot will be equally applied: the fact that the “wrong” foods will be outlawed will be accompanied by the act that the “right” foods will be seen as trendy and cool and desirable; the fact that certain speech  will be outlawed and punishable will be accompanied by ridicule of those holding disallowed ideas as “unenlightened.”

I don’t see either Huxley or Orwell as having gotten it right. The future we are headed for it the one shown to us in Demolition Man.

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  1. #1 by jonolan on Sat 09 Oct 2010 - 07:35

    I don’t think you can equate the fears of the Liberals with the methodology of those who take advantage of them. Also, the people Germany, Russia, China, and Cambodia didn’t sink themselves is venal pleasures.

    As for Fascism – when someone can provide me with an actual definition for it as a governmental form that isn’t reliant upon utterly subjective and non political/economic criteria, then I can speak to whether it’s inherently Left, Right, or neither / either.

    All that being said, you may well be right about it going the way of Demolition Man. There’s always the risk of a totalitarian nanny state once people stop believing that they have to look out for themselves.

    • #2 by The Republican Heretic on Sat 09 Oct 2010 - 16:49

      I haven’t seen anything that suggests that liberals are especially afraid of the government using fear and pain to control the population. They’re only afraid that the government is going to use them to implement policies that they don’t like. A “progressive” friend of mine has suggested only allowing people with approved college degrees to run for political office or be comment publicly on political issues, has stated that most people don’t know what’s good for them, so it’s okay for the government to tell them how they should live, and has said outright that people who disagree with his political notions regarding gender theory shouldn’t be considered truly human. That does not sound like someone who fears an Orwellian vision of the future: he just wants to be sure that said future pushes his agenda. I have not seen anything to suggest that his views are overly unusual.

      As for fascism, if you haven’t read it, I recommend Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. The fascist movement was founded by socialists, supported by socialists, and pushed what would be recognized as a socialist agenda. Insisting that fascism is right wing is the greatest work of propaganda in history.

      • #3 by jonolan on Sun 10 Oct 2010 - 09:26

        I’ve seen and heard plenty of references from Liberals that are steeped in fear of a traditionally despotic state, so our experiences have either been different or our respective interpretation of them has been so.

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