A friend recently sent me a link to a fascinating letter. It was written by Aldous Huxley in 1949, and addressed to his former student, George Orwell. Huxley briefly taught French at Eton College in Berkshire, England, just prior to publishing Brave New World. Orwell was no doubt a memorable student to his teacher, and as such, following the 1949 publication of his own dystopian work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he sent a copy to his former French instructor.
After reading Orwell’s groundbreaking book, which was already receiving glowing reviews throughout the world, Huxley penned a letter to his former student containing combinations of both praise and criticism. The critique? Huxley felt he had more accurately predicted the coming dystopian future of mankind in his own novel. (The entire text of that letter is below.)
Huxley began his letter by saying that Nineteen Eighty-Four is “profoundly important,” but then launches into his primary criticism:
“Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World . . . Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers 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 and kicking them into obedience.”
It’s impossible to dismiss Huxley’s accuracy in predicting the “conditioning” of our children now taking place in our public schools, the results of the “next generation’s” Sexual Revolution, or the now epidemic addiction of our population to a wide-ranging selection of opiates, antidepressants, and other psychotropic drugs. In Huxley’s vision of the future, the masses were pacified by the mind-numbing drug Soma and unlimited access to casual sex. By contrast, Orwell saw the control of future generations accomplished by keeping the population in fear of constant wars, an inescapable surveillance state, a denial of legitimate history, and control of all speech and thought.
In 1985, Neil Postman simplified the differences between Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, thusly:
“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 our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
I read both of these books when in high school. Both were required reading. (I’d be surprised if either are now required, anywhere.) I’ve not re-read Brave New World but have come back to Nineteen Eighty-Four on several occasions. Perhaps that is because I had an opportunity to tour several Soviet Bloc countries before the Iron Curtain came down, (going all the way back to the Brezhnev era), and have seen and lived, firsthand, experiences more closely resembling Orwell’s vision.
Today, we’re witnessing almost exclusive editorial comparisons and social media memes to Orwell’s predictions, as related to current events. I’ve referenced Nineteen Eighty-Four on several occasions since the beginning of the coronavirus-spurred lockdowns. Even more so since the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
In 1944, during the heat of World War II, Orwell wrote a letter to Noel Willmett explaining his need to write what would become Nineteen Eighty-Four. A letter perhaps more frighteningly prophetic — in today’s context — than the book itself:
“Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms . . . and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer . . . Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side . . . If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer.”
There you have it. I’ll leave it to your own minds to cobble together the daily, growing examples of fulfilled Orwellian foretelling. (Contact tracing, histories rewritten, statues disassembled, cancelled persons, and the banning of both books and words.)
Huxley still looms large, as we are being somewhat, temporarily pacified by endless streams of entertainment options, record-breaking liquor store sales, and economic bailout checks. Both writers can fairly claim ample stake to the postmodern COVID-19/George Floyd world in which we currently find ourselves, but when I look at both our nation’s statehouses and streets — the lockdowns; declarations of “non-essential” livelihoods; stay-at-home and mandatory mask orders; marches, protests, and riots led by the neo-Marxists leading both BLM and Antifa — I see far more Orwell than Huxley.
“On the whole [they] have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.”
Orwell for the win.
The full text of Huxley’s letter to Orwell:
21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers 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 and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
Thank you once again for the book.
#AldousHuxley #GeorgeOrwell #1984 #BraveNewWorld #CommieVirus2020 #GeorgeFloyd #BLM #UnMaskTheAgenda