Quote of the week

Dystopia. Who predicted it better? As the Gods of Clickbait might say, the answer may surprise you:

It probably says something about us that we accept the dystopian future of Orwell as being to some degree inevitable, despite the fact he has proven to be wrong about most things. He was not wrong about everything. He got communism right in Animal Farm. His critique of writing is timeless and is probably more applicable today than in his era. On the other hand, the future is not “a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” Not even close. The future is a bot making sure you never get your feelings hurt or have a bad day.

In that regard, Huxley has proven to be the more prescient. Brave New World was much more accurate, especially with regards to the upper classes. Whether or not we will ever be “decanting” humans is questionable, but science may be closer to genetically enhancing people than maybe is proper. Similarly, H. G. Wells understood the arc of humanity was toward a softer end than Orwell imagined. His depiction of the Eloi, and his explanation for why they existed, is being proven out today.

Even so, Orwell is what resonates with us even today, as we drift into the soft authoritarianism of the custodial state. The most likely reason is that at some level, people understand that at the core of every Utopian scheme is a coldness toward humanity that eventually leads to the sort of ugliness we associate with Orwell. Huxley’s future is eerie and disconcerting, but Orwell’s gets right to the heart of it. There is no hope and there is no joy, because in Utopia, those things have been banned.

If you’d asked my high-school class in the late 1960, who studied both these authors, they’d definitely have preferred Huxley’s version of London to Orwell’s Oceania. Then again, not one of them likely imagined being any lower down than Beta-Minus.


  1. fillyjonk »

    25 June 2017 · 12:06 pm

    I’ve said for about 20 years that Brave New World is the dystopia we’re gonna get, and likely the one we ask for.

    /adjusts hipster glasses

  2. McG »

    25 June 2017 · 8:24 pm

    Orwell wasn’t saying Big Brother’s INGSOC was inevitable, only that unleavened socialism could end no other way.

    In 1948 when he was writing 1984, Churchill hadn’t yet returned to Downing Street and Thatcher was an aspiring research chemist. But Orwell was critiquing British socialism, not Britain.

  3. Brett »

    25 June 2017 · 9:02 pm

    Neil Postman also leaned towards Huxley’s dystopia as more likely for our society.

  4. CGHill »

    25 June 2017 · 10:52 pm

    Consistent with Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, which is almost a handbook for our far-off Fordian future.

  5. Holly H »

    26 June 2017 · 11:54 am

    “hipster glasses” haha!

    I don’t blame it on any kind of socialism, capitalism or any -ism. I blame it on drones. We should be howling at the casual acceptance of cop-drones in every neighborhood. Once they are in place, we will have the Brave New World, full-stop.

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