“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, 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, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.
- Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”
we live in a world where we, the oppressed, have learned to love our oppressors. so much so, we have adopted their role, we hurt ourselves by our own hands. we wade comfortability in a sea of irrelevance, vanity, and entertainment. we strive towards the state of forgetfulness (غفلة). it has become unnatural to willingly put ourselves in a position of hardship. indifference to life has become the status quo. we feed into the need for ease – at the cost of our time, mental health, and humanity. and so the more we attempt to quench our insatiable desires the more we slow down – we have become roaming vessels, reinforcing each other to forget. the world is in desperate need for a wake up call. these reminders visit us often, glimpses of light that are often painted as darkness. death, tragedy, disaster. but these moments feel less like a kick to our chairs and more like entering a confused daze – not being able to discern reality from a dream. there is a blink of light, but the false comfort offers a comatose which allows us to quickly shake away the voices pleading us to wake up. we begin to believe that the distant call of our reality is the true illusion. we are working against our evolutionary nature. we crave our own poison. there is no need for an outsider to come and set fire to our temples. we have oppressed ourselves – there is no greater oppression than this.