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Kyle Smith has a helpful piece in the New York Post exploring various parallels between Aldous Huxley’s 1932 sci-fi dystopian novel Brave New World and the reality 80 years later. Here’s the opening:

If Orwell’s “1984” is a cautionary tale about what we in the capitalist West largely avoided, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is largely about what we got — a consumerist, post-God happyland in which people readily stave off aging, jet away on exotic vacations and procreate via test tubes. They have access to “Feelies” similar to IMAX 3-D movies, no-strings-attached sex, anti-anxiety pills and abortion on demand. They also venerate a dead high-tech genius, saying “Ford help him” in honor of Henry Ford just as today we practically murmur “In Jobs We Trust.”

In many ways the book, which was published 80 years ago this winter, has become sci-non-fi. It is still developing, taking on additional richness according to the times in which we read it.

You can read the rest here. One more excerpt:

Huxley also foresaw a disturbing partnership between the state and capitalism but didn’t anticipate how little need for government collusion sophisticated marketers would need to reorder society. In “Brave New World,” the state has suppressed all simple sports because they don’t require lots of expensive equipment to keep the economy humming. Instead, it relentlessly hypes complicated tech-y activities such as “electromagnetic golf.” A couple of generations ago, kids might have bought one baseball glove and one bat that would last for years. Today they instead spend hundreds of dollars on Xbox 360s and games that quickly become boring and demand to be replaced with upgraded versions.

Thanks to subliminal messages repeated thousands of times in nurseries while kids sleep, the “Brave New World” characters grow up conditioned to accept a disposable society in which everyone is always hungry for the latest thing and simply discards the old. Huxley would be surprised to see that no such indoctrination is necessary to make people throw away an iPhone that was state of the art three years ago and line up overnight to get a slightly improved version.

In his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Neil Postman argued that Huxley’s dystopia was coming to fruition more than that of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949):

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, 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.

. . . Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

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12 thoughts on “A Brave New World Is Here”

  1. donsands says:

    “Pleasure is sovereign.”

    Sad that this is so evident in the Church as well; not just the world, where it belongs.

    And the truth is that there is pleasure for the disciple of Jesus Christ. But there is also a cross to bear, and many pleasures that we need to die to.

    Jesus said to the people in His day: “Why do you not understand My speech? because you cannot hear My Word. …because I tell you the truth, you believe me not. ….He that is of God hears God’s words: you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God.” John 8:43-47
    And Jesus concludes with this word: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I Am.” He then “hid Himself” and left these murderers, for it was not time for them to put our Savior to death.

    All humans are dead in sin, and they “cannot” hear the truth. Only through a move of the Holy Spirit will we see sinners come to life, or be quickened from the dead.
    I pray our Lord would sned a fresh wave of His mercy upon our nation, and we would see millions of souls come to know they wretches, and they cry out for Jesus to forgive them. And they come to faith, and come to love Christ. Amen.

  2. Luke Gossett says:

    I am a bible college Junior, and I read this book my senior year of high school and saw many parallels with the culture with which
    I live.

    Slowly over time I have developed the vocabulary so as to express what I thought but had not had the time to revisit this. Thus, I thoroughly enjoyed this article because it seems our modern day literary prophet is being vindicated.

    Thanks for the heads up about the article.

  3. Luke says:

    I cant understand JT’s obsession with Amusing Ourselves to Death…how many related posts have there been in the last 5 years? at least as many…

    1. Arminian says:

      – because it’s a great book. I would be happy for JT to do more posts on it. Bring ‘em on! What I don’t get is why you would mind his posting on it.

    2. T L says:

      always looking for something new, eh?

  4. E.C. Hock says:

    The “Brave New World” has been here for awhile, present like pot plants growing under artifical light in the basements of our universities. Its ideas like seeds were buried in the minds of students and fringe-type activists, but it was a new generation taking root by way of academic risks, jabs and thrusts. The happy, prosperous, optimistic culture about us, and in us, remained largely inactive while all this took hold. We who would disagree and resist, forgot that in a fallen world, nothing is corrected by staying inactive. But much is advanced by being stubbornly active.

  5. Allison says:

    We get Huxley. Communist countries get Orwell.

  6. Chris Taylor says:

    Huxley, not Orwell was right? Are they not both right, with Huxley vision coming to pass first?

    1. Michael says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head.

  7. Eric V says:

    Good book. Good commentary. Thanks for the post!

    1. Steve Webb says:

      I read Brave New World in the late 60s. I was in junior high school at the time and thus, very impressionable. It is one of the few books I read back then that I have thought about often through the decades.

      I agree with Allison’s comment: “We get Huxley. Communist countries get Orwell.”

      I would add that if present political trends continue, we may end up with an amalgamation of the two.

      1. T L says:

        Yes, it was one of them who said the reality will be a mix — 1984 only for those who don’t like it and refuse to be induced.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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