30 Day Book Challenge: Day Eight

Book that scares you: Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

While I may not look the part (aside from the tattoos, perhaps), my aesthetic sensibilities are pretty gothic; I love horror, especially body horror, so the ghoulish and macabre are more exciting to me than scary. What does scare me, however, is the political sphere, and the power the elite can yield. I also find it scary the way the elite maintain control and how they can trick the populous into supporting them. What makes Brave New World terrifying is that control is maintained under the subterfuge of pleasure instead of the more obvious fear or force.

When I first read Brave New World I made the mistake or approaching it with the same mindset of 1984 and I was a little disappointed by it. Whether fairly or not, Brave New World has always been and perhaps always will be compared to Orwell’s 1984. They’re regularly spoken together in the same breath as the two models of dystopian literature. However, despite their similar genus, they’re pretty radically different species.

In a word, in 1984 power comes from the top down, whereas in Brave New World it comes from the bottom up. 1984 depicts a regime that conceals truths from its people and in turn invents new “truths” through propaganda. Perhaps the most prophetic aspect of Orwell’s masterpiece is his anticipation of the way governments would use mass media to justify wars via fear mongering. Conversely, in Brave New World, Huxley shows a pleasure seeking society that has grown disinterested in their government due to their unrestrained narcissism. I needn’t remind you of the similarities of the feelies with the current “entertainment industry” and the rapidly expanding empire of Big Pharma with the widely consumption of soma.

Check out this comic:

While this does a good job summarizing both positions and putting them in contrast, I think it’s misguided to qualitatively compare the two. I don’t think it’s a matter of “who got it right,” rather, both authors are analyzing the sinister ways power is unevenly distributed in society and the means by which this landscape is maintained. I think it’s scary simply because they’re so apt.

Despite the incredible distribution of information over the internet, governments still manage to resist transparency, despite increasing their own means of surveillance over the people. Furthermore, people are becoming increasingly apathetic towards politics. Julian Assange, who gives away information on government for free, is a persecuted criminal, while Mark Zuckerberg, who sells our private information to companies, is a billionaire.

I guess I would say Brave New World is more unsettling because it seems so much harder to resist or fight the beast within: the pleasure principle. Fear is a negative emotion and can be fought against and rationalized away; pleasure on the other hand is a positive emotion, and therefore all the more beguiling.

When fascism arrives in North America it’ll be met with an indifferent sigh.




~ by braddunne on June 23, 2011.

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