Following are 3 classic dystopian books that under current conditions are worth reading again. 1984 has class hierarchy of 2% upper class, 13% Middle class and 85% poor becoming a reality and asks the question can 2+2=5 Brave New World The common good has fallen away to ‘winners take all’ attitude. Governments are protecting the privileged and the rest are considered outsiders. Fahrenheit 451 has the masses being distracted by entertainment of virtual reality technology and drugged out on opiates. A fanciest dictatorship orders all books banned and to be burnt because he says, they cause unhappiness and mental illness because of conflicting opinions.
1984 by George Orwell
In 1984, London is a grim city in the totalitarian state of Oceania where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston Smith is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.
The class hierarchy of Oceania has three levels:
- (I) the upper-class Inner Party, the elite ruling minority, who make up 2% of the population.
- (II) the middle-class Outer Party, who make up 13% of the population.
- (III) the lower-class Proletariat, who make up 85% of the population and represent the uneducated working class.
As the government, the Party controls the population with four ministries:
- The Ministry of Peacedeals with war and defense.
- The Ministry of Plentydeals with economic affairs (rationing and starvation).
- The Ministry of Lovedeals with law and order (torture and brainwashing).
- The Ministry of Truthdeals with news, entertainment, education and art (propaganda).
- The Thought Police stamps out anyone who does not fully conform to their regime and constant surveillance, through devices such as (Telescreens two-way televisions. (Watch out for Google ‘alexa’)
Nineteen Eighty-Four popularized the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.
There are some similarities between now and 1984: 1) The US has been in constant war since 1776 (except for 36 years). 2) After 3000 lies documented by the New York Times ‘alternative truth’ has entered our vocabulary. 2+2 does not equal 5 as Winston Smith finally believed! 3) China, Russia, North Korea and the Saudi Arabia (remember the oil embargo) are now our friends and Canada, France and the rest of G6 are now our enemies. 4) With Presidential authoritarianism and worldwide fascism, George Orwell’s 1984 is taking on a new life with extraordinary relevance and renewed popularity. 5) The class hierarchy of 1984 of 2% upper, 13% Middle and 85% poor is becoming a reality. Though the year 1984 now exists in the past, Orwell’s novel remains an urgent call for the individual willing to speak truth to power.
“Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.”—The New Yorker
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Published in 1932, it propounds that economic chaos and unemployment will cause a radical reaction in the form of an international scientific empire that manufactures its citizens in the laboratory on a eugenic basis, without the need for human intercourse.
The World State is built upon the principles of Henry Ford‘s assembly line: mass production, homogeneity, predictability, and consumption of disposable consumer goods. While the World State lacks any supernatural-based religions, Ford himself is revered as the creator of their society but not as a deity, and characters celebrate Ford Day and swear oaths by his name (e.g., “By Ford!”). The novel’s Gregorian calendar year is AD 2540, but it is referred to in the book as AF 632 (2,560 AD)
From birth, members of every class are indoctrinated by recorded voices repeating slogans while they sleep (called “hypnopædia” in the book) to believe their own class is superior, but that the other classes perform needed functions. Any residual unhappiness is resolved by his society’s methods of keeping its citizens peaceful, which includes their constant consumption of a soothing drug called soma.
This books relevance to today is the drinking of the common ‘kool-aide’ of Corporate indoctrination “If it good for the corporation it must be good for the nation’ Formerly ‘What’s good for General Motors is good for the country. The common good has fallen away to ‘winners take all’ attitude. Governments are protecting the privileged and the rest are considered outsiders.
Hitler’s ‘master race’ is definitely implied. The biological techniques used to control the populace in Brave New World do not include genetic engineering because Huxley wrote the book before the structure of DNA was known. Now the upper class has access for it’s children through superior education and personal contacts. However, if you can afford it why not enhance the embryo?
–“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradury
A new movie based on the 1953 on the book of the same name by Ray Bradbury is now on HBO. It is a good reminder of what can happens when a fanciest dictatorship orders all books banned and to be burnt because he says, they cause unhappiness and mental illness because of conflicting opinions. All is fake-new except that which comes from the dictator. There was no objection by the populous as their entertainment requirements required only a short visual attention span and have no interest in in-depth media investigative reporting or in reading of literature. The masses were being distracted by entertainment of virtual reality technology and drugged out on opiates.
The term ‘Bonfire of the vanities,’ refers to the bonfire on February, 7 1497, when supporters of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy, More recently we have had Nazi book burning, Joseph Stalin’s ‘Great Purge, Mao’s ‘Red Guard’ and many attempts in the US to censorship, including in 1987, when the Florida Panama City School Board banned Fahrenheit 451 from their library. Hopefully, the message of this book and movie is a preventer of a dystopian future and not a predictor.
Carl M Birkelbach 6/9/2018