Jeff and I pair-read 1984 and Brave New World a couple of years ago. Most people – me included, until my latest reading – seem to miss the point of 1984. ‘1984’ means they are watching you to those with only a casual acquaintance with the book. ‘1984′ should mean they are manipulating language, history and even thought to make criticism impossible. The lessons of 1984 seemed very relevant a couple of years ago (I wait with bated breath to see if the American public can see through the lies in the present election season) but I expect, that if we end up in a dystopia, it will be closer to the one described in Brave New World where even the alphas are conditioned and everyone is happy with their lot because all their basic needs are provided for.
I picked up Huxley’s Island without knowing what to expect. It started well (I fear I oversold it to Jeff based on that promising beginning) but what seemed at the first to be an overly stodgy exposition turned out to be the entire thrust of the book.
If you can get over the fact that you are reading Huxley’s prescription for utopia – dystopias are so much more interesting as long as you don’t have to live in them – it wasn’t too bad. I like the idea that you could build a perfect society by combining the harmless, distilled essence of Buddhist spirituality with the most positive offerings of science and technology. But – and I am sure it won’t surprise you, even if you haven’t read the book yet – it’s the unenlightened ones on the outside who will come along and fuck it all up for you.
Back to 1984 for a moment…the horrific ending of 1984 completely neutralizes, negates and ultimately ruins 1984 for me. It’s like an another corollary to Godwin’s Law. Room 101/the Holocaust were so evil that to compare anyone or anything with them is such an over-exaggeration you automatically lose the argument. If the Nazis had not committed the terrible crimes of the holocaust and if Orwell had not rolled out the rats-in-a-cage-torture-device you could make some very fruitful analogies with the Nazi’s and with Airstrip One’s manipulation of popular opinion. But because they did, anything short of 6,000,000 seems benign by comparison. I am not complaining about Godwin’s Law – 6,000,000 murders is a lot of evil – but I wish it were safe to quote Orwell and Rove in the same sentence. It should be.