“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, 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
FREE VIDEO STREAM:
Rare 30 minute (approx) full color Christopher
Isherwood interview from 1974, with the writer in Los Angeles
talking about the film version of Cabaret and other topics.
James Day interviews. Day's video interviews have recently been
restored. Very good picture quality.
More than a century ago, an Indian monk wowed Americans with his
"The Indian monk, born
Narendranath Datta to an aristocratic Calcutta family, alighted in
Chicago in 1893 in ochre robes and turban, with little money after a
daunting two-month trek from Bombay. Notwithstanding the fact that
he had spent the previous night sleeping in a boxcar, the young
mystic made an electrifying appearance at the opening of the august
Parliament of Religions that Sept. 11."
of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine (Huston
Smith with Jeffery
Paine) is named one of the San Francisco
Chronicle's 50 Notable Bay Area books of 2009. SF
Gate says: "In this delightful book, Smith tells us how he became the dean of world religion experts."