Tradition and liberty in science fiction and fantasy: Part Ten – Three key works
It may be said that, while Huxley's work represents "soft totalitarianism", and Orwell's "hard totalitarianism" there are certainly some similarities in the exercise of power in both these dystopias.
Huxley's work shows how a system of exercising power can be incredibly "soft", yet extremely totalitarian at the same time. As Mustapha Mond (a “World Controller”) himself points out over various passages, the most important elements of exercising rule in such a consistently modern regime are the negation of God, history, family, and indeed of all "strong emotions", of all matters over which one has to feel very strongly about.
Although Orwell had focussed on a system that was extremely totalitarian in the openly coercive sense, despite this he pointed out in the "Appendix" that ultimately, the whole system rested on the appropriate control and steering of semantics and terminology -- "Newspeak is Ingsoc, and Ingsoc is Newspeak". In today's West, the managerial-therapeutic elites understand that there is no great need to invent all that many new words, or to formally ban the use of old words – although this is indeed taking place to some extent. But there is certainly, absolutely no need for book-burnings. All the "old words" seem to be going out of fashion and departing from the world-historical scene apparently of their own accord. (Albeit with a little help from the mass-media, mass-education, and consumption systems.) Often these "old words" gain new meanings, sometimes virtually opposite to their "old meaning". Musty old texts can continue to exist, but almost no one can now understand, or, more importantly, recreate in their own hearts, the words found there. Consider, for example, how a word like "virtue" -- for which many persons from years ago were ready to dedicate or give their lives without hesitation -- is now usually only met with a derisive half-smile.
Another highly insightful thought of Orwell, concerns his understanding of the role of "Goldsteinism" (i.e., of a bugbear or bogeyman) in maintaining the cutting-edge dynamism of a ruling ideology. Orwell writes:
"... the more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon -- and yet they will always survive."
Does this not offer us a certain insight into the mentality of some left-liberals in a society like America? It would seem, on the face of it, that America is a uniquely liberal society, when looking at the broad world-historical landscape. But American left-liberals are always spying out some "dark forces" threatening this society from within. This gives them the ability to carry out a recurring "morality-play", where the "good, decent liberals" are always in danger from "dark forces" -- which of course demands a general mobilization of "progressive forces" -- culminating in the highly-satisfying defeat, and consignment to oblivion, of the insidious bogeyman. New threats indeed always arise, spreading to gargantuan proportions, but are somehow always beaten back "in the nick of time", and "by the slimmest of odds".
Another insight into some left-liberals' unusually vindictive stances is offered in Berthold Brecht's statement to Sidney Hook about Stalin's show-trials: "The more innocent they were, the more they deserved to be punished!"
The third work to be mentioned here is the very serious, shattering book of the French author Jean Raspail, "Le Camp des Saints" (The Camp of the Saints) (1973) which portrays the literal fall of the European world, under the tide of uncontrolled Third World immigration. This book has been described as the dystopia closest in spirit to our contemporary times.
One might well ask, what the new-old society represented by the term "feudal values plus high-technology" could mean today? It could be seen as a society that would combine the deep wisdom and spiritual satisfaction of premodern societies with the advantages of technology used for humankind, not against it. It would be a society in which persons who seek "the higher things" would be cherished and respected, while at the same time the entire society would be integrated into an overall harmony full of meaning, fulfilling the archetypal desire for that which is truly natural. It might well be admitted that this is a direction appearing rather utopian in the current-day context.
Science fiction, however, offers us a series of warnings as well. If we do not take some kind of course in "a better direction", there might well await us a whole series of liberal "utopias" (which are actually dystopias) (typified by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World), or coercively totalitarian dystopias (typified by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four), or the "gritty future" of cyberpunk, or possibly even some kind of technological catastrophes (e.g., through out-of-control nanotechnology or bio-engineering), as a result of which humankind will literally become extinct. It may nevertheless be hoped that perhaps the warnings may indeed be heeded.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.