Soon after 1984 was published George Orwell sent a copy to his old French teacher – better known as Aldous Huxley, author of the other great dystopian novel, Brave New World.
Huxley’s answer, now posted on Letters of Note, complimented Orwell’s book but argued that his own vision of the future was more likely to come true:
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World.
They were both right.
Orwell well described the Soviets, who with the Maoists survived for half a century more.
Huxley’s world lies ahead of us, still. Consumerism is a milder form, I suspect.
Speaking of both Maoists and Consumerism, there’s a very interesting novel “The Fat Years,” written by Chan Koonchung, a Chinese novelist. It’s banned in China, illegal to own or read, but apparently the hottest thing on the Mainland since Nixon’s visit. The novel is set just next year, in 2013. Its premise begins with a deeper, longer recession in The West than seems to be the real case. The Party has officially announced that the Golden Age of China’s Ascendancy has begun, and from now on the Chinese will lead to world in culture, science and consumerism. From all appearances, it seems so…
Lao Chen is a fatuous, self-satisfied writer from Taiwan, who believes the new China is the best of all possible worlds and that China has resumed its manifest destiny. Then he runs into an old friend who seems totally out of tune with everyone else — he is *not* happy! He is distraught in fact, and insists that an entire month has vanished from everyone’s memory, the month between the crash of the West and the announcement of China’s Assendancy. The whole book follows from there, as Lao begins to uncover the real facts.
The books is somewhat crude, in construction, but very clever in its analysis of China’s economic power, it’s hypocritical consumer society and the carefully manicured image of the State, which is virtually as All-Powerful as it was under Mao. No wonder you do hard-time for owning a copy of this book in Beijing.
It’s very relevant to the West also. Clearly many of our leaders think all too much the way the members of the Central Committee of the CCP do — that consumer society is just a way to keep the peasants quiet and satisfied, while all the wealth and power is in the total control of a Mandarin class.