Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Solzhenitsyn is dead: Long live Aldous Huxley

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. He was a real life Winston Smith, George Orwell's character in 1984 who committed thought crimes against the Party. Only Solzhenitsyn, unlike the fictional Smith, actually got away with broadcasting the atrocities of totalitarianism and lived to see the demise of the Party.

While Winston Smith became a martyr, Alexander Solzhenitsyn became a prophet.

But with the death of communism, it is no longer Orwell's vision that casts a shadow on humanity; rather, it is the vision of another writer who wrote his dystopia 16 years earlier than Orwell whose prophecies are now being fulfilled.

Writing a few years earlier than Orwell, Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World, wrote of a future world far different from that of 1984. As Neil Postman once observed, Orwell's world was one in which people were enslaved by the things they hate, while Huxley's was one in which people were enslaved by the things they love. In Huxley's world people are not ordered by any Big Brother to do things they don't like: they're merely expected to do all the things they do like--without restraint. They are to have all their desires satiated. No pleasure is to go unhad.

In fact, Solzhenitsyn had a few things to say about this himself.

The old Orwellian world of communist totalitarianism needed a Gulag to imprison people. The new Huxleyan world needs no prison camps: the slavery is evident anywhere there is a television, or a computer, or a cellphone.

Where is its prophet?


Anonymous said...

You be the prophet, Martin! Pronounce the doom of our time to the world, like a Hebrew prophet of old!

Martin Cothran said...


If you can guarantee me the ability to call down plagues from heaven, I'm game.

Anonymous said...

All we need is a gramme of soma...