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Thread: The Coming Dystopia

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    Default The Coming Dystopia

    I'm a pessimist, so of course we're heading for oblivion - but what kind? I read an interesting article recently about correspondence between Orwell and Huxley, with them discussing that the 1984 vision is losing ground over Brave New World. I certainly see many aspects of the latter in modern life.

    Here's a characterisation of their differences by Neil Postman:

    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 egotism. 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, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
    Makes me think that we should ignore the political process if we want to change the world, and instead take the battle to the internet and other forms of media and culture.

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    Senior Member Fsharpmajor's Avatar
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    Strong language warning. That stated, here's one of the Daily Mash's takes on this subject:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/s...-201204035088/

    And another:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/s...-201203225043/
    And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

    --Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Senior Member Cnote11's Avatar
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    Oh yes, I read that Polednice. I think what is going on is a mix of both, and then a little bit of neither. I do feel like we're fast approaching absurd mediocrity in the mainstream, if we're already haven't been there. I honestly do think, and this relates to the plastic surgery thread, that our current political system is a reflection of the populace. We can try to change the political system but the attitude of the populace remains the same. It is the attitude that creates the change, and not the other way around. This is why many people who have plastic surgery still remain unhappy and need to get more, because it is an internal issue. We can't make a superficial change if we want to change anything. Sadly, that is all people really want to go for, because the tendency of people to take the short-term idea over the long-term idea, even if they know the short-term is a horrible one or will not last. Ah, people.

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    Senior Member Fsharpmajor's Avatar
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    I think this thread ought to be leading somewhere, and maybe I derailed it myself with my Daily Mash links. In which case, I apologize.

    Anyway, here's a good editorial from the Independent on Cameron's and May's proposed surveillance system:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...s-7615452.html

    A sleuth might be able to identify my alter ego in the comments at the end of it.
    Last edited by Fsharpmajor; Apr-04-2012 at 21:39.
    And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

    --Friedrich Nietzsche

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    'La la la, lalala, la la lala'..."and I feel fine".

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    Senior Member Fsharpmajor's Avatar
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    kv, I can understand why you're not concerned with British politics. There's no reason why you should be. What we're trying to see off here in the UK, though (and I think we've gotten rid of it--it will probably never fly again) is the equivalent of your so-called Patriot Act, which I think even George Orwell could not possibly have named more euphemistically.

    Osama bin Laden did far more damage to the liberty of your country than he could ever have imagined, thanks to the Patriot Act. As a free people, we don't want anything even remotely resembling it to take hold here.

    It wouldn't do what it was supposedly meant to do, and it would be used for things that it was supposedly not meant to be used for. That is, if it could even be implemented in the first place. And because, in the end, it probably couldn't be made to work either way--any idiot, even me, could fly rings around it in any number of ways--it would be a complete waste of public money which we could have spent on constructive things.
    And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

    --Friedrich Nietzsche

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    I'm not that worried about the quote you posted, Polednice, suggests to me re Huxley. If people want to tune out and just consume en masse, well let them. I don't have to, nobody has to.

    I see Orwell's dystopia of more relevance, in various ways. Of course in the Stalinist state of North Korea, it's a horrible reality.

    But even in Western democracies there's an element of it realised, eg. 1984 the novel coined the term double-speak and thought control. This of course involves the media. I hate it when they do double-speak, same with politicians or business leaders. Just say what you mean. But of course they're massaging the truth, trying to hide the ugly reality. Genocide becomes ethnic cleansing, an invasion of a country becomes deployment of forces, mass sackings becoming downsizing. A distortion of the language with hidden agendas. I'm not a fan of their politics, but guys like John Pilger and Noam Chomsky speak to this (eg. the latter's Manufacturing Consent, which I saw 20 years ago on TV - they probably wouldn't show it now, which also says something).

    However, I am optimist, or at least not totally pessimist, that at grassroots level, in our local communities, we can make changes. It's happening as we speak. Eg. look at Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, giving small loans to the poor for them to be able to start a business. Yunus won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. But he's a guy who's not in his ivory tower, he's out there involved at grassroots level. It's happening here as well, people on the ground doing something, replacing the bullsh*t with real solutions, real vision.

    Anyway, this is a tangent. But the dystopia, the massaging of fact and covering up (or forgetting?) of history is happening, sadly. Not many people care about it. But as the saying goes, if you forget the past, you are bound to repeat your mistakes.

    Other dystopias are Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and also Robert Harris' Fatherland, a novel which imagines what the world would be like if the Germans had won the war. Again, it's about covering up history, the main character ends up finding the foundations of the demolished Auschwitz concentration camp. We just rewrite history, cover it up, that's what worries me most.
    Last edited by Sid James; Apr-05-2012 at 03:48.

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    I think things will be fine so long as people don't get their panties in a self-fulfilling doomsday prophecy knot.

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    Sixsharps, are you saying that you wouldn't be that bothered if Huxley's vision of a dystopia became a reality? Do you see it less apocalyptically than the alternatives?

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    I agree with Cnote that we're getting a mix of both. The media bombards the public with a sea of useless/irrelevant information while simultaneously withholding the vital information that ensures a well informed citizenry who can then act accordingly. The public is also coerced into fearing what should not be feared, and is distracted by endless trivialities while ignoring the gravest of issues at our peril.

    Here in the states there is a deeply cynical attitude towards politicians and the congress which has an approval rating of something like 13%. There are so many corporate lobbyists in Washington that the people feel like it's a lost cause.

    Leisure time is gradually harder to come by as more and more of the middle class is slipping into poverty. Sid James mentioned that he is an optimist and there is something to that. Things will eventually hit bottom when the majority is squeezed hard enough. Then the ***** will hit the fan, heads will roll, and the privileged few will be forced to make concessions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    ...Sid James mentioned that he is an optimist and there is something to that. Things will eventually hit bottom when the majority is squeezed hard enough. Then the ***** will hit the fan, heads will roll, and the privileged few will be forced to make concessions.
    Yes, well some historians see history as a continuing cycle of repression followed by liberalisation (or concessions, as you say). Or certain periods of history at least.

    Of course it's not always clear. Eg. China is still a dictatorship, but one that has converted to the market economy. Chairman Mao would be rolling in his grave. But despite the economic developments in China and other strongly emerging Asian countries, there are still things going on there like political persecution and the suppression of free speech, freedom of press, etc. & even their methods of business are not entirely above board, eg. there is a lot of corruption, which the state is trying to clamp down on (now the death penalty is given in China for corruption which leads to many people being out of a job, companies being forced to close, etc.).

    This may be again a digression, but I think the problem in the modern world is that increasing living standards (eg. economic development) is often like a smokescreen covering deeper issues.

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    No doubt about that last statement, Sid. It's like the frog that boils slowly in the heated pot. Also, the cycle of repression will continue unless the public is sufficiently educated/informed well enough to demand the structural changes to break the cycle for at least a few generations until people forget.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Sixsharps, are you saying that you wouldn't be that bothered if Huxley's vision of a dystopia became a reality? Do you see it less apocalyptically than the alternatives?
    Sorry, this question was supposed to be directed at Sid - I just looked at the blueness of the avatar and got confused as to who posted #7.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Sixsharps, are you saying that you wouldn't be that bothered if Huxley's vision of a dystopia became a reality? Do you see it less apocalyptically than the alternatives?
    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Sorry, this question was supposed to be directed at Sid - I just looked at the blueness of the avatar and got confused as to who posted #7.
    Oh, okay.

    Having thought deeply more about this, I think there is ultimately little difference between these dystopias. I think that they are all basically about control of one kind or another. Imposing things from above and inhibiting bottom up type democracy or participation in running society, etc. Authoritarianism of one kind or another.

    As I said, it's not always apparent. Former leader of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew did a good job in terms of economics in running/developing the country. But in terms of democracy & developing democratic system, he failed. Under him, political prisoners - dissident intellectuals, etc. - languished for decades in prison. But people were "happy" as they had the highest economic growth rates of the region. Even a former Prime Minister of Australia praised Mr. Yew.

    Maybe in this sense, Orwell's vision of a drab Stalinist state in 1984 is less accurate than the consumer society obsessed with pleasure & egotism over everything else which Huxley suggests. Anyway, when asked about his not so stellar record on developing democracy in Singapore, Mr. Yew always talked about "Asian values," eg. that these are not compatible with democracy, whether Western style or not. I think he was mixing up that with his own vested interest in maintaining a one party state, a facade of democracy. I think that again it's jargon using to cover up the reality, or his type of reality, of not allowing for plurality and diversity of opinion.

    But basically they were all right in various ways. Francis Bacon's famous quote that knowledge is power comes firmly to mind here. Also, what Edmund Burke siad, all it needs for evil to flourish is for people of good will to do nothing.

    As I said, I see grassroots things as the big hope for gradual change from bottom up. It's happening as we speak but I mainly see it reported in the local papers here, not in the national ones.

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    Senior Member Fsharpmajor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Sixsharps, are you saying that you wouldn't be that bothered if Huxley's vision of a dystopia became a reality? Do you see it less apocalyptically than the alternatives?
    I'm sure I would find Huxley's dystopia preferable to Orwell's if I actually lived in it. The question, I think, is what, exactly is wrong with his world, if everyone fits in their slot, is happy, has no need or desire to question anything, and has no sense of actually being in a dystopia. Orwell's world is hell, but how is Huxley's world different from heaven?

    I think what's wrong with it is that it would mark the end of the quest for knowledge, and the end of human progress. Without those things, we would no longer be human. We might just as well be bees.

    (I also don't much care for the Biblical idea of heaven for that reason).
    Last edited by Fsharpmajor; Apr-05-2012 at 13:54.
    And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

    --Friedrich Nietzsche

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