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Thinky quotes

A couple of weeks ago, on my mom's recommendation, I read Dave Eggers' The Circle. Like Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World, it's more of a fable than a novel, social criticism rather than great characterization and plotting, but rather chilling in that this awful world is yet so very close to where we already are, and very likely where we're headed absent some sort of epiphany in our love affair with technology. In a sense he is preaching to the choir (the choir, in this case, being those who worry about the ubiquity of social media and Big Server rather than Big Brother), but it was engrossing. The ending was surprising; I think his message is that no big deus ex machina is going to rescue us from the constant stream of friending-tweeting-liking-pinning-statusupdating-rating-networking-linking-sharing-sharing-sharing-MUSTSHAREALLTHETHINGS!!! We have to rescue ourselves. I sympathized very much with Mae's friend who makes lamps out of antlers and just wants to be left alone.

Then today I ran across this rather apt quote from Neil Postman (written in 1985!!):

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, 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 what we desire will ruin us.

― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

I fear very much that we're a good way down into Huxley's world: "a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy." (Honey Boo Boo or Ashley Madison, anyone?) The problem is that if 99% of the world is living in Huxley's version of the future, it's incredibly easy for a very few people to operate it like Orwell's version without anyone noticing. When everything is digital, it's easier than ever to edit the past. Or the present.

Comments

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ennyousai
Nov. 21st, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
I read somewhere, long ago, that the US is Huxleian while the UK is Orwellian - the UK has all its happy little security cameras while we just watch TV all the time.

We'll probably end up with a hybrid at the rate things are going.
delphipsmith
Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
Yup -- a hybrid where 99.9% of the folks are consumed with trivia and .1% are running everything behind the scenes.
(Deleted comment)
delphipsmith
Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
...centrifugal bumblepuppy" made me think of Rob Ford...

YES! He is a bumblepuppy. Or perhaps a Weeble :D
droxy
Nov. 21st, 2013 05:23 am (UTC)
They are both right, on so many counts, just off by a few years.

delphipsmith
Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:41 am (UTC)
And not too many, in the grand scheme of things -- just a couple of decades :P
mimimanderly
Nov. 21st, 2013 11:55 am (UTC)
Those in power did not have to enslave us: we did it to ourselves. Television is a very potent form of brainwashing. The "war on terror" was all about instilling fear in the populace. It took over the "news", making the sheeple think that it was a real problem, and that the wolf was at our door, waiting to devour us. Little did they think (because they don't think; they react.) that the wolf was inside already, disguised as the sheeple. The sheeple cried out, "Save us! Yes -- take away our freedoms. We just want to be safe!" The wolves chuckled to themselves. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Television also succeeded in dumbing down the populace. The worst threat to the wolves is an informed and INTELLIGENT populace. Why do you think the schools do so poorly in educating kids? It's because they WANT THEM TO FAIL. They are great at teaching things by rote. But teaching kids to actually THINK? Whyever would anyone need to think? The wolves tell them what to think. No need to worry their little heads with things like thinking. Here, kids... watch some more TV. Play some more games. Post all about yourself and your family on social websites. No need to spy on us when we post every little thing we do online ourselves. They don't NEED to outlaw books, because the sheeple like things that are easily digested. They will gladly sit and watch TV... reading is just so much work! And who has TIME to read? Meanwhile, they find time to sit glued to the latest reality shows.

/rant.
delphipsmith
Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:42 am (UTC)
I second that. All of it.
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