1984 vs. Brave New World: Which Dystopian Nightmare Is Likelier to Come True?
By Ben Bartee - May 04, 2021

That the global human population is hurdling towards dystopia at breakneck speed is a foregone conclusion by this point. The tea leaves read “red” with human pain and suffering.

The deeper question remains: will the coming authoritarian hellscape be more Mad-Maxkill-rape-pillage-scorched-Earth style or more lobotomized-institutionalized-submissive-heavily-medicated style?




In dystopian literary terms, will the horrific anti-human engineered society of tomorrow more resemble the vision of George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World?

I read the first quarter of 1984, for the first time, at 15 years of age in the shed behind my father’s house in Topeka, Kansas on top of the family lawnmower. His wife at the time had banished me from the house, so there I sat at dusk under dim light from a single light bulb in the corner. Things were dark.

The human misery of Winston’s world leapt from the pages in crystal-clear notes.

“1984” in everyday parlance is synonymous with the ethos of that novel’s brutal ruling class. The prevailing ideology of the state depicted by Orwell was summarized in its arguably most haunting quote, delivered by agent of state O’Brien as he tortures the protagonist Winston:

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Police state rule-by-cop is the standard concern when most civil libertarians discuss authoritarian overreach because it is the most visible, most obvious form of government power grab.

The Party of 1984 (the state) pursues power not as a means to an end but as an end entirely of itself: the “pressing forever” on the nerve of power:

“That is the world that we are preparing, Winston. A world of victory after victory, triumph after triumph after triumph: an endless pressing, pressing, pressing upon the nerve of power.”

It is violent and, beyond that, celebratory of violence in a religious fashion that is the rawest expression of state power. Rather than words, which Big Brother seeks to ultimately eliminate, brutality is the native language of the Party in Orwell’s visions.

As history has repeatedly demonstrated, though, raw force alone has never, so far, proven sufficient to maintain control over a population forever.

Eventually, no volume or degree of brutality visited upon the population, nor tactical infiltration of subversive elements, nor any amount of censorship can hold back the state’s inevitable destruction at the hands of an enraged populace.

This is the premise on which Orwell and Huxley part ways in their predictions of what form future totalitarianism will take:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

In a remarkable letter penned to Orwell following the publication of 1984, Huxley further explains this theoretical divergence:

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover 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.”

-Aldous Huxley, 1949

History explains this split in part. George Orwell gained his political insights, which were undeniable in their piercing illumination laid bare by the plain language of his writing, from his time spent serving the British Empire in the waning days of its global dominance.

His vision of the ruling class of Oceania was ripped from the pages of British colonial history – just taken to its logical absurd and brutal conclusion.

Contrarily, Huxley ran in the circles of the behavioral science wing of the ruling class that oversaw the Industrial Revolution – the ones obsessed with the unprecedented potential of Pavlovian conditioning applied at scale to control entire populations.

This is where Huxley’s vision – arguably more horrific than the brutality of life in 1984’s Oceania – bears fruit in the modern context. Rule through brutality (the central modus operandi of 1984’s Inner Party) is the past. The future ruling class, as Huxley illustrated, will instead prop itself up through social conditioning and medicalization:

“Medicalization can be defined as the process by which some aspects of human life come to be considered as medical problems, whereas before they were not considered pathological.”

Toxic masculinity, white fragility, five distinct classes of anxiety disorders, 7 classes of depression, “gender dysphoria” even in children as young as 2 years old – these are the products of medicalization.

In Brave New World, the entire population takes a fictitious sedative called Soma multiple times a day. It is the cure for any pain or discomfort, no matter how mild:

“She had inconspicuously swallowed half a gramme of soma, with the result that she could now sit, serenely not listening, thinking of nothing at all, but with her large blue eyes fixed on the Warden’s face in an expression of rapt attention.”

This sounds familiar, you may think to yourself. In 21st century America, we almost instinctively look to a “mental healthcare professional” for help with nihilism and despair and uncertainty; in turn, they medicate you.

The US population is awash in prescription drugs to heal spiritual black holes. Every year, millions of Americans fill prescriptions for psychotropic drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Lexapro, Effexor, Zoloft, Adderall, Abilify – “ask your doctor” about [fill in the blank]. And yet, despite spending more per capita on healthcare than any nation on Earth, we remain in spiritual psychosis.

For your problems, you get an avalanche of pills down your throat and injections into your veins. If one “healthcare solution” won’t work, they prescribe another. And another, until you are numb. Until you transition into the walking dead, a shadow of your former self. Until you are subdued, docile. Until you are compliant.

The new face of God in our Brave New World

This is spiritual warfare. And the slaves taken in the silent conquest don’t know they are captured, living out their lives in ignorant, medicated bliss.

The evil genius of the social engineers is on full display in the sad “just vaccinated” profile pictures of those who have grown to love their servitude and in the slew of pill bottles littering your mother’s medicine cabinet.

Read the worthy Brave New World — and learn for whom and to what end you suffer. Then, kill your masters as proper repayment for the future they stole from you.

Ben Bartee is a Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs. Contact him via his portfolio or on LinkedIn.

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