Thursday, April 22, 2010

1984, Brave New World and other depressing stuff

Many a time we've participated as a family in the "No TV for a week" program at my children's school. Every year my kids, for the first few days, act like they're going to die a slow, retracted, terribly excruciating death. What? Read a book instead of watching SpongeBob? Play outside with our actual legs moving, our actual heart beating, instead of our fingers getting early carpel tunnel on a game console? But my "friends" won't know that I'm eating dinner, or that I ran an errand today! Perish the thought!

Until eventually, when the whining reaches a decibel only dogs can hear, it then, amazingly, stops. They adjust. They realign like a good hip joint slipping back into place. A miracle happens. We start to do more together as a family. We talk more around the dinner table because we're not in a rush to get back to the idiots on Survivor. Do we all fall in love again? No, this isn't The Cosby Show (hee hee), but really, by the end of the week we do connect again in almost a primal way. (Just kiddin. I do love my family anyway, sort of..when they're nice to me..)

I agree with Postman, we are now more Brave New World than 1984, in that we love the distractions, the silly minutiae that controlls us. I like OK Magazine just as much as I like Newsweek. Reading a book online and on the printed page is as aligned in my brain as peanut butter and jelly. But as our little tv and computer experiment shows, it is possible to get back to the prehistoric basics if we want to.

But do we want to?
That's the problem.
Brave New World here we come.

Written in the 1930's, I got the feeling throughout that Huxley wasn't a big fan of American capitalism, or was that just me. Hmm..
Have we turned out like he predicted? Are we sex-starved, atheist, gum-chewing, movie-watching, drug users who never want to be unhappy, at all costs? (Did I mention I like OK Magazine and Entertainment Tonight?)

Maybe not to that extreme, but we have evolved I guess. For better or worse, in this "marriage" of ideas who knows for sure. It probably depends on who you ask - which may also depend on who you voted for, and who you listen to on the radio. I tend to hope our country isn't headed straight down the crapper, but don't mind me - I'm high on my "soma" and am currently hanging out on Fantasy Island and getting a tan with Ricardo Montalban. Read the book and you'll get why I said that. Worth at least one try for its historical significance.

So, the year 1984 came and went without too many major government take overs. (Not really but let's pretend.) But we've made great strides haven't we? Currently, we can steal a person from their home claiming they've violated the rules of our country. They're an Enemy of the State not worthy of basic rights. A great danger to the norm we call our society. We torture them for answers they don't want to give. Tell them they're insane, that our way is the best way, the only way, until they break and the creases are permanent do we cure them of their vile ways. A shiny new American penny coming out clean on the other side. A carbon copy of ourselves and our ideals. Or so we think.

But what if instead of America, it's Oceania. In place of Guantanamo Bay, put the Ministry of Love. In the place of our government, put Big Brother.

Even I noticed the similarities.
And I'm a Democrat.
Scary, scary.
Anybody else have some thoughts on these books and the state of our current lives? What similarities do you see?

As for me, time to read something lighter, like Of Mice and Men before I run as fast as I can into a brick wall, or drive my imported car off a cliff.


Stephanie said...

Dystopian much? (Yay! I used a big word!)

It struck me the other day that while we don't have anyone obviously watching our every move like Big Brother, we've been convinced to give up our privacy quite willingly. We reveal every detail of our lives on Twitter and Facebook (and blogs!), we hand out our addresses and phone numbers for free samples, we sign up for reward programs at the stores we shop at...we even willingly carry around cell phones, cell phones that can be used to figure out exactly where we are.

Great review and commentary, Lula. I think reading dystopian literature every once in a while is a good thing.

Hamilcar Barca said...

i agree - Brave New World turned out to be a much more-accurate prediction of the future than 1984 did.

Huxley also wrote a novel called Ape and Essence. Similarly-themed and short in length, i actually like it better than BNW. i don't know why it's never been popular.

Anonymous said...

I barely watch any t.v. (too busy reading) and I try to limit my son's t.v. & gaming time to the weekends. I don't miss it at all, but then I have lots of other things to occupy me. My son, however, is loathe to read and has been forced to have conversations with me. Pity the poor thing.

Julie said...

Very interesting comparison and lots to think about here.
Great job in participating in "No Tv for a week" and sticking to it. I enjoy how adaptable we, as humans, can be.

Lula O said...

Stephanie -
Yes, I do seem in a bit of a rut, a deep, deep, dark, gloomy rut. My cup was full after The Enchanted April me thought I could handle anything! wrong...
We do give up a lot about ourselves, and even our children. Look at all those family blogs. Our kids will be famous before they're ten!

HB - I've not heard of this one, but when I googled him, several titles came up. I'm guessing he was a kind of political satirist? Wonder if his other books are actually funny.

StephanieD - Yes, it's so awful when they must actually communicate with us. I have two teens and daily try hard not to poke my eyes out.

Julie - When me moved 3 years ago we nixed cable and stick with what few basic channels we can pick up for free. I've noticed a big difference in what my kids turn to for entertainment. Unfortunately technology keeps advancing, one step ahead, now I'm fighting facebook and the xbox live which is-such-a-waste-of-time! Argh!

Thanks for commenting everyone!

Hamilcar Barca said...

erm... so how many stars for each book?

Lula O said...

hmmm, well, HB you need to be my goodreads friend. Probably 4 stars for all three books. Which did I like the best? I thought 1984 was a little better written, but all three were extremely depressing. I will never read them again.