Today, in my English class, we were given a prompt for which we will write an essay on tomorrow. We’re about to start 1984, a book that has been on my to-read list for some time now, and I think that this is the perfect setting to do it in. To be sure, I have always taken the books we read–anything in English–quite seriously, because above math, above science, English teaches you to be human, truly. For this matter, every essay where we only had to answer the prompt accordingly, I took it as an opportunity to really take a look at the literature that we were reading, and this is mostly because I believe one day, people are going to want to read my little High School essays. Not to mention, I’m allergic to mediocrity, therefore, to only do the bare-minimum doesn’t sit well in my gut. Why use only one color paint, or only a small part of the canvas, if you have the whole canvas to do whatever you want? Why would I only do what is required when I can do what is required plus one in order to satiate my questions, my considerations. The point of it is, not many people English–school for that matter–as seriously as I do, but English mostly. Anyways, the prompt we’re given asks us to create an argument based on a critics views of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, which is that, Huxley’s dream of the world to come is more relevant.
Considering that which was given to us, one finds that Huxley is obviously the true Nostradamus. Orwell’s vision of the future is one that is construed with paranoia and simple lecturing; Orwell feared the day that the world turned over to Communism. In a patriotic kind of way, as an American, I can root for Orwell and say, yeah, down with big government and secrecy, but that’s as far as I can take it. Orwell’s prose is very archaic, or maybe it’s simply that I find it to be non-literary. Huxley’s very first two paragraphs are littered with language that anyone could admire, while Orwell has the kind of addictive quality you get out of the cheesy and redundant YA novels of the era, and I suppose that’s where they get their cliche from. This is not to say that Orwell was not a convincing nor a non-compelling author, rather, he was just not very effective with his language in the way that he could have been with a novel like 1984, especially with a predecessor like Brave New World. All this is to say, though, that Huxley is more alike to a professor, a scientist, or a philosopher; Orwell reminds me of the guy who rants in front of your college, on his soapbox, as he pounds his fist in the air crying out his favorite phrase, “DOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHER”, Orwell’s vision is archaic and only, truly, good from a historical stand point. While Orwell manages to create compelling arguments on the idea of government spying and secrecy on its people in order to keep them in check, which is certainly relevant in the modern age, it’s but a stepping stone of what Huxley envisioned. Huxley looks at the whole of the picture, not only a small part of the canvas as Orwell does. In this way, we find that Huxley’s vision might be the correct one, in the long run. Brave New World addresses the problem of community and society today: teenagers–my pupils–are consumed by themselves, we are consumers are consumed by ourselves, we are as much a product as the products we buy on late night infomercials and the ads on the sides of your screen catered just for you by AdSense. We are not ourselves!
Chuck Palahniuk tells us that we are not our car, our job, our wallet, yet we are! People would rather know that they have everything that they want, that they are comfortable before they are uncomfortable, rather than knowing that the world is not centered around them. Many people take a stance against my generation, when we are only a product of the world for which the previous generation helped to create. We are self centered because the technology that we used is centered around us. Siri asks us what we would like to be called, we can choose what we want Siri to sound like; we are told that our parents took up a second job for our benefit, we are told that we are being forced to do this and this for our benefit. Do you understand? We are constantly told that this is the ME generation, and thus we have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Self. This is our great transgression, our great demise: the things we love, what we believe to be “us”, is what’s killing us, as Huxley feared. We’ve all be diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with our captors, our iPhones. In these ways, one can only agree with Huxley.
YET! As I listen to a podcast–Ear Biscuits with Rhett and Link, Good Mythical Morning–the guest being the co-creator of reddit, Alexis Ohanian, they’ve started talking about how the internet, social media, is a reflection of society as a whole. While there is a large group of people who would try and misuse sites like reddit, Vine, Instagram, and Facebook for porn, there is an even larger group of people who would oppose it, and an even larger group still who are decent human beings. We find that, overall, as a society, we really do only want to advance, and the way that we advocate this is through social media. By cultivating virtual communities where we congregate to talk about cheese melts, Doctor Who, and suicide, we are creating a society where we are not captive at all: we are our governors, we are our own masters, we are, in a sense, the vision of communism realized. The Internet is in fact the utopia for which writers such as Orwell and Huxley have been searching for. There are those who may try to thwart it–that is the issue of net neutrality–but you simply cannot. In this way, I agree neither with Huxley or Orwell, or more aptly, the critic who contrasted the two to begin with, since that is what the prompt ask.
This is learning. This is what I think the purpose of school is: to make you truly think about the subjects for which you are being compelled to write about, not for a grade, but for the thrill of exploring such topics and how they will effect you. This is how we are created. Some of my pupils only come to make true those things for which Huxley predicted: they have become the captives of their iPhones, they have become the captives of their own filtered reflection. This is my confliction, but, I have never been more pleased to be conflicted.
We only have forty minute to write the essay, by hand, and I wrote this in something like 10 minutes. Let’s hope I can come to some stance by tomorrow.