Who rightly predicted the future, pre-apocalyptic state of humanity, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley? This is a popular topic in the world of dystopian fiction. Many think that we are on the cusp of post-humanity. Such people are looking for a prophet to give them a glimpse of what may happen next. Will it be a bleak world that limits all sense but hate (1984) or will it be a strange world that indulges in carnality (Brave New World)? They want to know. The problem that I have with all of this is not that people think, fear, or even hope humanity is at a place of inevitable transformation or degradation. The problem that I have is the initial question concerning who had it right. I think anyone who attempts to weigh the possible future by standing Orwell and Huxley in opposition completely miss the very intent of both texts because they have overlooked the means by focusing too hard on the ends.
When we think of the end of the world, we often imagine vast wastelands of ash and corpses, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But, what is it that caused this apocalypse? I think most would say war, possibly nuclear. What kind of governments would push it that far? What kind of people would allow such a thing to happen? I think most would say something akin to the totalitarian regimes that are written of in George Orwell’s 1984. However, there are definitely some who would argue that a strange mixture of comfort, indulgence, and strict societal obedience like what is seen in Brave New World will come just before the collapse. Though I cannot say either are wrong, I can say both ideas miss a final step, a final question. What were these people thinking? Or to be a little more specific, what would the worldview of a people who allowed such a thing look like? I think this is the most important question because the mindset of these people is what will lead to the loose grip on reality and the beginning of the end for humanity. Apocalypse will not come from guns, missiles, or any such weapon. Apocalypse will come when the people (the masses) let go of objective reality and, therein, their individuality.
Our society thinks opposite. Today, it is thought that individuality is reliant on an individual’s own perception of truth: “My truth.” Reality is subject each person’s own view of reality. This is untrue and dangerous. It is this subjective state of mind that, according to Orwell and Huxley, leads to the end of individuality and, as a result, humanity.
Reality is reliant on a higher, unchangeable truth. Apocalypse does not necessarily require the destruction of mankind physically. Rather, the loss of that which makes man man, individual imagination and reason, is apocalypse. This is where Orwell and Huxley meet. A conditioned man is not a man at all. Both those in 1984 and those in Brave New World are conditioned for the sake of community. When communality is advanced at the sacrifice of individuality, mankind will have progressed beyond what, historically, defines humanity: free-will. Conditioned morality, love, hate, imagination, reason, empathy, desire, affection, etc. When the individual disappears, people will become unrecognizable—this will be apocalypse: the unveiling.
Orwell’s 1984 focuses on destroying objective reality and, therefore, the ability to criticize. Huxley’s Brave New World focuses on destroying individuality and, therefore, the free-will. Both are different ways to bring about some form of conditioning. Objectivity and individuality are sacrificed on the altar of the collective. In 1984, “Reality is inside the skull.”
In Brave New World, the individual’s mind is the suggestions of the State and the suggestions of the State are the individual’s mind. Both are perfect prophets of a single truth: Apocalypse, the end of humanity, will come at the hands of men for the sake of mankind.