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June 28, 2006

A brave new world?

I've been reading some fiction books for a change. It's quite exciting. I read the following tomes:

1984 - George Orwell (full text online)
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

I was struck by the different techniques used to control the population in each book, and, in particular, the different attitudes of each author towards sexual pleasure. 1984 describes the classic totalitarian state, with people not even able to think freely in the language spoken ("newspeak"). Sexual thoughts are the only ones which can't be controlled by the Party, so it suppresses them as much as possible. Young girls are encouraged to join the "Junior Anti-Sex League" and sex is used only as means of procreation.
The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now.

In contrast, Brave New World doesn't use sex for procreation at all. Control of the population is done in two ways: breeding, and pleasure. Children are created in bottles and are bred to fit their role in life. Street sweepers are bred to be stupid. They will never be frustrated with the monotony of their task. Meanwhile everyone is encouraged to take as much pleasure as possible from life. The population are drugged with "Soma," described as similar to alcohol but without the hangover. They are also encouraged to shag like rabbits. "Everybody belongs to everybody else" is a mantra endorsing free sex. Many of the population are born sterile, others are trained to use contraception from their early "erotic play" in infancy.

Both techniques remove the tensions caused by sex. One suppresses the instinct entirely, whereas the other satisfies it completely.

Both books also speak of the problems which ensue as a result of oversupply. As production becomes more mechanised, more goods are produced than can be reasonably consumed by the populace. Orwell solves this problem by fighting a war. An eternal war. War uses resources up quickly. Huxley takes a different approach, describing how his people are trained to consume resources as fast as possible. Their ball games take place using complicated machinery which has to be manufactured.

It's interesting that both authors tackle these two issues, perhaps more interesting even than the different ways in which the problems are solved. It will be interesting to see how the future pans out with regard to the dual crises of humanity: sex and steel.

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