Jonah Goldberg argues that the hedonic consumerism nightmare of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) has proven more accurately prophetic of the dystopian direction of Modernity than the brutal collectivism of George Orwell’s 1984 (1949).
[P]olitics is increasingly a vehicle for delivering prepackaged joy. Americaâ€™s political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered. And though it has been the subject of high school English essay questions for generations, we have not gotten much closer to answering the question, what exactly was so bad about the Brave New World?
Simply this: it is foolâ€™s gold. The idea that we can create a heaven on earth through pharmacology and neuroscience is as utopian as the Marxist hope that we could create a perfect world by rearranging the means of production. The history of totalitarianism is the history of the quest to transcend the human condition and create a society where our deepest meaning and destiny are realized simply by virtue of the fact that we live in it. It cannot be done, and even if, as often in the case of liberal fascism, the effort is very careful to be humane and decent, it will still result in a kind of benign tyranny where some people get to impose their ideas of goodness and happiness on those who may not share them.
“Homer was wrong in saying: ‘Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!’ He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away.”
—Heraclitus of Ephesus