Trump’s Brave New World

I’ve often had occasion to reflect on Neil Postman’s trenchant comparison of the dystopian visions of Orwell and Huxley, as represented in their respective books 1984 and Brave New World. In 1985, the year after Orwell’s prophecies failed to materialize, Postman suggested that perhaps we should think twice before congratulating ourselves.

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

Since Postman wrote those words, Orwell’s warnings have continued to capture the public mind while Huxley’s warnings have been comparatively neglected. During the ten years I spent working for a Christian lobby group, we were on constant alert to Orwell’s dark vision, which seemed imminent during Obama’s Presidency. In those days, things were clear to us; Obama could never have been mistaken as an angel of light as he aggressively pursued policies that eroded the freedom of Christians and–to the more conspiratorial minded among us–inched us closer to the Orwellian apocalypse.

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Trump and the Eclipse of Conservatism

Increasingly, the political order is treated as so much raw material waiting for the imposition of raw will. As questions of ultimate meaning become relativized, naked authority rushes to fill the vacuum. This can be seen at both ends of the political spectrum. On the one hand, we see the autonomous individual being given unprecedented authority over matters that would once have been a matter of politics (see my comments about Planned Parenthood v. Casey here). Simultaneous with this, we see the state adopting an increasingly authoritative posture in which the rule of law becomes an obstacle to the type of change we expect our lawmakers to implement.

Both these mindsets (inflated individual authority and inflated government authority) easily orient us towards anti-intellectualism, not in the sense that those who embody these polarities are unthinking, but in the sense that political questions become questions of authority rather than questions of teleology, questions of power rather than questions of meaning. Out of this milieu there can only emerge different reconfigurations of tribalism, including tribalist conceptions of national identity.

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Women and the Draft: I Sometimes Hate Being Right

American female fighter

Women will likely have to register for the draft, Army Secretary says

I read in the news today that U.S. military Army Secretary, John McHugh, said earlier this week that there is a likelihood that women will eventually have to register for the draft in order for “true and pure equality” is to be realized.

This is one of those situations where it doesn’t feel good to say “I told you so”. But I predicted this three years ago in my Salvo article ‘Mixed Companies: Women in Combat, Feminism & Misogyny.’ Thankfully, this particular Salvo article is available online so you don’t even have to subscribe to our wonderful magazine to read it. (Still, we strongly encourage you to subscribe so you can read all the other excellent articles.)

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ISIS Terror

isis-terrorists

In my Christian voice article on ISIS terrorism I explained that the goal of ISIS

is to eliminate all borders in the Middle East and establish a Caliphate under the monarchy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man wanted for $10 million by the Americans.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his thugs have exploited grievances felt by the Sunni community following their marginalization in the government America helped to establish under the Shia triumphalism of Nouri al-Maliki. After breaking off of Al-Qaeda, the group has gone on to control much of eastern and northern Syria and western and northern Iraq.

It is not simply the lawful governments of Iraq and Syria that have become the target of ISIS; they have also been exterminating the civilian populations on an unimaginable scale. Their regime of ethnic cleansing is slowly and systematically exterminating some of the world’s oldest Christian communities. ISIS has also been targeting Shia Muslims and all Middle East populations not associated with their particularly fanatical version of Islam.

When ISIS forces conquer an area they immediately impose Sharia law, including a ban on smoking, football and music. Women are forced to be completely veiled in black from head to toe and forbidden from leaving their house without a male guardian. ISIS thugs even routinely raid schools to punish girls who are not fully veiled in black. The less fortunate women are sold into sexual slavery.

ISIS has issued ultimatums demanding that all Christians convert to Islam, pay the jizya tax required of non-Muslims, or die. Last month we reported on a typical case of what happened when a Christian father could not afford this tax: three ISIS soldiers barged into his house and proceeded to rape his wife and daughter in front of him. The husband and father was so distraught that he later killed himself.

More recently, there have been reports that the holocaust against Christians has included youths being crucified and beheaded and buried alive and numerous other atrocities for no reason other than the fact that these children are Christians.

ABC news reported that in towns controlled by the group, “Friday is the day for public beheadings and amputations for people who violate its strict Islamic rule, and whippings for women if their clothing offends ISIS’ sense of propriety.”

The UN reported that “Civilians, including children, are urged to watch. Bodies of those killed are placed on display for several days, terrorizing the local population”

Further Reading

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