Ich beschäftige mich gerade recherchehalber einmal wieder mit Aldous Huxleys „Brave New World„. Eine ganz herausragende Geschichte, wahrscheinlich die klügste Dystopie die ich kenne – inklusive der Frage, wer eigentlich bestimmt, was eine Dystopie und was eine Utopie ist. Der Beobachter? Oder die Subjekte?
Wenn Dystopien in der Schule behandelt werden, dann las man zu meiner Zeit entweder „Brave New World“ oder Orwells „1984„. Orwells Dystopie ist drastischer, vordergründig grausiger und auswegloser (was einfach ist, denn aus Huxleys Dystopie will ja niemand raus). Und Orwell ist natürlich tröstlicher und viel einfacher, in jeder Hinsicht. Wir wissen ja so gerne, wer die Guten sind und dass wir zu ihnen gehören.
Neil Postman hat in seinem Vorwort zu „Amusing ourselves to Death“ die beiden Utopien verglichen. Ich zitiere seine Worte hier einmal lang, weil sie es verdienen – und weil ich auch der festen Überzeugung bin, dass Huxley recht behalten wird:
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.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.