Nineteen Eighty-four and Science Fiction Essay

Submitted By shli19
Words: 2719
Pages: 11

A dystopia is therefore a vision of someone else’s ideal society imposed upon you, usually extended out to a nightmarish pitch for the specific purpose of satire. Many of you would find my ideal state and my ideals, applied to the real world, to be your own private little hell: dystopia, though really, it is good for you, I swear. The traditional interpretation of dystopia, and its literary use as satire, tends to assume that the flexibility, understanding and sympathy that temper our opinions, morals and ethics has been thrown aside; in many ways Dystopia is a ‘bad place’ where all sense of what is decent and normal has been tossed about; this is the moral attitude of Ayn Rand’s Anthem or Huxley’s Brave New World. Of course, and we so often forget this when uttering panegyrics to Orwell’s prophetic powers that he was not telling the future but reading the present. Orwell, as well, grasped that the morality, ethics and laws that a moralist like Huxley believed allowed society to work were supplemented, supplanted or dominated by humanity’s tendency to hierarchy, fear, sloth and the bewildering size and complexity of late capitalist economies and bureaucratic governments.
As I speak of Orwell, it’s worth pointing out, though a bit fruitlessly, like all utopias, dystopias have a tendency to be interpreted both by contemporaries, or consistently misused by later generations for their own purposes and for their own goals. George Orwell’s 1984 is one of the most famous examples of a piece of literature, a dystopian novel indeed, but also a grim, hyperbolic satire, frequently misinterpreted. Lefties overuse the novel as if it were some sort of fetish, brandish Orwellian about and yell at everyone that we are being watched and controlled…and then confide in everyone that Orwell was a genius and a prophet. He was neither, and wasn’t even a particularly well written novel, and not even all that interesting. But it was a satire, something the right doesn’t get either. Whether we have the idiotic editorials in my local right-wing newspaper, The Source,that by-laws against dogs crapping on peoples lawns as Orwellian and the pathetic triumphalism of the Right who use Orwell to attack and denigrate all socialism. Of course, they ignore that Orwell was a socialist himself, an elitist true, with a slippery tendency to change tacks, rat out his friends and take a dim view of women and browner peoples (no wonder Christopher Hitchens likes him so much) but a socialist nonetheless…or he wouldn’t have wrote that “if there is hope, it lies in the proles.” 1984 is as much an attack of the weakness and easily led intelligent classes, that the best educated are often the easiest to lie too, against all forms of oppression.
What does this have to do with Zamyatin’s We? Well, two things: one, Zamyatin’s novel has also been lauded as an anti-Soviet, anti-totalitarian masterpiece, and two, Orwell was heavily influenced, and almost certainly cribbed several story ideas from Zamyatin, including the idylls in the countryside that play so important a part in both books. Both men viewed unspoilt nature as being a place free and untainted by politics and oppression.
Zamyatin’s novel is also noted as being a science fiction novel, one of the first science fiction dystopias. Both utopia and dystopia have been a particularly well studied as literary phenomena, and indeed Utopian Studies is a particular field outside but related to both Literature, with a bent on the science fiction, and Politics, as such. One of the more famous students of utopia is Marxist and hater of post modernism Frederic Jamieson, whose work Archaeologies of the Future is both something I want to finish reading and a very nice descriptions of what science fiction is and what utopia can be. Jamieson’s main contention, though highly obfuscated, and I fail to do it justice in any way (it is a tome, and a tomb, for any one not versed in houti-touti intellectual Marxism) is that all political