Last summer I reread 1984. Yesterday, I finished rereading Brave New World.
I enjoyed both books, and highly recommend them. I think Brave New World is the more neglected of the two - perhaps because it hits too close to home when it comes to sexual morality, abortion, education, and consumerism. But it is like its fellow novel a must-read.
People have been commenting about how the times remind them of 1984. I agree, but I see a lot of Brave New World in what is going on now. So maybe a combination is order.
Brave New 1984.
These books predict things like communications technology dominating our lives - and spying on us - the separation of sex from procreation and becoming just another "drug" to keep us "happy;" the use of birth control and abortion to prevent and eliminate consequences; reproductive technologies, including artificial insemination and cloning; the destruction of marriage and the family; the use of various "drugs" like sex, technology, pharmaceuticals, and recreation to prevent thinking and to delude us into believing we are happy; the dumbing down of culture and education; the use of technology to indoctrinate propaganda; planned obsolescence and rampant consumerism; and so much more.
All of these are things that have happened, and are undermining society.
But while the visions in these books are dark - and it's easy to get fixated on the parallel darkness in our world - in Brave New World there is a hint at a way out.
Two of the characters who do not fit in are given the option of going to islands where they can be with like-minded people.
We have such "islands" in our world. Indeed, Rod Dreher described and promoted them in his The Benedict Option.
People who are in conflict with the destruction of our society and culture have formed religious associations that provide mutual support - the Latin Mass communities, for example. There are home-school communities that help to prevent the propaganda too many public schools offer. People have also created classical education schools. I had the good fortune to end my teaching career at one of them, St. John Bosco Schools, associated with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. That school's building also houses a classical education high school program, Chesterton Academy. That academy is part of a nation-wide network of Chesterton schools - created by the American Chesterton Society. There are religious orders that are drawing like-minded orthodox believers like the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sister of Life. There are the pro-life groups and organizations like 40 Days for Life.
There are many more such islands. They are places not to hide, but to recharge, to find mutual support, to ready to face the forces and temptations that challenge us, to fight if necessary, to seem to fail at times, and always to trust in God.
So even as I read these dystopian novels, I continue to look for ways to join with like-minded, faith-filled people.
And I'm even seeking our reading that nourishes. I've now begun to reread The Lord of the Rings.
Dark forces are at work - the shadow of Sauron is spreading - but in the end, God and light will prevail.
Just hope I don't have to sacrifice a finger along the way.
But if I do, well ... so be it.
Pax et bonum