If you haven’t read D.A. Carson’s The Gagging of God yet, you really should; his cultural analysis and understanding of the confrontation between Christian faith and pluralism are outstanding.
At any rate, in the book, Carson quotes from another book which you simply must read, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio the other day, and he was talking about the amount of money Americans throw away on the lottery every year; it amounts to more money, for instance, than we spend on books. Crazy Teenager in the back seat was soaking this in, and to his immense credit, he purchased a book next chance he got, with the words, “I’m not ever going to play the lottery, Dad; books are much more important!” Consider Postman ‘s words, contrasting Orwell’s fears in 1984 with Huxley’s in Brave New World:
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 [Emphasis mine.]
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared that we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
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 hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
Postman writes his book on the premise that Huxley was right, and not Orwell. This should be as plain as the noses on our faces.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, “Centrifugal Bumblepuppy” would be a great name for a band…