You are here:   Aldous Huxley > To Understand Trump, Read Huxley — Not Orwell
What has this to do with Trump? Surely, Orwell’s novel, with his insights into the manipulation of news and history, tells us something disturbing about Trump’s presidency? But this is where the Trump/Orwell analogy goes wrong. Trump isn’t Big Brother. He’s not a brutal totalitarian, “the policy of the boot-on-the-face”, with killing squads and torture rooms.  He will not shut down an independent judiciary or force the American news media into submission, certainly not in the way post-war Stalinist regimes did throughout Eastern Europe. There will continue to be anti-Trump rallies and demonstrations on both coasts and in college towns throughout America. The Democrats will oppose Trump, though they will be outnumbered in both houses of Congress at least until the next midterm elections. 

Orwell thought the new totalitarianism would last forever. Why wouldn’t it? Through propaganda and Newspeak they would control the past and the present and therefore the future. However, 40 years after Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, Soviet Communism collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe. Two years later it fell in the Soviet Union and the Baltic republics too. What Orwell failed to understand about Soviet Communism was that it was riddled with contradictions: above all, in science and technology. Like Orwell’s imagination, it was stuck in the 1940s: big state, militarised, heavy industry. The new digital world left the Soviet Union behind. Television, the photocopier and the computer made it possible for people to see what kind of lives people in the West enjoyed and to disseminate images of that affluence.

These made life under Soviet Communism less and less bearable. Big dams and tractors are fine, but what happens when people also want jeans and pop music, fridges and cars? Whenever the Soviet cellist Mstislav Rostropovich came to London he would go to Harrods and buy fridges to sell back home. Science and technology, as Huxley knew, and Orwell didn’t, was the future.

Trump isn’t an Orwellian Big Brother. He’s a reality TV star, whose views speak to his passionate core constituency, largely uneducated citizens from the South and Midwest. One of the most interesting infographics I have seen about Trump’s America was a map of the United States showing the biggest employers in each region. In the Trump Belt the biggest employers are retail and the military. By retail, I mean Walmart, and other big cheap supermarket chains, and by the military I don’t mean the Pentagon, but poor whites and blacks, out of high school, with no college education. Look at the East and West coasts and the biggest employers are high-tech corporations, medical research and hospitals, and colleges. In Boston, one hospital alone, Massachusetts General, employs more than 30,000 people.

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April 26th, 2017
2:04 AM
Glad to see I was not the only one to pick up on this - my letter to the FT highlighting the need for Orwell to be in read in tandem with Huxley was roundly ignored. Orwell was a secular socialist who believed in mankind finding happiness through democratic materialism. Huxley did not believe materialism makes us happy, hence the bleak vision of Brave New World. Unlike Orwell, Huxley was a scientist (an amateur one but serious nevertheless). More importantly, in his later years he was a mystic who perceived, like all the great pioneers of quantum physics, that we are spiritual beings manifesting human experience. That consciousness is primary to space, time, energy and matter. And that only by realizing this truth do we experience human happiness instead of the fears and frustrations arising from the pursuit of temporary materialist pleasures. Check out The Perennial Philosophy. We need Huxley now.

Mel Profit
March 23rd, 2017
1:03 PM
Herman is correct that Huxley's "totalitarian lite" is our present and probable future. But his musings about Trump's limited constituency are mistaken. For if, as he speculates, the dystopian future is driven by the substitution of humans by machines, then Trump's base of disposed and disenfranchised will only increase, leaving the two coasts as gated fortresses for an elite 1% fast on its way to becoming a half-percent or quarter percent. How does one employ 300 million people who cannot all be high tech entrepreneurs and engineers, investment bankers and hedge fund managers, nor all bartenders, burger flipper and dog walkers? Until we figure out how, Trumpian "populism" will have gale winds at its back

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