I told you so!

Our theme Forbidden, Forgotten, Forsaken and the issues discussed in the conference concerning the contribution of the arts in the 21st century, are encapsulated and summarized in the following program presented by JakArt@2008:

On 2 August 2008 Yevgeny Zamyatin, Adlous Huxley, George Orwell and Henry Miller took some time off from the extraordinary meeting of the Global Academy of the Arts and Sciences they were attending at Pulau Seni and got together in Teater Utopia, Simprug, Jakarta Selatan for an informal presentation, discussion and questions and answers session with the audience about their visions of the future. Mr. Miller, author of controversial and banned works such as the “Tropic of Cancer” and the “Tropic of Capricorn”, was representing Mr. Ray Bradbury, who due to his advanced age was unable to attend the meeting. The four authors outlined their respective visions of the future as presented in their books. They left it up to the audience to come up with their own conclusions. In the discussion that followed they settled some misunderstandings amongst them, primarily concerning as to who was influenced by whom. The four of them and many in the audience agreed that all Inspiration derives from the same Source. Mr. Zamyatin accepted Mr. Huxley’s claim that he was not aware of his book We when he wrote Brave New World. Below are the summaries of the presentations of the four authors and some of the comments from the audience:



I wrote We, in 1920,  as a futuristic dystopian satire. It takes the totalitarian and conformative aspects of modern industrial society to an extreme conclusion, depicting a state that believes that free will is the cause of unhappiness, and that citizens' lives should be controlled with mathematical precision based on the system of industrial efficiency created by Frederick Winslow Taylor The narrator of this anti-utopian novel can comfortably use the pronoun ‘we.’ Any residual inclination to individualism that might have survived the regimentation of society in the 20th Century has been eradicated. The One State is overseen by the Benefactor, a deific figure portrayed with heavy hands, and a network of Guardians, who watch for anyone that might display the slightest irregular behavior. The One State exists within a glass dome, the rest of the planet supposedly rendered inhospitable during the Two Hundred Year War. Every building is made of this same glass, enabling any behavior not proscribed by the Table of Hours, the sacred text of the One State, to be easily seen and reported. Privacy is only allowed for sexual intercourse, and then only after applying for a pink coupon to be presented and validated in the front office of each housing complex.

Individualism is a crime so heinously antisocial as to be nearly unthinkable. In the name of order and harmony, all aspects of life have been regulated. Every impediment to happiness, every source of conflict and dissatisfaction, has been eliminated, except the imagination. Even personal names have given way to numbers. The narrator, D-503, a mathematician and builder of the spaceship Integral, which will extend the dominion of United States throughout the universe, believes unquestionably in this world, until he finds his faith threatened and undermined by a violent romantic passion.

There are big issues being examined in these pages: questions about the organization of society, about freedom, alienation, identity We is an exploration of the individual vs. the social order, a celebration of the importance of imagination, and ultimately, a warning regarding the dehumanizing consequences of imagination’s destruction.


My book, said Huxley, was published in 1932. The world the novel describes is a dystopia, presented satirically: humanity lives in a carefree, healthy, and technologically advanced society; however, art, science, religion, and all other forms of human expression have been sacrificed to create this "Brave New World". Warfare and poverty have been eliminated and everyone is permanently happy due to government-provided conditioning and drugs. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity - family, culture, art, literature, science, religion (other than idolization of "our Ford", Henry Ford, who is seen as the father of their society), and philosophy. It is also a hedonistic society, deriving pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use, in the form of soma, a powerful psychotropic rationed by the government that is taken to escape pain and bad memories through hallucinatory fantasies, referred to as "Holidays". Additionally, social stability has been achieved and is maintained via deliberately engineered and rigidly enforced social stratification.



Orwell said: I wrote the book in 1948 and it was published in 1949. The book's hero, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting and falsifying history. The Ministry writes people out of history -- they go "down the memory hole" as though they never existed. The Ministry also creates people as historical figures who never existed. Big Brother, who controls the State of Oceania, uses "thought police" to ensure that people in the inner and outer Party are kept under control. Oceania is at perpetual war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. Alliances between these three states change without rational explanation. "Hate weeks" are organized against Goldstein, the leader of an alleged underground opposition to Big Brother, and hate sessions are organized against either Eurasia or Eastasia.

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be doubt about the most enormous events... .The calamities that are constantly being reported -- battles, massacres, famines, revolutions -- tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. Probably the truth is undiscoverable but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or for failing to form an opinion ...


Mr. Miller said: Bradbury’s novel presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic, and critical thought through reading is outlawed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman" (which, in this future, means "book burner"). The number "451" refers to the temperature (in Fahrenheit) at which a book or paper
autoignites. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time in a hedonistic and rabidly anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control, filled with lawlessness in the streets, from teenagers crashing cars into people to firemen at Montag's station who set their mechanical hound to hunt various animals for the simple and grotesque pleasure of watching them die. Anyone caught reading books is, at the minimum, confined to a mental hospital while the books are burned. Illegal books mainly include famous works of literature, such as Whitman and Faulkner, as well as The Bible, and all historical texts. Fahrenheit 451 is a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature. Among the themes attributed to the novel are what Bradbury has called "the thought-destroying force" of censorship of all kinds of tyrannies anywhere in the world at any time, right, left, or middle.
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib / Republican, Mattachine / FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse…. Fire-Captain Beatty, in Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.


Social critic Neil Postman author of Amusing Ourselves to Death was in the audience. He said:

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 hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Journalist Christopher Hitchens (author of the article "Why Americans Are Not Taught History") noted the difference between Huxley and Orwell:

We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression "You're history" as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell's was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley ... rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.



Mr. David Pearce had this to contribute:


Brave New World is an unsettling, loveless and even sinister place.  In Brave New World, Huxley contrives to exploit the anxieties of his bourgeois audience about both Soviet Communism and Fordist American capitalism. He taps into, and then feeds, our revulsion at Pavlovian-style behavioral conditioning and eugenics. Worse, it is suggested that the price of universal happiness will be the sacrifice of the most hallowed shibboleths of our culture: "motherhood", "home", "family", "freedom", even "love". The exchange yields an insipid happiness that's unworthy of the name. Its evocation arouses our unease and distaste. In BNW, happiness derives from consuming mass-produced goods, sports such as Obstacle Golf and Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, promiscuous sex, "the feelies", and most famously of all, a supposedly perfect pleasure-drug, soma. The utopians are mostly docile and contented. Yet their emotions have been deliberately blunted and repressed. Life is nice - but somehow a bit flat. In Brave New World, there is no depth of feeling, no ferment of ideas, and no artistic creativity. Individuality is suppressed. Intellectual excitement and discovery have been abolished. Its inhabitants are conditioned and indoctrinated, and even brainwashed in their sleep. The utopians are never educated to prize thinking for themselves. In Brave New World, the twin goals of happiness and stability - both social and personal - are not just prized but effectively equated. It's not perverse to interpret BNW as a warning of what happens when scientific inquiry is suppressed. Its inhabitants are too contented living in their rut to extricate themselves and progress to higher things. Superficially, yes, Brave New World is a technocratic society. Yet the free flow of ideas and criticism central to science is absent. Moreover the humanities have withered too. Subversive works of literature are banned. Subtly but inexorably, BNW enforces conformity in innumerable different ways.

Mr. Brown  stood up and said:

George Orwell began Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) some eight months after he read We in a French translation and wrote a review of it. Orwell is reported as saying that he was taking it as the model for his next novel.. For Orwell and certain others, We appears to have been the crucial literary experience.


Mr. John Bennett also in the audience made the following observations:

Many of the predictions made by George Orwell in relation to "Big Brother" surveillance, corruption of language and control of history have already come about to a great extent. The powers of security police in many countries to intercept mail and tap phones have often been extended, police agencies keep numerous files on law-abiding citizens, and more and more public officials have the right to enter private homes without a warrant. Many government departments keep computerized information on citizens and there is a danger that this information is now fed into a centralized data bank. Attempts by law enforcement agencies to obtain more information through informer schemes, through new law enforcement agencies, and through new techniques such as computerization of information and the internet,  have the cumulative effect that such Big Brother activities tend to make countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia increasingly totalitarian societies. The corruption of language described in 1984 is widespread in the media today, with "Newspeak" terms such as democratic, socialist, fascist, war criminal, freedom fighter, racist and many other expressions being used in a deliberately deceptive, propagandistic way to whip up mass hysteria or simply to ensure that people can never achieve even an approximation of the truth. The popular perception of history is based on brainwashing by the mass media, indoctrination by the education system, peer group pressure, self-censorship and television "docudramas." Docudramas such as Winds of War; Tora, Tora, Tora; Gandhi; Gallipoli; and Holocaust, which pervade people's 1984-like telescreens, are a blend of fact and fiction. They give a clear and believable, but usually completely misleading view, of historical events. The pervasiveness of television and widespread literacy make people more susceptible to brainwashing by Big Brother agencies than was possible in the past. The twentieth century and now the twenty first century are the centuries of mass propaganda. The state of perpetual war described by Orwell is also reflected in the more than three hundred and fifty wars since 1945. Perpetual civil war also seems to prevail in various multi-racial societies. "Doublespeak" propaganda terms are used in these conflicts. "Peace-keeping forces" are used to make war and invasions, planning for aggressive war is described as "defense strategy." The media in all countries are a vehicle for whipping up hatred against Goldstein-like figures. The aim of hate-week incitement is to divert attention from domestic problems, promote national unity, and, where necessary, motivate people to kill other people in wars.


Ms. Amy E. Boyle Johnston then got up and said:

In May 2007 I interviewed Mr. Bradbury. Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, said  that his book, Fahrenheit 451,  is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature. “Television gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” Bradbury said, summarizing TV’s content with a single word that he spat out as an epithet: “factoids.” He said this while sitting in a room dominated by a gigantic flat-panel television broadcasting the Fox News Channel, muted, factoids crawling across the bottom of the screen. His fear in 1953 that television would kill books has, he said, been partially confirmed by television’s effect on substance in the news. The front page of that day’s L.A. Times reported on the weekend box-office receipts for the third in the Spider-Man series of movies, seeming to prove his point. “Useless,” Bradbury said. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.” As early as 1951, Bradbury presaged his fears about TV, in a letter about the dangers of radio, written to fantasy and science-fiction writer Richard Matheson. Bradbury wrote that “Radio has contributed to our ‘growing lack of attention.’... This sort of hopscotching existence makes it almost impossible for people, myself included, to sit down and get into a novel again. We have become a short story reading people, or, worse than that, a QUICK reading people.” According to Bradbury the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state — it is the people. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, in which the government uses television screens to indoctrinate citizens, Bradbury envisioned television as an opiate. In the book, Bradbury refers to televisions as “walls” and its actors as “family,” a truth evident to anyone who has heard a recap of network shows in which a fan refers to the characters by first name, as if they were relatives or friends. Bradbury imagined a democratic society whose diverse population turns against books: Whites reject Uncle Tom’s Cabin and blacks disapprove of Little Black Sambo. He imagined not just political correctness, but a society so diverse that all groups were “minorities.” He wrote that at first they condensed the books, stripping out more and more offending passages until ultimately all that remained were footnotes, which hardly anyone read. Only after people stopped reading did the state employ firemen to burn books. Most Americans did not have televisions when Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, and those who did watched 7-inch screens in black and white. Interestingly, his book imagined a future of giant color sets — flat panels that hung on walls like moving paintings. And television was used to broadcast meaningless drivel to divert attention, and thought, away from an impending war.


Mr. Bertrand Russell. said:

When Brave New World was released I thought that Huxley's book was based on my book The Scientific Outlook that had been released the previous year. I contacted my own publisher and asked whether or not I should do something about this apparent plagiarism. My publisher advised me not to, and I followed this advice. I am glad that today we settled this issue.

1984 shares so many features with We that there can be no doubt about its general debt to it. Further,  Orwell's novel is both bleaker and more topical than Zamyatin's, lacking entirely that ironic humour that pervades the Russian work.


Ms. Mirra Ginsburg said:

This novel We has served as the inspiration for what has become, if not a genre, then at the very least a dominant sub-genre of science fiction. It is the first major dystopian novel, a precursor to George Orwell’s 1984, Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and its history, along with that of its author, eerily mimics some of the themes of those other books.  Written and completed in 1920, We was first published in English in 1924, then in Czech in 1927. It wouldn’t be published in Russian until 1952, some fifteen years after Zamyatin’s death. Even then, it was not published in Russia, but by the Chekhov Publishing House in New York. Zamyatin’s profound understanding of the human soul transcends what could have been a heavy, demagogic work. He celebrates the power of laughter, injecting a lightness into the text at the most unexpected points. I, pleasantly surprised at just how funny this work was, and at how well its science fiction aspects have withstood the changing times, certainly intend to read it again.


Mr. John Gabree said:


"We" is one of the great works of science fiction and a masterpiece of speculative political philosophy. Many political novels of the 20th century, including George Orwell's "1984," are its offspring. It gathers its impact not only from the force of its political vision (for Zamyatin foresaw the evils of 20th-century totalitarianism with the clairvoyance of a gypsy fortuneteller), but from its artistry. Far more than “Brave New World” or “1984,” it is a hopeful book. At the end, despite the best efforts of those in power, the ideal of freedom burns undiminished in the human soul.



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