Boot Images

I read 1984 before Brave New World, and my reading about and experience of government oppression inclined me for years to see Orwell’s dystopia as more probable than Huxley’s. This inclination changed somewhat in, oh, the 90s, perhaps, when the end of history and waves of increasingly sophisticated video soma suggested to me the brave new world might come by way of psychotropics and video rather than genetic engineering and amusement parks. At the end of 1984 O’Brian’s claim to Winston “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever” seemed far too stark.

A conversation today brought back to my mind O’Brian’s explanation that two plus two results in whatever the state wants it to be — three, four, five, or all of them together. This has certainly become my experience of my countrymen. It occurred to me that an accurate picture of the future might be of a boot stamping on the face of a human who not only does not realize he is being kicked in the face, but who is participating both in the manufacture of the boot and the swing of the kick, all the while certain he is engaged in something else: defending his country or earning a livelihood perhaps.

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