Double Ungood: Brave New World Film

Friday, 21st December 2012

Things might not have panned out quite how George Orwell predicted in his infamous dystopian novel, 1984. In many ways rather than progress towards austere authoritarianism, modelled on Stalin's Soviet Union, penalising expressions of excessive joy, the latest phase of corporate globalisation has seen the spread of mass consumerism and commercialised hedonism as tools of social engineering. It is much easier to control an atomised populace mesmerised and distracted by mass entertainment, online games and trivial pursuits, than a disgruntled collective of workers frightened into submission. Overtly negative language instils fear and apprehension and can only influence people if counterbalanced by a deluge of positive messages about life and the organisations the establishment would like us to cherish. However, Orwell did foresee the gradual adaptation of language to change the way people think, or more accurately suppress certain thoughts altogether.

In Orwell's 1984 the government set about to phase out negative words. In a transitionary period, a simple negative prefix un could be used, hence ungood for bad. Thanks to positive psychology, so popular with corporate management, and neurolinguist programming (NLP), we can observe the ame trends today. A negative is now often the absence of a positive or replaced by deceptively neutral but prescriptive adjectives, e.g. a behaviour may be described not as wrong, bad, immoral, evil, indecent or selfish, but simply as inappropriate, i.e. possibly appropriate in an officially approved outlet for our frustrations, but not in the referenced context.

Indeed the worst abstract noun today is negativity itself. Any language or behaviour that meets this definition is simply deemed out of bounds, not acceptable, incompatible with our enlightened, tolerant and diverse brave new world. It provides the ultimate pretext for silencing dissent. Public organisations claiming to be open and democratic, often define all unpalatable opinions as "negative".

Brave New World movie from 1980

In his 1931 novel, Aldous Huxley presciently anticipated many modern trends. Note how negative thoughts were reserved for outcasts known as savages, those who lived outside modern society and didn't take soma (chill pill, antidepressant) or participate in conditioning sessions. Critical thinkers were treated for deviance or banished to remote islands and any defiant behaviour was treated, as it is increasingly today, as a sign of psychiatric malfunction. View the film above and you will see what I mean.

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