Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quote of the day, 6/12/08

Unlike Winston, [Julia] had grasped the inner meaning of the Party's sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was:

"When you make love you're using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don't give a damn for anything. They can't bear for you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?"

That was very true, he thought...For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force?


--Orwell, 1984

23 comments:

jfpbookworm said...

And then you have Brave New World, which is apparently also a dystopia because in its free-love culture everybody *does* feel happy and doesn't give a damn for anything.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, I never liked Huxley much. And while both Orwell and Huxley can be accused of sexism, Huxley seems a lot more unconscious about it.

belledame222 said...

anyway, it's not just that they feel happy; it's that everything's carefully regulated and then there are all these -other- taboos. The point isn't so much -which- powerful drive is being bottled up in order to be diverted for someone else's/authoritarian purposes, it's that it's happening at all.

Trinity said...

y'know i never quite figured WHY winston wanted to *rape* julia during the 2 min. hate.

now, seeing that quote... yeah, I get it. yeah.

belledame222 said...

still creepy, but at least we know Winston is not a reliable narrator, and that, well, he's being fucked with.

whereas "the Savage's" response to wossname in Brave New World, I always got the strong impression that Huxley was suggesting that we're supposed to be sympathetic toward wossname's violent rejection of Lenina the socialized SOMA-taker (i.e. he's in love with her but has all these fucked up ideas about sexuality since he only ever read Shakespeare and saw his disgusting mother having it off with someone or other). Also, Huxley portrays her as dumb as a box of rocks, which even the socialized men are not

jfpbookworm said...

I always got the strong impression that Huxley was suggesting that we're supposed to be sympathetic toward wossname's violent rejection of Lenina the socialized SOMA-taker.

Oh, we're definitely supposed to side with the Savage, because he has Deep Feelings while the Fordians can't understand Romeo and Juliet.

Also, Huxley portrays her as dumb as a box of rocks, which even the socialized men are not.

IIRC, she's a Beta, while most of the men are Alpha or Alpha-plus. Funny how that works - I don't think there are actually Alpha women "on-screen" in Brave New World.

For that matter, I don't remember *any* other women identified as being in different castes. It's almost as if the book's caste system, with its hierarchies of intelligence, stature, etc., was only thought out with respect to men, and "Woman" was another caste altogether.

Alon Levy said...

The on-screen labor division in Brave New World is traditional, there's no question. So you have female nurses, who are betas, and male intellectuals, who are alphas. But the book does hint at the existence of female alphas, on the island where the government bred alphas alone.

Kristen said...

"If you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?"

So what we should really do is get all the people in the M.E. to get together for a nice consensual orgy?

Orgasms for peace?

Sex toys for peace?

Belle, you may have just saved the world...Someone get Jimmy Carter on the phone.

belledame222 said...

Kristen: well, y'know, "make love, not war" is a cliche, and one that was eventually dismissed as well simplistic (among other things) for a number of good reasons. yeah, fucking alone does not a Revolution make. And you note that, again, Winston, being an unreliable narrator, thinks his fucking Julia is a "political act;" but in reality it didn't mean much more than, well, any other reason the Inner Party decided "time to crush, now." The little piece of rainwater glass was at least as much of a sin: it was private, it was beauty for its own sake, it was...anything that keeps one from being absorbed into the Eating Machine that's totalitarianism.

And he's pretty clear that the kind of porn promoted by the government and contemptuously sold to the proles, along with petty streetwalking at the proletarian level, is just more cheap bread and circuses.

What's really subversive, of course, is the intimacy between him and Julia.

But...it's not trivial, either, the erotic part; and I do think Reich (who I imagine could've influenced Orwell there, don't know if the former was known to the latter, should look up; at minimum it was in the air) was onto something with the idea that in fact authoritarianism is very much dependent on the -harnessing- of erotic energy.

Note that I am saying "authoritarianism" here, -not- "The Patriarchy," or even male dominance per se. They overlap a lot, but they ain't synonymous.

belledame222 said...

per BNW: I thought wossname, Bernard? the one who finds/brings back the Savage? was a Beta? perhaps I misremember. thing about Lena, it wasn't just that she wasn't an Alpha, she was so obviously -ditzy.- The men talk about Theory and Deep things, not just the Savage; Lena's just, ooh! I wanna get laid! ooh! soma! ooh! he's cute! does my ass look too pneumatic in these zippicamiknicks or whatever the fuck it was?

and the Savage's mother is painted as such an id-driven, physically repulsive, mindless monstrosity to everyone that it's hard not to believe that the author doesn't share that revulsion.

also I seem to recall reading something else by Huxley where the blatantly patronizing portrayal of one of (possibly the only) female characters stayed with me even when absolutely nothing else did. (which the hell one was it...?)

Orwell's a sexist louse, but to a large degree he knows he's a louse, even if a goodly chunk of his attitudes about men and women and sexuality and so on are, well, a product of his time. (Among other things, he dismissed feminism as trivial; I'd expect he'd rethink it if plopped into a later era and confronted with some of the major thinkers/movements/activists then, though). The way Winston treated his mother and little sister is a particularly haunting part of 1984, and it's a theme that runs through much of Orwell's other work (the rather miserable, self-pitying yet guilty awareness that he's a selfish git and his sister had an even more rum deal than he does). And in general, Orwell's female characters are...people. Huxley's aren't. At least not in anything I've read.

Kristin said...

Clearly, I need to reread these books, as there's a lot more to them than I picked up on at fifteen--before I was even looking at things through a feminist lens in the first place. Thanks for sharing that quote--very apt in light of recent threads.

ArrogantWorm said...

Kristen, Belle's got a Charles' George Orwell Link to his work at the bottom of her blog's page; free reading. Can't help with 'Brave New World' though, sorry.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Orgasms for peace?

Sex toys for peace?

Belle, you may have just saved the world...Someone get Jimmy Carter on the phone.


Best comments. Ever.

belledame222 said...

Brave New World is probably e-texted somewhere too; I seem to remember googling the whole thing once, just can't remember where.

Kristen said...

Belle,

I'm not so sure I think it's just a cliche. I mean...not that sex in and of it self can save the universe...but perhaps what sex represents can save the universe. Orwell may have stumbled onto something inadvertently (although I think he was probably playing into his own "male orgasm as center of creation" brain fart).

But consider what sex can represent

1. Sameness. Naked we're all slightly different, but we're all pretty much alike. At least more like each other than we are like algae.

2. Removing the Veils. Physically and metaphorically. Naked we're all vulnerable. Its hard to be a pompous ass when you're naked. (Okay, so some guys I've dated have proved the exception to the rule...but STILL.) Beyond all the posturing and the bullshit, we're just people. Acknowledging that about ourselves and others would do a lot of good.

3. Bodily autonomy. Sex is (ahem...should be at least) about choice and using your own body in the way that makes you happy. That idea by itself would reshape the M.E. Hell, that idea by itself would reshape the US. Even more Hell, that idea itself would reshape parts of feminism.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, I guess I was trying to say: it can be and has been oversimplified and often abused, that idea (to wit: my desire to get into your pants is now actually a POLITICAL STRIKE AGAINST TEH MAN, and you are not just a prude and a heartless beeyotch but a reactionary if you won't do it. there are legitimate reasons why a number of second wave feminists were leery of the whole "free love" business. among others). But on the whole: well, again, the term is -eros-: it -is- a powerful force, and...this is probably worth another post. When I get to it.

ArrogantWorm said...

Thank you very much fer say'n BNW was google-able; for some reason I didn't think it was or I would've hunted it down by now, <3 free literature. Kristen, 'Brave New World'.

http://www.hedweb.com/huxley/bnw/

Daisy said...

Gee, I wonder who that's about?

(((whistles innocently, looks at the presidential ballot...)))

belledame222 said...

actually kind of applies to a lot of people/situations..

Daran said...

That was very true, he thought...For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force?

I love Big Br... I mean, I love the book. It's an insightful and frighteningly accurate depiction of the world today. However I'd never thought to apply that particular passage to real life sexual puritanism. It fits though, not just Radfem puritanism, but also Christian puritanism.

Never got into Huxley, though. I tried, but somehow it just couldn't grip me. One point he made, though, was right on the button - how orthodoxy is established endless repetition. Repeat after me: Women are oppressed. Men are privileged. Woman are oppressed. Men are...

belledame222 said...

It's an insightful and frighteningly accurate depiction of the world today.

Ehm...there's no way to put this in a nuanced fashion...dude, no, that: really don't think so; coz, otherwise, we wouldn't be talking like this here, see.

belledame222 said...

and as much as I snark about the totalitarian impulses of certain fringey feminists, really, you knew I was going to have the obligatory "feminists aren't -actually- dominating the planet at the moment," right?

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