Orwell, Huxley and Freedom

Whoa. Synchronicity. The always interesting Darwin Catholic post this piece discussing Orwell, Huxley and the Church, referencing this piece at First Thoughts. And I pushed Orwell as a tonic just a couple hours ago.

Darwin draws attention to the ancient and Catholic understanding that true freedom is freedom from external and internal oppression. Being a slave to our passions is not free, no matter how free from external constraints we are.

Here’s Darwin Catholic:

As the media grants Pope Francis a sort of honeymoon period of secular adulation, there seems to be in many quarters an expectation that the Church will turn to emphasize much more a modern, secular vision of freedom: a “freedom from” in which political and economic factors which keep people from doing whatever they want are decried. Any close reading of Francis’s statements, however, strikes me as placing a dual emphasis on both combating external oppression and also pursuing virtue and thus escaping the slavery of vice.

Read both pieces, they’re excellent.

My only addition to the mix is to note that the split between external and internal chains in 1984 and Brave New World is not a clean as these essays seem to say. The internal slavery in Brave New World becomes and is inseparable from external constraints. The protagonist can’t just embrace virtue, he must physically escape. It would not be possible to resist slavery to vice in the external context of that society. Even in 1984, the point is made that Big Brother will allow some ‘vices’ provided they don’t challenge the overall system. It is mentioned at the end that, because he now loves Big Brother, Winston could make love on the lawn in the park with no repercussions.

1984 is admittedly much darker and more hopeless about external slavery, with whatever personal ‘freedom’ might exist excluding the possibility of virtue. Because of this, it is a simpler book. In Brave New World, the slavery is more completely shown – that by embracing their every base whim, the people become enslaved both t0 sin and to the ‘system’.

In both books, the sin that enables all the internal and external oppression is lying. The flip side of the truth setting us free is that lies enslave us. Newspeak and Doublethink are very real today, as are the lies we tell ourselves as we indulge our every whim here in the rich, leisured West. Like Callicles and the people in Brave New World, we define virtue as the ability to indulge our every whim.



Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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