In Other’s Words: Literature as Prophecy

In a recent post, I offered a quote from Michael Knowles’ Speechless, in which he noted that in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, authors around the world prophesied the effects of political correctness. The chattering classes of our day, particularly those who lament the loss of tradition, education, and common culture, often point to George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, as the most prophetic of all the novels exploring the ends of unchecked political correctness. It’s easy to see how Orwell earned this honor. Are these not the expressions of a man whose brain is a crystal ball?

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

How much more these words?

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

Much ink has been spilled by postmodern commentators striving to determine whether our current cultural and political iteration has more in common with Orwell’s 1984, or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Astonishingly, we live in a time and place where both men’s visions of the future are unfolding simultaneously.

Hearthie, at, took an insightful turn at exposing all of the ways we have succumbed to Huxley’s version of the future. From her post, Soma:

In Brave New World, soma is the government supplied drug that numbs and offers blissful escape from any unpleasantness, whether great or small. Modernity has built up her offerings until it is nearly impossible to avoid dusting oneself with our own versions of soma. One starts with the obvious – the internet. But it is not the internet that is soma, it is what we grab while we are here on the web.

We grab numbness. We grab stimulants. We grab psychedelics. The internet simply makes the grabbing easier – these have been progressively more available through the years. Luxury and free time offer us the opportunity to do anything. Being humans, “anything” tends to be that which makes the pain disappear.

I was the child with few friends, the one with her nose in a book. At first it was not my deep love of the written word that drove me, it was the pain of being alone. I found friends and adventure – safe adventure, with nary a skinned knee – between the pages. One thing led to another, and most of my summers were spent with stacks of books. I gorged. I dreamt. I fell.

Music calls to some, as they lose themselves in the sounds from the radio, youtube, headphones… there is a virtual cacophony these days, where the absence of noise is more precious than the sound of rhythm. You need never be out of earshot of your favorite music.

You should click over and read the whole thing, because she’s right. The unlimited number and varied versions of entertainment are our soma, here in the West.

Pause, and think about that.

I wonder if Orwell and Huxley would receive news of their eerily accurate predictions with smug satisfaction or justifiable horror.

6 thoughts on “In Other’s Words: Literature as Prophecy

  1. hearthie says:

    Thank you for the plug! 🙂 I needed to get that definition out there so I can use it as a reference properly.

    There is a lot of creepy predictive stuff in the dystopian sci fi written from the 70s prior – when they were doing more about playing with what-ifs and less space opera. Harrison Bergeron of course. Heinlein’s timeline – or at least his name for our time (the Crazy Years). People who read history but don’t have influence can have mighty fine crystal balls, it turns out… :/ Depressing work, if you can stomach it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elspeth says:

    The interesting thing about Heinein, at least to me, is that both right and left can cherry pick parts of his prophecy and throw lobs at their opponents.

    To me, that underscores how accurate he was in myriad ways. Sort of in the same way that both Orwell and Huxley were right. We are moving into totalitarianism, but of the soft variety.

    It’s encroaching so successfully and spectacularly unnoticed by so many because most are in the grips of soma: niche interests, Internet offerings, entertainment, various shades of porn, luxury, comfort, etc.

    I have a very hard time right now making plans for even 3 years into the future. I’m not kidding. I find myself focusing on preparing for the gulags and praying for my kids far more than worrying about what college (if any) my remaining two kids are going to attend. I get asked that fairly regularly.

    And ain’t no way in Hades I’m packing them up and shipping them off somewhere in this environment.


  3. hearthie says:

    Heinlein was a true, hard-core, libertarian.

    I don’t know that it’s necessary to prepare for the gulags (and how does one prepare for the gulags? Lots of crossfit? Fasting?) but yes – the winds of change are blowing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. elspeth says:


    You know I was “preparing for the gulags” as a morbid joke, right?

    It was more a rhetorical flourish to make a point than anything real. I’m still in the 3rd grade, trying to wean myself off the soma.

    Podcasts are my kryptonite, which is hilarious when you consider that just a couple of short years ago, I would say most podcasts were boring.

    Now I’m listening to the dronings of Joshua Gibbs, Spencer Klavan, and the admittedly more entertaining Daily Wire guys (and gal).


  5. hearthie says:

    It’s a valid question though. I am a consumer-of-soma and one of my go-tos is Patara, who is all about the homesteading/prepping. Now, info-about-homesteading is largely entertainment for me in life now, but were we gulaging up, or even TRULY prepping for the Civil war, her vids would be study time, not funtime.

    Speaking of Civil War, did you see this bit by Shapiro, quoting the center for politics? Urk.


  6. cammanley1 says:

    I find reading old literature quite terrifying sometimes and discovering predictions from years ago – one that stands out in my mind is Dostoevsky’s prediction of the murderous nihilism of the 20th century… and then Solzhenitsyn’s recount of exactly this with regards to the Gulags. Really nice post!


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