Three Authors of Dystopic Futures – Man’s Two Options Therein
Just when one thinks that they know a reasonable amount about a subject, the truth comes to light – one knows next to nothing. Not long ago, this writer had read Orwell’s 1984 (in German), and written about it in this blog. On the used notebook computer he acquired, there was a bundle of downloaded e-books, of which he chose to read in full, one called Lord of the World (in the Spanish version), by Robert Hugh Benson. Not wanting to wait until the last page to see what it was about, a web search gave 2 facts which, through the logical error of appeal to authority, made Benson’s work sound important. First, it is said to be enjoyed by Pope Francis. Second, it was said to be a dystopic novel, such as 1984. But it was not alone – it was put into the same category as another work, We, by Eugene Zamiatin, and one is to believe the latter work was a direct precursor and inspiration for Orwell.
These are really three very different novels. It should be pointed out, that Benson was a priest, son of an Anglican Archbishop (of Canterbury, no less), and a convert to Roman Catholicism; his book is basically about the struggle between such religion as would remain in the world of his novel, against the type of world government which forms, as the plot unfolds. It does share with 1984 three geographical regions, but strays, in that the war is transmuted into a universal peace. Zamiatin also shows such a peace, after a 200 year war, but he is completely irreverent, and there is no way that his book would have found itself into a high school of Canada or the United States at the time it was written – a proliferation of certain sensual scenes about a couple sharing some time together, may easily have been taken from this novel by Orwell, but who put more restraint into the description. Furthermore, Zamiatin had studied Mathematics, and heavily sprinkles his novel with terminology that in this author’s time was for the final year of secondary school, and according to some books in his library, for first-year college. The constant references to integers, square roots, negative and imaginary numbers, geometrical forms, and possibly Russian algebraic symbols such as X, O, I, and R do put the reader off somewhat. Nevertheless, he does have at least a couple of interesting things to say, about personal freedom (which will be dealt with at a later date), but here we wish to refute a possible theory of his, that mankind chose not to be free as in the “legend of paradise” (page 51). He insists, (and this has to do with his own personality and opinions, arguing in favour of freedom), that man is either free without happiness, or happy without freedom, no other way exists. We beg to differ. The following are our thoughts such as they occurred, with little editing, which leads to a certain complexity. As such, this article is not a review of books as one might expect, and any meaning to be derived here is suited to those who have read the works.
The Third Choice – Paradise Explained
There is a 3rd choice, Paradise was happiness, until there was knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were whole, in equilibrium (an idea which has to be reconciled with novel), the pleasure of eating the apple upset the balance for this was high excitement – anything else would be boring (in the future). However, by breaking the skin of the apple, even before tasting, something new was seen: the world inside of the forbidden fruit, and then – the fruit was a new world inside of man. The Tree, as it was to have existed, had its integrity harmed by having its fruit plucked, the fruit had its integrity damaged, by having been bitten, man had his integrity destroyed, by having ingested -[ cf Apocalyse 10: 9-10: in the mouth it tastes sweet, in the stomach, it is bitter] – man already had the power of choice (badly used), he had the power of reason (otherwise, he would not have been a perfect creation) – the bitterness in the stomach was now the a posteriori conclusion that he had done wrong, a flood of reasoning overwhelmed him, and suddenly, it seemed that the state of nature prior to the fig leaf was another wrong, and the fig leaf was considered insufficient, so man hid himself. Zamiatin painted this as freedom without happiness, or happiness without freedom, but Adam and Eve were put into “The Garden of Delight” happily free, and the consequence of their action was the unhappy enchainment to our present human condition, where any “excessive” search for happiness either results in more misery (which some would call guilt), or, for what might be called the road to definite perdition, in that once jaded with the pleasures obtained, the search for even more may lead to actions up to murder for pure pleasure. Cain was lucky, although he, like his parents, tried to justify (very poorly, this one!) himself, not for the murder, but for supposedly not knowing his brother’s whereabouts; and was cast out of whatever one would call Outside-of-Paradise, into an even more unforgiving space. But, he did not get a death sentence, and anyone who would touch him would have it even worse. That information he got by his power of reasoning, his knowledge of good and evil, he knew that he could be the recipient of a quid pro quo.
Therefore, to suggest that man chose happiness over freedom is a lie, as is the contrary. To choose to be curious, is not to choose happiness. The choice was to know Good and Evil, with its concomitant, Death. Hardly a happy choice! And as for freedom, they had it – for example, the freedom to do even what they later they would consider shameful – with only one explicit “SHOULDN’T”.
Oh, one might say, they couldn’t leave Paradise. But what would make them think of doing such a thing? If necessity is the mother of invention, there was no need to invent anything at all – which is not to say that there was no originality: man gave names to all the animals, and might have gotten around to accepting to Copernican-Galilean discovery of the rotation of the heavenly bodies. After all, there was no such prohibition!
The Epicurean in Eden
Now, this is not a diatribe against eating meat, but a good case can be made here, through the Book of Genesis, against both animal flesh and perhaps even vegetables. While “fruits of the earth” might well encompass more than fruits of trees, as botanists classify tomatoes as fruit, and the translation for “little fruit” in American Spanish is understood as “strawberry”, while in the standard Hispanic vocabulary, all berries, without doubt, are fruit, and we can, by extension, apply the word to anything edible which comes from a tree. Let it be understood, this is not a botanical classification, but the author’s feeling about food. How? All things considered, given a choice, he would exclude vegetable and meat [exception, if someone else prepares it!]. Who, as a child, in his right mind, would choose to dig up a tuber or other kind of root, or choose to eat a green vegetable? And it is precisely this, to a great degree, which still makes up the diet of many Brazilians (as I have heard from a person who once lived there). And think of it, when missionaries of a Puritanical streak discovered that in some Pacific Island, hungry natives could just climb a tree and take the breadfruit therefrom, this was considered sinful, as it was not work – as though climbing a tree with bare feet were a a pleasurable activity!
A table with pineapples, oranges, pears, plums, apricots, coconuts, grapes or raisins, walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, please! Grains could somehow be included, and together with cracked wheat, and honey or another sugar, a marvellous Middle Eastern dish can be made (with some spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, anise, caraway. Eggs, another extra, as they could be taken from the ground the same as strawberries.
Eden: Paradise for Man and Animal
Milk would probably not have been on the menu in Eden, for that would have implied animal husbandry, or toil, from which one was imagined to be free. And even if one were free to milk some cow or goat, that would have implied an unnatural life for that animal, outside of its function of supplying nutrients to its calves or kids. Animal rights activists, see! Even in Eden the beasts, therefore, beautified the environment, – could be considered a free-roaming pets. For even in Paradise, certainly there was a balance of Nature, and the animals did the pruning and fertilizing for Man. But when the animal did so, it was not work, but a natural result, outside of the Garden, man found it necessary to work; and, in order to work more easily, to harness the animals, and their energy, and their food, skins, and furs. Thus, whatever mythical quality the Genesis story may have, it is clearly about Freedom lost, Paradise lost.
One may ask, what fault did the animals have. Probably, they should not have let the snake near the Tree of Knowledge. In fact, I have heard it said that pigs can be used to destroy snakes, so, the pig, charged with keeping the Slitherer within bounds, but already seduced by its possibilies of rivalling humans with its lack of bodily hair, made a Faustian bargain with the Evil One, for which it remains emblematic of the devil, (compare the mini-dystoptic world of Lord of the Flies), and let the snake get away with it. Okay, all this might sound a bit fanciful, but Eden’s snake was cursed, so, following the script, it need not have been the first animal spoken to. At least, the unclean animals shared the ark with the clean, and with Noah and his family. As in Cain’s case, no death sentence was put upon them, in fact, once out of the ark, the prohibition about shedding man’s blood, or eating animal meat with blood, remained strong. That some animals should be deemed not fit for human consumption – that’s normal enough. Chocolate ant, anybody?
Once the flood waters receded, and the world greened once more, and life was amply restored through the specimens of the ark, man again had his freedom, and happiness. It is for this reason that we beg to differ with the sensualist Zamiatin, that man had no other choice. Of course, as the Biblical story unfolds, man misuses his freedom time and again, but never to the apocalyptic degrees that Benson describes, though there are certainly descriptions of rulers who would enslave people, and had those rulers the modern technology of today, one of them would surely have made the fatal mistake of plunging the world into a lifeless planet, where then, the questions of freedom and happiness would be moot points.
The choice of the title was to create the illusion of a word, “Weeden”. A couple of web pages exist, showing this word to be a variant of the pagan Norse god, Woden, or Odin, root of the word “Wednesday”. We rather prefer the idea of the Weeden Island culture of Florida, which existed before the Christian Era, and, which showed, in common with the cultures of Central and South America, observations of astronomy, and artforms superior to those of the later tribes of what would later be parts of the United States east of the Mississippi. The Hopewell culture, from which it is said to derive, itself might suggest, to someone interested in related myths, that even in America, there was an expulsion from Eden, with the good hope of a return. A Norse myth has a pair of humans created by a god, with a sacred tree. [A serious link for this is being sought.]
October 3, 2014.