Our own Brave New World – courtesy of SCOTUS Skip to content

Our own Brave New World – courtesy of SCOTUS

Books like Brave New World, 1984, and The Handmaid’s Tale all describe dystopian societies. Now, courtesy of SCOTUS, we are seeing the outlines of our own dystopia.

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Photo by alex kristanas / Unsplash

As students we may have read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty- four, and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

Each author uses literature to convey what a dystopian society would look like.

According to the Study.com’s definition of a dystopian society, “Information is controlled, a single leader is followed blindly, one is always being watched, propaganda and fear are used to fool, the individual is dehumanized, the environment is typically destroyed/ ignored, conformity is valued above all else, and the society gives the illusion of perfection but is truly corrupt.”

From the outside, a dystopian society seems "perfect" because it claims to have eliminated inequality, pain, and unhappiness. However, if the observer peels back the smiling face of the society, it is hiding oppression, injustice, and using propaganda to convince citizens that they are ‘living the dream’.

In Brave New World, written between World War I and World War II, Huxley rejected technology as a cure-all for problems caused by disease and war. Huxley was inspired by a line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “Oh, brave new world!,” meaning a bleak future.

George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-four as a warning of totalitarianism, where thinking differently invites torture, people are monitored every day, and party propaganda eliminates free speech.

In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood cautions us about a society where men hold all the power and women are excluded. Atwood paints that society as having feelings of fear, hopelessness, extreme oppression, and injustice.

Today the US Supreme Court has taken on the role of hiding oppression, injustice, and using propaganda to convince citizens that the Court honors our democratic constitutional truths.

“Significantly, the justices who now control the court were appointed by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote and approved by a Republican [minority]-controlled Senate that represents a minority of voters,” states Christine Adams in “The Dictatorship of the Supreme Court” published in the History News Network.

Adams continues by listing the following court cases which have caused feelings of fear, hopelessness, and injustice to millions of our citizens:

  • “In West Virginia v EPA, the Court gutted the power of administrative agencies to establish rules for programs that Congress does not explicitly write into law.
  • The Court just struck down New York’s limitations on the right to carry concealed weapons in public, which flies in the face of a public supportive of firearm restrictions to limit gun violence.
  • In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court struck down Roe v Wade, which could impact many prior cases which used the 14th Amendment as the basis.
  • Citizens United (2010) opened the spigot for corporate money.
  • In 2013, Shelby County v Holder declared essential parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional – a law whose provisions the Senate voted 98-0 to extend in a vote.”
  • And, in a 2019 decision in two state redistricting cases, Chief Justice John Roberts asserted that “partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” which means elected officials can now choose their voters rather than the reverse.” (from “Dictatorship of the Supreme Court” by Adams)

Look at a photograph of the today’s US Supreme Court justices. Nine smiling faces.

But, absent Executive power and a functioning Legislature, something else lurks behind those nine appointed-for-life smiling faces: a dystopian roadmap of fear and loathing.

In “The Supreme Court Is Dooming America to Repeat History” published in Time, Kermit Roosevelt summarizes this Court’s understanding of fundamental rights — the “rights that every person must have to play their appropriate role in society, to be recognized as a full and equal citizen” — as determined by an 1860s understanding of those rights. “The consequences of that are disastrous for women, for Black people, for the LGBTQ community, for non-Christians — basically for everyone except the white Christian men who held power then.”

In short, according to Roosevelt, “it is to say that the Constitution, which should be the pantheon of American values, contains instead all the ignorance and prejudices of the past that the true heroes of our history fought so hard to overcome.”

Our own Brave New World is coming – or is already here.


Written by John James Alexander, a pseudonym for a long-time Kentucky educator.

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