|19 Oct 2003 @ 20:05, by Quidnovi|
The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.
---Stanley Milgram (1933-1984)
In 1958, Aldous Huxley wrote what might be called a sequel to his novel Brave New World, published in 1932, but it was a sequel that did not revisit the story or the characters, or re-enter the world of the novel. Instead, he revisited that world in a set of 12 essays. Taking a second look at specific aspects of the future imagined in Brave New World, Huxley meditated on how his fantasy seemed to be turning into reality, frighteningly and much more quickly than he had ever dreamed.
Huxley saw, in 1958, a world full of the noise of what he called singing commercials, flooding the mass media, much like the hypnopaedia that shaped conscious thought in the world of the novel. He saw people everywhere in greater numbers taking tranquilizer drugs, to surrender to the unacceptable aspects of modern life---not unlike the drug called soma that everyone takes in the novel. The power of propaganda, he believed, had been validated by the rise of Hitler, and the postwar world was using it effectively to manipulate the masses. Brave New World Revisited despairs of what has come to pass, primarily modern humankind's willingness to surrender freedom for pleasure.
Following is an excerpt:
A Brave New World Revisited
The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness.
These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish the illusion of individuality, but in fact they have been to a great extent de-individualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity. But uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too... Man is not made to be an automation, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.
The wish to impose order upon confusion, to bring harmony out of dissonance and unity out of multiplicity, is a kind of intellectual instinct; a primary and fundamental urge of the mind.
Biologically speaking, man is moderately gregarious, not a completely social animal; a creature more like a wolf, let us say, or an elephant, than like a bee or an ant. In their original form human societies bore no resemblance to the hive or the ant heap; they were merely packs. Civilization is, among other things, the process by which primitive packs are transformed into an analogue, crude and mechanical, of the social insects' organic communities. Needless to say, the ideal will never in fact be realized. A great gulf separates the social insects from the not too gregarious, big-brained mammal; and even though the mammal should do his best to imitate the insect, the gulf would remain. However hard they try, men cannot create a social organism, they can only create an organization. In the process of trying to create an organization they will merely create a totalitarian despotism.
The current Social Ethic, it is obvious, is merely a justification after the fact of the less desirable consequence of over-organization. It represents a pathetic attempt to make a virtue of necessity, to extract a positive value from an unpleasant datum. It is a very unrealistic, and therefore very dangerous, system of morality. The social whole, whose value is assumed to be greater than that of its component parts, is not an organism in the sense that a hive or termitary may be thought of as an organism. It is mere an organization, a piece of social machinery. There can be no value except in relation to life and awareness. An organization is neither conscious nor alive. Its value is intrumental and derivative. It is not good in itself; it is good only to the extent that it promotes the good of the individuals who are the parts of the collective whole. To give organizations precedence over persons is to subordinate end to means. What happens when ends are subordinated to means was clearly demonstrated by Hitler and Stalin. Under their hideous rule personal ends were subordinated to organizational means by a mixture of violence and propaganda, systematic terror and the systematic manipulation of minds. In the more efficient dictatorships of tomorrow there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin. The future dictator's subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained Social Engineers.
In the totalitarian East there is political censorship, and the media of mass communication are controlled by the State. In the democratic West, there is economic censorship and the media of mass communication are controlled by members of the Power Elite.
(...) The nature of oratory is such that there has always been a tendency among politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex issues. From a pulpit or a platform even the most conscientious of speakers finds it very difficult to tell the whole truth. The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant, positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything.