Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932. The novel describes a futuristic society that boasts a world government with the motto “Community, Identity, Stability.” The year is After Ford 632, and babies are decanted rather than born. Eugenics has been refined to the point where viviparous births no longer occur. Human ova are extracted from purchased ovaries, manually fertilized, and grown in bottles to produce specific castes of individuals, from Alpha to Epsilon. In the controlled process, growth and development are intentionally stunted in the lower castes, to pre-condition them to lives of menial labor and servitude.
There are no families, and the words “mother” and “father” are obscenities. There is no social unrest, no disease, and no war. Books like Shakespeare and the Bible have been banned, because they are old. The Brave New World emphasizes everything new, with consumerism raised to the level of a religion, in fond memory of “Our Ford.” Solitude and individuality are considered subversive. Sexual promiscuity is promoted, and the popular “feelies” are pornographic movies with sensual enhancement. The feel-good drug, soma, is dispensed freely as a work benefit, allowing everyone to maintain a state of happiness at all times.
Author Aldous Huxley was a teacher at Eton College to Eric Blair, pseudonym George Orwell, who in 1949, published his own dystopic novel, 1984. When offered a chance to review 1984, Huxley was impressed but claimed his own dystopia was more realistic. Huxley believed that punishment only deters undesirable behavior a short time, but a system of rewards prompting people to love their servitude was more effective. He believed his vision in Brave New World, in which soma and easy gratification of desire kept discontent at bay, more probable than the 1984 notion of a fear-and-punishment-based society.
It strikes me that the themes of the books are similar, in that both are dystopias dealing with world government, including control by a powerful, if shrouded, elite. The parallels between what Huxley and Orwell predicted and today’s political climate are strongly evocative, showing how beliefs seeded years and centuries ago grow over time. There is nothing new about empire building, or the desire for control of larger and larger areas or groups of people. Fundamentally, it comes down to the desire to control the minds of others, on a grand scale, to make them love (Huxley) or fear (Orwell) their masters. Individuality, the anarchist, the malcontent, the extremist, become the enemies of the state and threatening to the masses, who are comfortable in the status quo. These outliers must be discouraged, dis-empowered, disdained, discredited, disliked, or eliminated, if they veer too far from accepted norms.
While people claim to want leaders, they also resist the authority they delegate. In Brave New World, perpetual child-like dependency allows for the social stability that seems to ensure the lasting power of the ruling class. It also creates a state of perpetual stagnation, in which people have no free will and face no challenges or consequences that force them to grow and, theoretically, mature.
It seems unlikely to me that the world government that some hope for and others fear will ever be attained, if only because few people fully submit to control by others. They subvert outside authority through passive resistance or passive aggression if not outright defiance. The more control government claims, the more unrest it creates, until the forces of resistance overwhelm the efforts to contain it.
Brave New World Revisited, published in 1958, contains twelve essays in which Huxley explored the differences between democracies and totalitarian governments. He worried that over-population would lead to over-organization, with increasing efforts by the State to fit individuals into machine-like roles, as in corporations. He emphasizes that organizations are not living beings. Freedom is necessary in order to become fully human.
Both Brave New World and 1984 depict totalitarian governments teetering on their foundations, forced to use extreme tactics to maintain control of the people they have subjugated. But for what? Are the World Controllers in Brave New World, or Big Brother’s henchmen in 1984 any happier for their lofty positions? What gratification comes from ruling over a passive and demoralized people, those who are kept in a state of perpetual child-like submissiveness?
It’s hard for me to imagine a totalitarian government lasting for long, simply because its foundations would be composed of homogenized individuals who have never learned to stand on their own, support themselves or each other, and are not motivated or able to carry their presumptive masters.
Your conclusion interests me in that I think it is very intuitive. Indeed, where’s the challenge in ruling over a subjugated passive people? I am reminded of the (mythical or?) biblical passage in Genesis where the Lord God creates a pair of humans and sets them to work and play in his Eden. Their innocence means they are never going to provide a challenge so he creates a psy-op, the trees of the knowledge of good and evil, and of life. Then he commands his unwary creatures to not partake of the fruit of the trees or they will suffer dire consequences. Having created them inquisitive, he already knows that sooner or later they will forget the warning and disobey. They do, he has his Donald Trump rantrum, kills and curses and he’s all set for an endless challenge with ever surprising consequences for himself. The game’s afoot. This is the age-old story, isn’t it? We are the providers for the rulers’ pleasures, to satisfy their whims and desires, even to killing without undue consequences as when they send the sheeple to go fight their wars while they stay back, laugh and party, and once in a while look at the game board and order that certain pieces be moved here and there… to see what will happen. Just thought I’d throw that in the discussion pot…
That’s my take on the Genesis story, too. I think it was gutsy of Eve to defy God. If the sheeple defied those who declare the wars, humankind might deserve more respect.
Very good post, Katherine. However, ‘the sheeple’ cannot say they haven’t been warned by these two fantastic books – and here we are anyway.
What does that say about the sheeple?
To me, Jean Jacques, it says that the Sheeple are programmed to always turn against each other and to work against their own self interest, especially then they are the most greedy, selfish, violent and uncaring of others. They can have their histories, they can be taught; have it explained, demonstrated and some can for a brief period of time actually “get it” only for the next generation to plunge even deeper into the morass of ignorant greed. There is nothing natural about this behaviour, it is induced by forces whose existence the Sheeple are also programmed to mostly discount as imagination or conspiracy theories. Consider two of the non-arguably greatest evils extant among the species: racism and misogyny. Nature knows no such thing. Therefore the question must always be: where does that incurable madness/insanity source from?
Thanks for your thoughts Sha’Tara. I saw an interview by the ex-president of Uruguay (the country I am presently in), José [‘Pepe’] Mujica – in it he says that:
“Each generation learns from its own experiences, not from those of previous generations”. I believe this to be true, but there’s another component to it and that is that humans avoid introspection and self-development and importantly: individuation – becoming autonomous enough to think independently from the group. This is what Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl were on about after they saw where that can lead to during WWII. It is the untreated un-dissolved personal shadow of each individual which gets sucked into the group shadow (mob mentality).
The only way for an individual to side-step the ‘programming’ that you refer to is form a strong enough identity in order not to go over the cliff withe rest of the lemmings and to act more responsibly. So it is a curable insanity – but we must want to cure ourselves. It seems most people choose to remain insane and so the whole world remains sick or becomes sicker because people avoid self development and withholding their shadow from others. al
An example of this is identity politics and gender-ism. I remember about 7/8 years ago how the word ‘sexism’ got replaced with ‘misogyny’ and I wondered why. Sexism is gender neutral. However, very few people noticed – and today we have a skewed view of sexism because we were not honest enough at the time to acknowledge that both genders are sexist – have always been, (but in different ways) and that we should not lose sight of that. That’s one way how the personal shadow is manipulated into following the will of the collective shadow, due to a lack of introspection. The shadow always projects and avoids looking at itself. (The word ‘misandry’ is hardly ever used.)
In the case of racism it’s just one of the components of negative ethnocentrism. Negative ethnocentrism can also manifest as nationalism, tribalism, xenophobia and identity politics. I wrote an extensive article about that if you are interested (link at bottom). Just like with shadow-work negative ethnocentrism is something we need to work on on the inside. All humans are born into ethnocentrism, because all humans are born into a culture – and ethnocentrism has a positive function in terms of cultural preservation – the preservation of diversity (being different culturally). So, once again – we just have to work at it and work it out of our system internally.
Which brings is to the reason for all this ” going in circles” and according to some of the ancient belief systems (such as the Hindu and Maya) all this duality and polarity is a training ground for our souls. This world we are born into is like a simulation where we are challenged in various ways to refine our spirit and to build character…. (and in some cases we in incarnate here on earth many times over before the process is completed.) At the very least, considering this possibility does kind of make sense of the craziness of it all 🙂
Well said. Both sexes can be misogynistic. I know many women who don’t like other women. But your point about sexism is well taken.
I appreciate your thought-provoking comments. I would contend that both racism and misogyny are based on lack of respect, first for self and then for others. Self-respect has been demonized by the control-freaks, who want to claim it is egotistical, but I believe you can’t respect anything or anyone until you respect yourself. Then the rest becomes easy.
The sheeple are young and are determined to learn the hard way. I think people are so used to delegated authority that they don’t know how to be free. It’s understandable that they might be afraid of it.
If the way your society is ordered gives you enough to live on and prevents others from taking it away from you, what else do you want? The trouble is our world has got so complex that nobody can ensure that everyone is content. The more we know the more we want, even when that means someone else has to go without. Before mobile phones a lot of people didn’t know what they were missing. Now I fear for humanity.
Julie, I agree with you. People know very well by now about the side effects of these devices and also how they can be negatively influenced by them – for example in how they communicate with each other – and it has caused a major deterioration on that front – in terms of etiquette and respect and it has amplified identity politics if not having actually given rise to it. Yet, people insist on participating in at all – in fact they really get a kick out of it! (all the dualistic drama and polarization playing off online). So this also links to my question to Katharine about: What does that say about the sheeple – and my comment to Sha’tara in terms of ‘programming’. People know very well that they open themselves to it, but they do so anyway! They only have themselves to blame for now living in the Brave New World. The solution is returning to a simpler way of life, but I’m not sure people are going to do that by their own volition before it is forced upon them, either due to running out of resources or climate change. Nevertheless I do believe we stand a chance of turning the Titanic around – even if just in some parts of the world – I think it’s worth aspiring to.
It takes reasonable voices like yours to give people hope. Thanks for taking the time and putting in the effort.
Are you sure that the more people have, the more they want? We are told that, but is that just consumerist propaganda? In my later years, I’ve become more of a minimalist. I’m fed up with all those inconvenient “conveniences” that just take up space and break at the most inopportune times.
I don’t have a mobile phone and know what I’m missing. A lot of chit-chat, mental static, and intrusion on my peace and quiet.
I suspect our biggest problem is that we don’t fully appreciate what we do have.
Katharine, I was just watching a talk by an Ananda spiritual leader and he said that hierarchy is built into the system – so there will always be leaders that will have power and control over us, (unfortunately) – that is the nature of the structure of the energy in the universe. In order to have better leaders we need to (learn how to) choose them better – and perhaps work on improving democracy – as its still a work in progress and often the worst leaders are chosen regardless, because democracy in its current form is so flawed. There is always room for improvement in all systems, but do we care enough to make the effort to improve the world, or are most of us vegged out on screen-time or enjoying being triggered by identity-politics through dopamine kicks, instead of actually quietly working on improving things? (rhetorical question).
How’s this for an idea? While there may be hierarchies, in some the order is based on inspiration and mutual respect, such that everyone has a role that suits them and their strengths. A symphony, for instance, has roles for many musicians, but no competition, as each instrument contributes to the shared task of producing beautiful music.
I’m fine with leaders who inspire love, respect, and noble values. I would follow someone like that voluntarily. However, anyone who tries to use force or deceit will discover the rebel in me.
GREAT idea, Katherine – and to be honest I don’t at all like the idea of hierarchy being set in stone – or in energy for that matter. I like your example of the symphony very much and I believe it can work in a community context. The symphony has a conductor though, but what if every orchestra member gets an opportunity to be the conductor? That way the need for being the leader is resolved, but the potential for despotism is also negated, because the leader can not stay the leader continuously – and everyone learns how to be responsible for others by taking the lead from time to time.
I don’t know much about symphonies, but I believe conducting is a special skill, too, that needs to be learned. Also, the question arises as to whether everyone would want to be conductor. Maybe the violinist just wants to play the violin, or the cellist the cello. Undoubtedly they would want a good conductor, so the best leader would rise through group consensus to that role. Ideally.
Katharine, perhaps, but I think if the conductor is not changed it takes us back to square one. Many leaders become corrupted by power after they take power or during their second or third term in a democracy for example – even if they start off well. That seems to be the nature of politics and power.
Since yesterday I have realized there may be a lot of truth in the ideal the universe is structured according to hierarchy, because I could not think of any instances where hierarchy did not come in – even in your orchestra analogy it appeared.
So, how leaders are prepared for leadership and how their leadership is managed – for example through a rotation basis or limited terms, etc would have to be improved upon.
Perhaps the best leaders are organizers, more capable than others of seeing the big picture. That person would be capable of encouraging, inspiring, and bringing out the best in all the “followers.” I contend not everyone wants to be a leader. Some just want to keep their heads down and do their own jobs well.
Every organization is dynamic in a sense. Leaders change. They either mature or are replaced, They get sick and grow old. The most life-enhancing organizations can adapt and grow with the times. The leader is a reflection of the whole at any given time. Or so I believe.
I also believe Trump is a reflection of the US true values, no matter what anyone says. In some ways he is the embodiment of the arrogant, materialistic, egotistic, bully attitude that has characterized our history since the Europeans first arrived in the New World. The US has been living a lie for a long time, and the facade is disintegrating.
Quote: “Trump is a reflection of the US true values, no matter what anyone says. In some ways he is the embodiment of the arrogant, materialistic, egotistic, bully attitude that has characterized our history since the Europeans first arrived in the New World. The US has been living a lie for a long time, and the facade is disintegrating.”
Just want to say that I concur with that assessment. There is no longer any upside for America. And yes, Trump embodies the real values of America as a whole hence why despite is abysmal failure he remains popular. This is not the attraction of opposites, but of likes.
Ever wonder, Katharine, why you are or chose to be, a rebel when so many are just dumbels (deliberate spelling)? What makes some of us always ready to buck evil authority even knowing we will incur serious costs? When I address that question, I think of us rebels as something sprinkled (if a bit too sparingly) in the vat of seething humanity to prevent it from going completely over the edge. Then I wonder if we should not just withdraw and let it “go to hell” literally. The vast majority resents it that some of us would have the gall to insist that it should develop and use a conscience so who are we to stand against the wind? Are we masochists, or do we carry something valuable, something that will ultimately bear fruit when we least expect it? Cursed or blessed?
Many good questions, for which I don’t have answers. I have gone through “why try?” phases, but it is not in my nature to give up. I just change strategy. As long as I’m on this planet, I feel compelled to do what I know to do. Lately, this includes detachment, which sometimes feels like apathy, but it’s also a recognition that I can’t control outcomes. We can never know what effect our words, actions, or even thoughts will have, in whom, where or when they might find fertile ground.
I’ve always been something of a loner so learned to think for myself–and was encouraged to do so by argumentative parents–pretty early. The idea that some absent authority presumes to know better than I do how to live my life fills me with contempt.