Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Huxley's Ultimate Revolution

It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in the process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarch who have always existed and presumably always will always exist to get people to love their servitude.
Aldous Huxley

There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
“Brain Damage”
Pink Floyd

George Orwell was a wonderful writer, deeply in love with the English language and always quick to call attention to its abuse. Yet it has always puzzled me why dystopian views of the future always cite his 1984 as a benchmark by which we measure this future dystopia, when our dystopia bears a closer resemblance to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The unfortunate thing about the emphasis on 1984 is that is a misleading diversion. We look at our little worlds and conclude that they are nothing like Orwell’s world so everything must be okay. (Of course, if you’re an inner-city Afromerican male, your world is probably closer to Orwell than Huxley.)

In a 1962 speech at the Berkeley Language Center Huxley pointed out that Orwell wrote his book between 1945 and 1948 at a time that saw the downfall of Hitler’s totalitarianism and the rise of Stalin’s.

Huxley wrote his in 1932, at a time when the influence of Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, was beginning to peak. It was Bernays who argued that, “The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest.”

Huxley said:

I’m inclined to think that the scientific dictatorships of the future, and I think there are going to be scientific dictatorships in many parts of the world, will probably be a good deal nearer to the brave new world pattern than the 1984 picture, they will [be] a good deal nearer not because of any humanitarian qualms of the scientific dictators but simply because the BNW pattern is a good deal more efficient.” (Huxley’s point that there will always be oligarchs is a good argument for changing them from time to time. This is called a revolution. Of course, it’s a given that no matter how democratic a revolution is, the formation of an oligarchy is inevitable, and any oligarch will sour over time. This is why they must be changed freaquently, much as you change the oil in your car every 5,000 miles.)

Huxley’s point was that a dictatorship was much more stable if the people consented to their servitude than if the servitude was enforced by guns and clubs, though even the most scientific of dictatorships will resort to the latter if the mob gets testy.

In Brave New World, people love their servitude because they are given an unlimited supply of SOMA, a drug that soothes. Instead of SOMA, we have a full medicine chest of psychotropic drugs comfort and caress our minds.

Our houses are filled with screens that divert our attention from the real world even as they paint a distorted view of that world. The problem with this ubiquity of screens is not mind control ala 1984, it is mind apathy.

In his talk, Huxley also spoke of suggestibility, which is the degree to which a mind can be manipulated. He suggested that in any given population, twenty percent of the people are highly suggestible while twenty percent can totally resist it. The remaining sixty percent could go either way depending on the circumstances, though he did point out that a heightened state of anxiety makes an individual more prone to suggestibility, as in the War on Terror.

What this means is that in the United States, 60 million people hang on Rush’s every word while 60 million think he’s a complete asshole. The remaining 180 million watch “American Idol.”

We are entering an era of increasing unrest as economic and environmental problems continue to mount. How this plays out depends to a large extent on how well the 60 million skeptics in America are mobilized. This is especially important because Fox News, the Tea Party and the radical right are mobilizing the 60 million sheep. And lies, if they are repeated enough, can sway the remaining 180 million, and that would be enough to silence the skeptics.


Cirze said...

Thanks for the Bernays history. He's been the man of the hour for the last decade.

And what are they going to do to put us to sleep (after Fox Noise has talked us to death) so we won't mind the coming financial cataclysm?

A new SOMA? There is talk of finally legalizing marijuana which would make sense when it serves the oligarchs' plans.

Although I wonder if it really would be only marijuana.

Makes sense though.

To them.


The remaining eighty percent could go either way depending on the circumstances, though he did point out that a heightened state of anxiety makes an individual more prone to suggestibility, as in the War on Terror.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks. Now two things:

(1) 20% (highly suggestible) + 20% (those who will resist) leaves 60% (not 80%) to be manipulated. Having said that, I am sure that our education system will soon greatly increase the first category

(2) Susan, who mentioned pot, should get a bit more educated on the subject. I am talking about understanding why marijuana was made and is kept illegal, the social consequences of that, and the scientific facts about its properties. Marijuana has a very interesting history and if common sense prevails it may have a very interesting future.


Case Wagenvoord said...


Who needs pot when we've got all those pyschotropic drugs to keep us happy in our servitude?


That's why I never majored in math.

Ivan Hentschel said...

On 2/23, most reliable news agencies reported that, in spite of the majority of Americans wanting a public option in health care reform (some sectors overwhelmingly)Congress and the WH will not even put it on the table. And the sane majority is making no move to throw the bastards out. We seem to treat maliase like maynaise and slather it over everything. We deserve whatever we tolerate?

Seinbeetre said...

Just as a quick comment on the Cannabis.

It is generally seen more as a sign of rebellion (If you have ever been to any demonstrations you will know what I am talking about).
The legalisation would actually be bad for the prison-industrial complex with the amounts of people that are locked up for such a relatively harmless substance.

I do think it is more the artificial pharmaceuticals that are the issue.

I suggest the following if you haven't seen them yet:

Big Pharma, big bucks:


The century of the self (about good old Bernays among others):