Long before the era of Fake News and Facebook and the Twitterati, Aldous Hunxley sketched out a utopia based on the pleasure principle. At the time he thought it a distant possibility. By the late 1950s he was looking down the barrel of his happy utopia and he didn’t like what he saw coming and how fast it had come on…
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. “The challenge of social engineering in our time,” writes an enthusiastic advocate of this new science, “is like the challenge of technical engiｭneering fifty years ago. If the first half of the twenｭtieth century was the era of the technical engineers, the second half may well be the era of the social engiｭneers” — and the twenty-first century, I suppose, will be the era of World Controllers, the scientific caste system and Brave New World. To the question quis custodiet custodes — Who will mount guard over our guardians, who will engineer the engineers? — the anｭswer is a bland denial that they need any supervision. There seems to be a touching belief among certain Ph.D.’s in sociology that Ph.D.’s in sociology will never be corrupted by power. Like Sir Galahad’s, their strength is as the strength of ten because their heart is pure — and their heart is pure because they are scienｭtists and have taken six thousand hours of social studies….
The best of constitutions and preventive laws will be powerless against the steadily increasing pressures of over-population and of the over-organization imposed by growing numbers and advancing technology. The constitutions will not be abrogated and the good laws will remain on the statute book; but these liberal forms will merely serve to mask and adorn a profoundly illiberal substance. Given unchecked over-population and over-organization, we may expect to see in the democratic countries a reversal of the process which transformed England into a democracy, while retaining all the outward forms of a monarchy. Under the relentless thrust of accelerating overpopulation and increasing over-organization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms — elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts, and all the rest — will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial — but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile, the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers, and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.
Propaganda, on the other hand, teaches us to accept as self-evident matters about which it would be reasonable to suspend our judgment or to feel doubt. The aim of the demagogue is to create social coherence under his own leadership. But, as Bertrand Russell has pointed out, “systems of dogma without empirical foundations, such as scholasticism, Marxism and fasｭcism, have the advantage of producing a great deal of social coherence among their disciples.” The demagogic propagandist must therefore be consistently dogmatic. All his statements are made without qualification. There are no grays in his picture of the world; everything is either diabolically black or celestially white. In Hitler’s words, the propagandist should adopt “a systematically one-sided attitude toｭwards every problem that has to be dealt with.” He must never admit that he might be wrong or that people with a different point of view might be even partially right. Opponents should not be argued with; they should be attacked, shouted down, or, if they beｭcome too much of a nuisance, liquidated. The morally squeamish intellectual may be shocked by this kind of thing. But the masses are always convinced that “right is on the side of the active aggressor.”
Virtue and intelligence belong to human beings as individuals freely associating with other individuals in small groups. So do sin and stupidity. But the subhuman mindlessness to which the demagogue makes his appeal, the moral imbecility on which he relies when he goads his victims into action, are characteristic not of men and women as individuals, but of men and women in masses. Mindlessness and moral idiocy are not characteristically human attributes; they are symptoms of herd-poisoning. In all the world’s higher religions, salvation and enlightenment are for individuals. The kingdom of heaven is within the mind of a person, not within the collective mindlessness of a crowd. Christ promised to be present where two or three are gathered together. He did not say anything about being present where thousands are intoxicating one another with herd-poison. …
Illness is even more effective than fatigue as an intensifier of suggestibility. In the past, sickrooms were the scene of countless religious conversions. The scientifically trained dictator of the future will have all the hospitals in his dominions wired for sound and equipped with pillow speakers. Canned persuasion will be on the air twenty-four hours a day, and the more important patients will be visited by political soul-savers and mind-changers just as, in the past, their ancestors were visited by priests, nuns and pious layｭmen….
The systematic drugging of individuals for the benefit of the State (and incidenｭtally, of course, for their own delight) was a main plank in the policy of the World Controllers. The daily soma ration was an insurance against personal maladｭjustment, social unrest and the spread of subversive ideas. Religion, Karl Marx declared, is the opium of the people. In Brave New World this situation was reversed. Opium, or rather soma, was the people’s reliｭgion. Like religion, the drug had power to console and compensate, it called up visions of another, better world, it offered hope, strengthened faith and proｭmoted charity. Beer, a poet has written,
. . .does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
…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 (…) If the first half of the twentieth century was the era of the technical engineers, the second half may well be the era of the social engineers” — and the twenty-first century, I suppose, will be the era of World Controllers, the scientific caste system and Brave New World (…) The impersonal forces of over-population and over-organization, and the social engineers who are trying to direct these forces, are pushing us in the direction of a new medieval system (…) For the majority of men and women, it will still be a kind of servitude.
RTW (if you can bear it)T at Brave New World Revisited (1958) by Aldous Huxley
It’s been over 60 years since Huxley’s prophetic update on his original prophecy.
All those who can still think for themselves can see how the world has tilted. And it has, if anything, refused to forget Brave New World. Instead millions of the braindeadwashed work without ceasing at making our Brave New World an ever Braver New World. This was the facade of the Tate Gallery just last November.