That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is theAldous Huxley (theguardian.com)
most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.
Tag: Aldous Huxley
Elementary Class Consciousness
At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
“… all wear green,” said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, “and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.”
There was a pause; then the voice began again.
“Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfuly glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able …”
The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows.Chapter Two of BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
Yes, the alpha’s work so much harder. Believe it. The conditioning occurs, even without the speakers under pillows drilling the social hierarchy into the child-like brains. Ask anyone who works for a living and has never thought deeply about where their money comes from and they’ll tell you “rich people” without even thinking about the ludicrousness of the notion that wealthy people just have money. No question of where the money comes from or whether they deserve to have it or not.
They just have it and if you tax them too much they won’t have any to pay the service workers that feed off of them. Whatever you do, don’t wonder what might happen if everyone had enough money to live off of.
This is why I side with Christopher Hitchens on the subject of the prophetic nature of Aldous Huxley’s work; but then I’ve been biased towards Huxley since childhood. My favorite bedtime story as a child was The Crows of Pearblossom, a children’s book by Aldous Huxley written for his niece, Olivia de Haulleville. I enjoyed the vision of the snake’s corpse being used as a clothesline for the children he could no longer consume because of the ingenuity of the Owl. It is a parable about life and the need for humility in one’s actions.
1984 was a great work by a great author, but it is a piece of history. Brave New World is still out there in our orgy-porgy future.
We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression “You’re history” as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell’s was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley … rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.Christopher Hitchens
facebook. Featured image: Cover Art for Brave New World. Artist: Leslie Holland
FFrF Radio: First Week of May
May 3, 2008 – Guests: Eugenie Scott, director, National Center for Science Education: Exposing “Expelled”, & “Atheist in Foxhole” Litigant Jeremy Hall: Military Harassment Continues
Jeremy Hall leads off the episode. He has appeared on the show at least once before, but his story was first presented on Freethought Radio by Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, because Mr. Hall was unable to make his scheduled interview, being still in Iraq at the time. His story should serve as the proverbial canary in a coal mine for the rest of us.
Eugenie Scott has been on the show before as well. As the Director of NCSE, and one of the deceived participants in the film, she is almost uniquely qualified to critique the film Expelled.
How Annie Laurie Gaylor made herself sit and watch the film is beyond me. I have no interest in wasting 90 minutes of my time watching it. My thoughts on the film are here and here.
2007 Archive episode.
May 5, 2007 – Champion of the First Amendment
Theocracy Alert. National Day of Prayer (last week, this year, still just as offensive) Deja vu?
Ellery Schempp, through his and his families efforts, brought the case Abington vs. Schempp before the Supreme court and ended prayer in government schools. His story really is an inspiration for all of us out here facing similar (if not as egregious) violations of state/church separation.
I found his observations about O’Hair amusing, myself.
Dan Barker performs “Nothing Fails Like Prayer”
Pagan Pulpit. Prayer in public, a violation of god’s law?
2006 Archive episode.
May 6, 2006 – Fighting Words . . . Robin Morgan
Theocracy Alert. National Day of Prayer (last week, this year, still just as offensive) Dan Barker performs “Nothing Fails Like Prayer”
Freethinkers Almanac. Thomas Henry Huxley grandfather of Aldous Huxley (author of my favorite children’s book as a child The Crows of Pearblossom) George Clooney.
Pagan Pulpit Debuts. Nothing fails like Prayer (I think I see a pattern)
Robin Morgan was on to talk about her recent books The Burning Time, Fighting Words, and her long term concerns over the encroachment of religion on American government.
The episode winds up with “Atheists are People Too” (parody of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) and a discussion of the differences between growing up atheist and growing up religious (yes, Dan; sleeping in Sundays is something to be jealous about) and what effect that has on life as an adult.
Jane Fonda & The Seven Deadly Words; Texas ban struck down
I’ve had this post in the draft queue since the day (Feb. 14th) Jane said cunt on network television. Maybe I just wanted to be able to type the word cunt (more than once) and not have the wife throw bricks at me. Or maybe I just have my suspicions about why her slip of the tongue (rimshot here, please) still goes unpunished.
True, the word cunt is only the horrendous insult that English speaking American women think it is, in America. Everywhere else, it doesn’t even strictly apply to women. In Britain it could just be the stupid guy next to you.
Strictly speaking, it’s just a low brow word for the female genitalia. But it does rate the list of deadly words on the FCC list. The seven deadly words that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe even bring us, God help us, peace without honor; um, and a bourbon. George Carlin at his best.
The reason Jane’s language malfunction is going unpunished, the only reason that makes sense, is that the FCC knows that they will not win this battle; no matter what they say, they will be made to look like the paternalistic jerks that they are. Jane was on with the author of The Vagina Monologues, and I wouldn’t put it past the two of them to have cooked this up (much like Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction was completely staged) as a publicity stunt to do exactly what Jane Fonda’s apology says she wants to do; change the way that the word is perceived by the average American.
Good luck with that.
Speaking of paternalistic jerks getting what’s coming to them (rimshot again, please) the Texas legislature and the court system have been told that they need to stay out of bedrooms and stop trying to count or control who purchases and uses sexual aids in the state.
On Feb. 13, sex-toy retailers in Texas rejoiced when a federal appeals court ruled—just in time for Valentine’s Day—that a Texas prohibition against the sale of dildos and pocket pussies violated the 14th Amendment.
According to the Texas (ahem) penal code, it is forbidden to sell or to advertise an artificial penis or vagina “primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” The statute makes an exception for instances in which the purchase meets a “medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement” need. Even so, in Reliable Consultants v. Ronnie Earle, the normally conservative5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on the grounds that it violated the right of ordinary citizens “to engage in private intimate conduct in the home without government intrusion.”
One of only four states banning sexual doodads (the other three are Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama), Texas is not about to take this insult lying down. Last week, state Attorney General Greg Abbott petitioned the appellate court to reconsider the matterSlate
Sexual aids. Really, it’s a dildo law, I might as well say dildo just as blatantly as I said cunt a few minutes ago (third time, I better start looking over my shoulder) Texas’ dildo law has been overturned. Women can finally ask for and purchase a dildo by name without running the risk of being punished for it. Salesmen can now market a device for it’s real use, rather than having to resort to euphemisms about glow and vitality, without having to face fines and/or jail time.
The Surveillance State: 1984 in 2006
Last week was the news story concerning talking cameras in Britain:
The revolutionary ‘nanny camera’ scheme was first piloted in Wiltshire in 2003 and just seven weeks ago the loudspeakers were introduced by Middlesbrough Council, whose spokesman Mike Clark said they had already made a difference.
He said: “People have been shocked when a voice from a camera tells them to pick up sweet papers and cigarette butts. They tend to follow the request.
“Another example involved a number of people gathering outside the doorway of a pub. They were asked to disperse and they did.”
Cllr Peach added: “The talking cameras would be another weapon in our armoury. They could be used to crack down on any anti-social offence in the street.”peterboroughtoday.co.uk
This week is the story concerning the future of cameras in Chicago, one of the US’ largest cities:
“By the time 2016 [rolls around], we’ll have more cameras than Washington, D.C. … Our technology is more advanced than any other city in the world — even compared to London — dealing with our cameras and the sophistication of cameras and retro-fitting all the cameras downtown in new buildings, doing the CTA cameras,” Daley said. “By 2016, I’ll make you a bet. We’ll have [cameras on] almost every block.”nbc5.com
Both stories make casual allusions to “Big Brother” the almost mystical leader of Engsoc in George Orwell’s novel 1984. How they can acknowledge the kinship of the emerging surveillance state with Engsoc without screaming of the travesty of it all is beyond me. Yet they drop the phrase Big Brother, as if the words are devoid of any meaning.
WAR IS PEACE1984
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Or maybe they are without meaning anymore. With the advent of reality TV shows (one of them named Big Brother, unless I’m mistaken) in which the most private moments of a person’s life can be transmitted for the titillation of the viewing audience, perhaps we have become numb to the concept of prying eyes checking up on our every move. Personally, I can’t think of a more dangerous tool to place in the hands of gov’t.
True, crime is down when cameras are placed on the street. It’s also a fact that crime goes down when martial law is declared. Crime sort of becomes a moot point when everyone is a prisoner in their own society, when someone is always watching to report the slightest transgression.
‘You are the dead,’ said an iron voice behind them.
They sprang apart. Winston’s entrails seemed to have turned into ice. He could see the white all round the irises of Julia’s eyes. Her face had turned a milky yellow. The smear of rouge that was still on each cheekbone stood out sharply, almost as though unconnected with the skin beneath.
‘You are the dead,’ repeated the iron voice.
‘It was behind the picture,’ breathed Julia.
‘It was behind the picture,’ said the voice. ‘Remain exactly where you are. Make no movement until you are ordered.’
It was starting, it was starting at last! They could do nothing except stand gazing into one another’s eyes. To run for life, to get out of the house before it was too late — no such thought occurred to them. Unthinkable to disobey the iron voice from the wall. There was a snap as though a catch had been turned back, and a crash of breaking glass. The picture had fallen to the floor uncovering the telescreen behind it.
‘Now they can see us,’ said Julia.1984
Yes, now we can see you.
I keep running across references to Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business of late. I apparently missed this book back when it was released, but it was widely read (or at least everyone pretends they have read it now) and predicted the numbing of the public mind that endless entertainment sets up.
This development (and one of the thesis in that book) makes Aldous Huxley and Brave New World more prescient in the minds of many pundits; more prescient than George Orwell in 1984.
I don’t know. The two books were completely different animals and were focused on two different facets of the human condition. I think what is truer is that none of us knows what the future holds but all of us are convinced by our own experiences that we have better insight than those around us.
The surveillance state as it is developing in the US is almost benign in comparison to the way that it developed in Europe and Britain. At least it appears that way on the surface. I’m sure the victims of drones in our endless terror war in the Middle East would disagree on the subject of the deadliness of the US surveillance state.