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