Brave New World Revisited
on a war footing, or even a near war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent
control of everything and everybody by the agencies of the central government.
We live in interesting times. In 1958, reflecting on "Brave New World" (written in 1931) in "Brave New World Revisited", Aldous Huxley offers some perspectives that bear renewed consideration today.
Mr. Huxley writes:
Fast forward to a future hypothetical society, with an unbridled governing elite possessing technology of which Hitler could only dream. Object: Empire building. Obstacle: A traditionally free thinking, self-willed people, unaccustomed to marching orders, and largely unsympathetic to hegemonic ambitions. Oblique approach to the problem: A shrewd substitute for marching, which people are encouraged to undertake of their own volition.
In these days of "no child shall be left behind", adults are encouraged by government officials--not to read, study, or engage in debate; but to exercise. The life of the mind is almost irrelevant to the purposes of government nannying. No, not irrelevant; the fact that your library or book purchasing records or other activities might be investigated could be a discouraging factor. If you choose to peruse, don't abuse the privilege; you might find yourself doing laps in a detention camp, or explaining your reading habits to uncongenial agents. If government wanted to be a good nanny, we'd get tax rebates for buying educational materials as well as paying 'sin taxes'. This isn't Mary Poppins with her spoonful of sugar; it's more like Mommie Dearest.
It's perturbing to have a bureaucratic administration currently so intent on our fitness and health. We have our marching orders; but it is in the name of public health and for the cause of our own fitness that we march, jog, or dance. This concept of public health has evolved into a presupposition that our bodies and lives are essentially community property. Not long ago, that idea would have been insulting and obscene. How quickly we moved from "accepting ourselves" to becoming overweight pariahs pumping out the public purse when the political climate changed. Once official sanction is given to harass a 'lifestyle choice', there are no shortage of standard-bearers ready to oblige, even to muscle the market into complicity. No doubt some smokers would willingly pay double fare for the freedom to smoke on long airline flights, if it were an option. Oh, that would be discrimination, wouldn't it?
Despite all the huff and puff about junk food, the house that is likely to blow down isn't food choice. It may cost more to make unapproved choices, but they will still be available. The big bad wolf will be delighted to rake in the profits from dietary malfeasance; eat all the french fries your budget will withstand. Just be prepared to jog them off again like a good citizen when the weight inspectors come calling to measure your person against the official body mass index. Then again, you may just have to make the appointment with an authorized physician yourself, or lose 'benefits' like your own social security dollars.
Describing Hitler's strategy for dispensing effective propaganda, Mr. Huxley says:
Does any of this sound unnervingly contemporaneous or familiar? Please remember, the subject Aldous Huxley is discussing here is Hitler's methodology. The flags waving in this picture bore the Swastika. Any resemblance to other persons or institutions, living or dead, may or may not be coincidental, and the reader is presumed to be responsible for his or her own conclusions.
Huxley quotes Hermann Rauschning in a different vein:
Certainly the state has benefited from the expertise of the church over the centuries, and knows that in order to perfect its own 'machinery' it needs true believers. Toward that end, control over public education is a tremendous boon. An opportunity to instill devotion to the state and a hierarchical system into individuals from childhood could never be rivaled by an equivalent effort applied toward enlistment of adults for the cause.
In the chapter entitled "Education For Freedom", Huxley writes:
He ends the book with these words: