Aldous Huxley: Brave New World Revisited
“. . . Il Medio Evo è bellissimo . . . ” (#1)
Besides “impersonal forces”, Huxley acknowledges there are other “enemies of individual liberty” and democracy. There are “forces that can be deliberately used by power-seeking individuals” whose goal is “partial or complete control over” others (p. 31).
Politics is Theater
Huxley discusses how political candidates are “coached” to look “sincere”. Principles and plans have been replaced by the “personality” of the candidate and by the way he is “projected” by the advertisers. Speeches have to be “short and snappy”. Nowadays we use the term “sound bytes”. Huxley concludes that these methods “guarantee” that citizens will never hear the “truth about anything” (p. 58).
Huxley explains that, in his novel, desired behavior was obtained through a combination of genetic interference and “postnatal conditioning” (107).
Also in BNW, babies were “cultivated in bottles” (108) and a large amount of uniformity “in the human product” was caused by “using ova from a limited number of mothers” and by causing each ovum to split multiple times, creating large batches of identical twins. This produced “standardized machine-minders for standardized machines” (108).
Huxley also blames “vast impersonal forces” for centralizing power and regimenting society! This is Huxley’s double message–a contradiction–for those who don’t want to notice the other claims he makes about the “power elite” and the “oligarchy”.
Also when he refers to “impersonal forces”, he may want the reader to conclude that the power elite is following some kind of inescapable logic that they’re trapped into, and so this term “impersonal forces” seems to even justify the totalitarian direction in society. His novel has the same type of mixed messages.
He predicts that “Big Government and Big Business” “already possess, or will very soon possess” all the techniques for “mind-manipulation” used in Brave New World, and more.
He predicts that the “rulers” of this future system “will try to impose social and cultural uniformity upon adults and their children.” And he predicts that they will use these non-rational “mind-manipulating” techniques in addition to “economic coercion” and “threats of physical violence” (108).
Education, Propaganda and Mind Control
When discussing his so-called education for freedom, one of Huxley’s points about education is that people need training “in the art of analyzing” the techniques of propaganda and “seeing through its sophistries” (109). I agree with him about this point. But governments and educators didn’t follow this. We should have been taught the fallacies in school! Learning the logical fallacies is a tool of mental self-defense against the propaganda system we are immersed in.
Huxley claims the high ground for himself and continues to tell the truth about this topic. He discusses the drawbacks of language. Language allows us to “pay attention to things . . . even when the things” don’t exist and the “events are not taking place” (109). Language translates “experiences into symbols” and lets us translate feelings into “principles of feeling and conduct”. The “enemies of freedom” “pervert the resources of language in order to” “stampede their victims into thinking, feeling and acting” according to their wishes (110).
Huxley wants children to be taught to distinguish between the “proper and the improper use of symbols.” They’re not taught to “distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements” (110). “Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.” (111)
But which “elders” are those? It can’t be the majority.
Huxley mentions the “Institute for Propaganda Analysis”, founded in 1937. This institute analyzed non-rational propaganda, and prepared texts for students (111). When the war came, it seemed inappropriate to analyze propaganda while Allied governments were using “psychological warfare”, so the Institute closed in 1941. Even before that, Huxley claims that some educators, military authorities and clergymen objected to propaganda analysis because they thought it would make the students cynical.
Huxley states that the “social order depends for its continued existence on the acceptance . . . of the propaganda put forth by those in authority . . . ” (111).
But on the other hand, the scientific dictatorship is a newer social order that would need to undermine the old one first. And I think this is where “The Open Conspiracy” by H. G. Wells comes in. In either situation we have the use of propaganda, and a lack of critical thinking, but the new social order just gets stronger and stronger–because the propaganda is so effective.
Huxley explains that the victim of “psychological compulsion” (mind control) believes that he still acts on his own and is not aware of the control (114). This is the condition most of us are in today. Our beliefs are handed to us by the schools and media, and they become “ours”.
He states clearly that “the democracies will change their nature”. The “quaint old forms” of parliaments and other symbols “will remain”, but the “underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism.” (115)
“Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast . . . 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.” (115)
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Credits for concepts and original research include:
1) http://canadianpatriot.org/?p=998 (29 min into video). See La Stampa “Amato: all’Europa non serve un sovrano”. Interview by Barbara Spinelli. DATE: July 13, 2000. Pages 2, 3. Accessed from archive: http://www.lastampa.it/archivio-storico/, April 15, 2014. Year 134. N. 188.