Thoughts on Aurora, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell

Wrightwood, California.
21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book.
It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is.
May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution?
The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf.
The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.
Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.
My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.
I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers
and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government.
Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations.
Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism.
This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years.
But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.
In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World.
The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.
Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

Some time ago I read a remark by Chris Hedges that America currently resembled a mix of the “sci-fi” visions of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.  We live in an Orwellian  police state, where peaceful protests like those of OWS are met with a brutal crackdown denying citizens the right of free assembly and any kind of meaningful public free speech.  Our Supreme Court, on the other hand, has ruled that corporations are entitled to free speech in the form of the outright and unhindered buying of elections.  As in Orwell’s 1984 the US as described by historian Charles Beard has subscribed the absurd doctrine of “perpetual war for perpetual peace”, which he noted began under FDR. The predictable results of adhering to this mad philosophy are apparent in our current shambles of a totalitarian military state posing as a free society. In terms of the political landscape, the militarized police state is a given, with hardly a peep of objection from any quarter. OWS itself, conceiving itself as a vague kind of revolutionary force,  to my knowledge had nothing whatsoever to say about the illegal and unjust wars, mechanized extra-judicial assassination or torture being carried out in the name of America.

The widespread embrace and support of the US military is at the heart of why we live in the Orwellian condition. You don’t employ a military with over 700 bases around the world and a maintain anything that remotely resembles a free thinking and free speaking country at home.

Due to this worship of the military to the point that it’s virtually sacrosanct and immune from any criticism, it’s easy to see how Americans can be pushed into any war at the drop of a dime, particularly since at this date only a few percentage of the population are actually fighting these endless wars on the ground. It’s the economic lynchpin of most states, and thus there are vast number of Americans whose job depends on continual military preparedness. And, as far as I can tell, Americans have no problem whatsoever playing a push button war where they bomb with impunity anybody they consider an “enemy”. I have no doubt that predator drones will eventually be used to take out those we deem enemies in our own inner cities. Whatever goes around comes around.

The rationale that invariably propels us into these wars was articulated by Hermann Goering,  expressed during his trial for war crimes in Nuremberg: “Naturally the common people don’t want war. Russia, nor England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice of no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

This all worked spectacularly well as the mainstream media jumped to print whatever lie was concocted by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq, a country that had never attacked the US, and was fully open to UN inspection teams able to determine if there actually were any nuclear or biological weapons that might be a threat.  It’s notable that the entire so-called “liberal” press showed not just support but actual enthusiasm for invading a country that was no threat to the US whatsoever. Thus, the so-called free press plays its Big Brother role in our Orwellian present, acting as a mouthpiece for whatever decisions the elite make in their privileged sanctuaries. The public is easily manipulated in the manner Goering suggested. Phil Donahue’s MSNBC show, was cancelled for example, as his daring to question the build up to an invasion would have made the network susceptible to charges of being unpatriotic. This isn’t a free media, it’s the broadcasting arm of a nationalist madhouse.

The US is now beyond insolvency, bankrupted by military spending, perpetual wars, and financial fraud that were ushered in through the Hollywoodization of politics perfected by the Reagan criminals. Public opinion is controlled by the ubiquitous channels of game shows, reality TV, televangelism,  fascist-inspired  right-wing demagogues, and various spectacles that would have brought an enthusiastic smile to Caligula’s face.

The bankruptcy of the liberal class is shown by their inability to challenge this tidal wave of right-wing lunacy other than to make jokes in the manner of the imbecilic comedy of Colbert and Stewart.  It’s small wonder that the working class has little but contempt for the liberals, with their smug elitism and moral cowardice, invariably managing to run from the right wing with their tails between their legs at the first instance they might be called on to defend their so-called principles…. whatever those might be at this point.

The complement to Orwell’s 1984 is  Aldous Huxley’s vision of a Brave New World,  in which which the citizens are kept in their blissful states by a drug called  SOMA, no doubt something along the lines of our anti-depressants, of which Americans consume 67% of the world’s production. There is also a choice of the fantastic cornucopia of pharmaceuticals and street drugs to take away reality quickly and efficiently.  Huxley conceived his vision of a Brave New World during an early trip to America in the roaring 20s, where he found the sexual promiscuity, commercial cheeriness, youth culture, and narcissism as fatal qualities that would doom the future of the country. At this stage in our history America has brought narcissism to perfection, with the ability of each citizen to customize their own private fantasy world through videogames, ipods, ipads, twitter/facebook,  instant alerts for all the infotainment and consumer objects of desire one could ever imagine… a never ending wonderland.

Americans want to be left in their own personally customized entertainment bubbles, where whatever they think and whatever entertains them is fed back to them through the media.

The tragedy of the recent massacre of moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado is amplified by the fact that there isn’t the remotest chance that the power of the NRA will be challenged by either political party and things will continue on down the same dark road into an ever darker night. Immediately following the incident gun sales in Colorado rose over 40 percent, as well as increasing applications for concealed carry permits.

Permanent War for Permanent Peace, …..

I just ran across this Glenn Greenwald that will serve as an appropriate coda:

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4 Responses to Thoughts on Aurora, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell

  1. Lester Shepherd says:

    Well then. Some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long, long time. The letter to Orwell was dated 10-21-1949, the day I became eight. What a grand prize to realize what Mr Huxley was doing at the same time I was immersed in my brat self of opening gifts to ME. I sometimes think I started this narcissistic revolution in this patriotic mess of a world in which we find we find ourselves. Thank you. I cannot wait to explore the rest of ur site and further posts.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Thanks, Lester. I think that at this point almost all of us have grown up in this bubble of narcissism. I was born in 1954 and the notion that material prosperity was the key to life was well entrenched through Madison Avenue by then. Christopher Lasch does some excellent writing on it in “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations”. Yes, everything is about ME…. MySpace. Personalized, customized consumer entities bombarded with luxury fantasies that colonize our interior imaginations. So many Americans seem to do no more than spout programmed drivel while wearing whatever kind of branded merchandise constitutes their “lifestyle.”…. People no longer choose a life. They choose a lifestyle.

    Lasch opens his book with a quote from Donald Barthelme:

    The Marivaudian being is, according to Poulet, a pastless futureless man, born anew at every instant. The instants are points which organize themselves into a line, but what is important is the instant, not the line. The Marivaudian being has in a sense no history. Nothing follows from what has gone before. He is constantly surprised. He cannot predict his own reaction to events. He is constantly being overtaken by events. A condition of breathlessness and dazzlement surrounds him.

    Neil Postman wrote the aptly titled “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Americans are conditioned to be continually stimulated by amusements. I find they often converse as if they expect a laugh track to be sounding behind whatever they say… Of course the complement to the hysterical hilarity are the grotesque military fantasies and SuperHero insanity that the Dark Knight of Aurora was acting out.

    I think the Baby Boomers are the generation — those born as the population boomed after WWII — who get the credit for being the epicenter of the American pathology (and exported globally through TV and Hollywood)…. A culture of excess, vanity, and irresponsibility. It’s why there’s so much loneliness and paranoia throughout the land. In the myth of Narcissus, he’s led to gaze at his reflection in a pool… falling in love with it he’s unable to take his eyes off it and thus withers and dies, which is the clear fate of our narcissistic country.

    Hopefully, some will be able to reestablish their basic humanity and form communities of concern based on the collective good, as well as basic respect for nature.

  3. Lester Shepherd says:

    Thank you for replying.

    I tend to think the generation to scold is the one before mine. That was the time, after the depression, and the subsequent good times, that led my parents to ply me with everything I wanted and did not want me “To have to go through another depression”.. Even today, I suffer from the damndable “Wants”. It’s crazy. I do not know how to explain it except to blame it on my parents, who were the best they could have been. I worshipped them, especially my father, who was the most honest and compassionate Banker that ever lived!

    Lester Shepherd

  4. trueoutsider says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of 19th century American history lately, primarily about the settling of the West. A mania for vast material riches was at the heart of the Western expansion–Gold/Silver lust. The same mania is pervasive today. Americans have seemingly confused happiness with material wealth, when the two have nothing to do with one another. I personally don’t understand the fascination with the stuff I see in shopping malls. I love old things primarily… The art that I post on my blog was to a large extent produced prior to the 1960s, when art merged with Madison Avenue.

    And I think possessing the kind of things that I love, the great art in Museums for example, would only harm the value I place in them. That value comes from the fact that it’s shared with the rest of humanity.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you had a compassionate Banker for a father! … perhaps like Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life.

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