Huxley on Brave New World 30 years later

In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste sys­tem, the abolition of free will by methodical condition­ing, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching — these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren. I for­get the exact date of the events recorded in Brave New World; but it was somewhere in the sixth or seventh century A.F. (After Ford). We who were living in the second quarter of the twentieth century A.D. were the inhabitants, admittedly, of a gruesome kind of uni­verse; but the nightmare of those depression years was radically different from the nightmare of the fu­ture, described in Brave New World. Ours was a night­mare of too little order; theirs, in the seventh century A.F., of too much. In the process of passing from one extreme to the other, there would be a long interval, so I imagined, during which the more fortunate third of the human race would make the best of both worlds — the disorderly world of liberalism and the much too orderly Brave New World where perfect efficiency left no room for freedom or personal initiative.
Twenty-seven years later, in this third quarter of the twentieth century A.D., and long before the end of the first century A.F., I feel a good deal less optimistic than I did when I was writing Brave New World. The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought they would. The blessed interval between too little order and the nightmare of too much has not begun and shows no sign of beginning. In the West, it is true, individual men and women still enjoy a large measure of freedom. But even in those coun­tries that have a tradition of democratic government, this freedom and even the desire for this freedom seem to be on the wane. In the rest of the world freedom for individuals has already gone, or is manifestly about to go. The nightmare of total organization, which I had situated in the seventh century After Ford, has emerged from the safe, remote future and is now awaiting us, just around the next corner.

George Orwell’s 1984 was a magnified projection into the future of a present that contained Stalinism and an immediate past that had witnessed the flowering of Nazism. Brave New World was written before the rise of Hitler to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contem­porary fact which it had become in 1948, and the fu­ture dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell. In the context of 1948, 1984 seemed dreadfully convincing. But tyrants, after all, are mortal and circumstances change. Recent developments in Russia and recent advances in science and technology have robbed Orwell’s book of some of its gruesome verisimilitude. A nuclear war will, of course, make nonsense of everybody’s predictions. But, assuming for the moment that the Great Powers can somehow refrain from destroying us, we can say that it now looks as though the odds were more in favor of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984.

In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effec­tive, in the long run, than control through the rein­forcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manip­ulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children. Pun­ishment temporarily puts a stop to undesirable behav­ior, but does not permanently reduce the victim’s tend­ency to indulge in it. Moreover, the psycho-physical by-products of punishment may be just as undesirable as the behavior for which an individual has been pun­ished. Psychotherapy is largely concerned with the de­bilitating or anti-social consequences of past punish­ments.

The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by punishment and the fear of pun­ishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable, pun­ishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable be­havior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipula­tion, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization. Babies in bottles and the centralized control of reproduction are not perhaps impossible; but it is quite clear that for a long time to come we shall remain a viviparous species breeding at random. For practical purposes genetic standardization may be ruled out. Societies will continue to be controlled post-natally — by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation.

In Russia the old-fashioned, 1984-style dictatorship of Stalin has begun to give way to a more up-to-date form of tyranny. In the upper levels of the Soviets’ hierarchical society the reinforcement of desirable be­havior has begun to replace the older methods of con­trol through the punishment of undesirable behavior. Engineers and scientists, teachers and administrators, are handsomely paid for good work and so moderately taxed that they are under a constant incentive to do better and so be more highly rewarded. In certain areas they are at liberty to think and do more or less what they like. Punishment awaits them only when they stray beyond their prescribed limits into the realms of ideology and politics. It is because they have been granted a measure of professional freedom that Russian teachers, scientists and technicians have achieved such remarkable successes. Those who live near the base of the Soviet pyramid enjoy none of the privileges accorded to the lucky or specially gifted mi­nority. Their wages are meager and they pay, in the form of high prices, a disproportionately large share of the taxes. The area in which they can do as they please is extremely restricted, and their rulers control them more by punishment and the threat of punish­ment than through non-violent manipulation or the reinforcement of desirable behavior by reward. The Soviet system combines elements of 1984 with ele­ments that are prophetic of what went on among the higher castes in Brave New World.

Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

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Miss Mason and Logic

“Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher’s wife, come in then, and call me Gossip Quickly? — coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling me she had a good dish of prawns– whereby thou didst desire to eat some — whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound,” &c., &c., Mrs. Quickly — peace be with her– still runs apace in drawing-room and market, from pulpit and platform. Her themes are many, but her method is one. It is at home she has been trained; in the delightful unrestrained of home talk she has acquired her facility. But Mrs. Quickly must be suppressed: we can not more of her. It is she who is the sower of faction — the propagator of error. It is her inconsequent “thought,” irrelevant speech, invincible ignorance, her utterly unconvincable attitude of mind, that rises like a huge earthwork in the path of enlightened effort. In this connection it is well worth while for parents to study at least two chapters — those on Language and Conceptions — of Archbishop Thomson’s Outline of the Laws of Thought. it is profitable to know that there are laws of thought, the infringement of which is calamitous both for the individual and the community.” Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 75, Parents’ Review

Let’s break this down for the modern reader who has not had the benefit of an education which gives her a comfortable familiarity with Mistress Quickly and her character.

Mason is quoting her from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part 2, act 2, scene 1.
While the title of the play is Henry IV, it’s really all about Henry the V as a prince, and how he grows up and matures and becomes the noble Henry V. During his reprobate youth he’s great friends with a rapscallion called Falstaff. Sir John Falstaff is older, wheezily fat, given to lying, cheating, womanizing. He’s careless with money, his or other people’s, and often the source of humour in the plays.
Mrs. Quickly is the owner of the Boar’s Head Tavern, where Falstaff has spent quite a bit of time.
In this particular scene she’s taken him to court for breach of promise and to recover money Falstaff has borrowed from her.
The judge has asked her what sum Falstaff owes her, and she replies that it’s more than some, and goes into a brief (for her) tirade about how Falstaff has abused her goodwill, but she never answers the question. The judge tells FAlstaff he should be ashamed and tells him to make things right, so Falstaff asks her how much he owes her. Mistress Quickly’s answer runs something like this:
“Good Gravy, if you were honest, you’d be giving yourself to me as well as the money. You promised me, swearing on a goblet gilded with gold, while sitting in the Dolphin Chamber at my tavern it was at the round table next to a fire stoked with sea-coals, on the Wednesday seven weeks after Easter, around hte time the Prince punched you in the head for comparing his father to , singing man of Windsor (people make guesses, but nobody really knows for sure why this was bad) and when I was cleaning up the blood, you promised me then to marry me, how could you deny that? Right then Goodwife Keech the butcher’s wife came and called to me “Neighbor Quickly!” because she was coming in to borrow a mix of vinegar, as she told us she had a good dish of shrimps, and when she said that you said you wanted to eat some and I told you they weren’t healthy eating for somebody with a fresh wound, and then, when she had gone back downstairs…”

And so, on, and on,and on, and yet again, she never answers the question. That’s how Miss Quickly talks. Miss Mason says the Miss Quickly types are still common, you can hear them at home, out shopping, giving sermons in the pulpit and speeches from politicians. The subjects these ‘Quicklys’ discourse on are varied, but the style is all the same. IT started at home when the Quicklys of this day were allowed to rattle on without restraint, but it’s time to supress these rambling, unrestrained, irrational tendences. This insequential, irrelevant chatter isn’t thinking. It creates divisiveness, spreads error. In the face of any efforts to enlighten, to educate, this sort of personality, this habit of thoughtlessness is like erecting sandbags walls of ignorance to prevent the leaking in of any meaningful knowledge or reason.

And so, Miss Mason says, in order to breach those walls, or rather, to prevent erecting them in the first place, parents should study some logic, specifically at least two specific chapters, one on language, on on conceptions, in the book “Outline of the Laws of Thought,” by Archbishop Thomson.

Mason reminds us that there are laws of thought, and when we ignore them it’s disastrous for the individual in possession of such an impenetrable mind, and for those around that person, the community at large.

In short, Miss Mason says don’t be an irrational flibbertygibbet.

Those two chapters are about a hundred pages. I’m skimming them now,and I have to say that once more I am struck with the high opinion Miss Mason had of parents.

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K-Drama: Just Between Lovers, Rain or Shine, Just in Love- that JunHo drama

Hangul title:
그냥 사랑하는 사이
Sounded out roughly, that’s
Geunyang Saranghaneun Sai
Other English titles:
Rain or Shine, Just in Love

I mentioned in the middle of watching it. I just finished it and I’ve cried to the point of dehydration. I love this one, but it’s a unique place in my heart, and I’m not sure how much is the drama and how much is timing and the way the tune to this OST just resonates with the chords of my heart:

With lyrics attached:

With Junho and Won Jin Ah footage:

When we?
Where we?
Why we?
On some day.
It’s so gray.
When to?
Where to?
Why to?
It’s been gone.
It’s somewhere.

Every time when I see
It’s so gray
It’s okay
Feels like you’re the one I know
It’s been gone
It’s somewhere

Tell me where I’m falling back to
It’s so gray
It’s been gone
Tell me why I’m longing to see
It’s okay
It’s somewhere

I sing your song.
You sing along.
For once,
You sing my song.
We sing along
As once we did.

When we?
Where we?
Why we?
On some day,
It’s so gray.
When to?
Where to?
Why to?
It’s been gone.
It’s somewhere.

I don’t know how I feel…
(Wish I could tell you why)
Maybe we’ll be on our way
on some day
It’s so gray.

I sing your song;
You sing along,
For once.
You sing my song;
We sing along,
As once we did.
(by Kim Kyung Hee and Ryu Ji Hyun)

Oh, my heart. Some songs just do this for me, it has nothing to do with lyrics or anything but the sound. That tune calls, tugs, and pulls at me, and my heart answers.

What is it?

“a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. The classic example is demonstrated with two similar tuning-forks of which one is mounted on a wooden box. If the other one is struck and then placed on the box, then muted, the un-struck mounted fork will be heard. In similar fashion, strings will respond to the external vibrations of a tuning-fork when sufficient harmonic relations exist between the respective vibratory modes.”

I could listen to this song a hundred times, and in fact, I think I did that this morning while waiting for the last episode of this drama to finish loading subs. It sounds similar to Mad World, which I felt the same way about when I first heard it.

The whole drama is too fresh and too much for me to explain it. Throughout much of the drama I felt like the writer and director, maybe the whole team, were punching me in the gut and then giving me medicine for it and rubbing my back and saying soothingly, “There, there, it’s okay,” only to give me a shove and a slap and start the abuse cycle all over again. I won’t tell you how much I cried. Oh, I guess I did that already. I’m blogging about it and recommending it, though, so you know that the show and I had couples counseling and are in recovery.

Junho and Won Jin Ah are just fabulous. I will look for each of them or both of them again. Okay, Won Jin Ah could work on her kiss scenes a bit- and I won’t usually comment on that mainly because I don’t care beyond thinking the frequent awkwardness of kissing in a K-drama is cute and restrained and preferable to the passionately public face sucking of American teleivion. But this seemed particularly stand-out awkward. Or maybe I was jud st too emotionally invested in this relationship because Junho and Won Jin Ah are such incredibly talented actors. They really sold it. It was particularly impressive since it’s Junho’s first lead role, and Jinah’s first time in a drama at all.

Kudos to the writer, who has done his or her research. It’s a drama, so some things are a bit glossed over, but really, so much of the traumatic reactions and symptoms were so real, so true.

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Bearing Burdens

Descent into Hell*, by Inkling Charles Williams is a strange tale reminiscent of the atmosphere in George MacDonald’s Lilith or Phantastes
It’s about selfishness, love, the reality of the eternal and the spiritual, and, of course, about the surprisingly easy, but nearly always selfish, ways we descend to hell.

In the story, Pauline Anstruther has been terrified by poetry- upon reading the following lines by Shelley:

Ere it shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,
the Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image
Walking in the garden.
That apparition, sole of men, he saw.

…she has been haunted by a fear of meeting herself.  She confides this fear to the poet Stanhope, who offers to take the burden of her fear for her:

She said, still perplexed at a strange language : ‘But how can I cease to be troubled ? will it leave
off coming because I pretend it wants you ? Is it your resemblance that hurries up the street ?’

‘It is not,’ he said, ‘and you shall not pretend at all. The thing itself you may one day meet–never
mind that now, but you’ll be free from all distress because that you can pass on to me. Haven’t you
heard it said that we ought to bear one another’s burdens ?’

‘But that means—‘ she began, and stopped.

‘I know,’ Stanhope said. ‘It means listening sympathetically, and thinking unselfishly, and being
anxious about, and so on. Well, I don’t say a against all that; no doubt it helps. But I think when
Christ or St. Paul, or whoever said bear, or whatever he Aramaically said instead of bear, he
meant something much more like carrying a parcel instead of someone else. To bear a burden is
precisely to carry it instead of. If you’re still carrying yours, I’m not carrying it for you–however
sympathetic I may be. And anyhow there’s no need to introduce Christ, unless you wish. It’s a fact
of experience. If you give a weight to me, you can’t be carrying it yourself; all I’m asking you to
do is to notice that blazing truth. It doesn’t sound very difficult.’

But it is, oh, it is.  I wish I knew how to bear others’ burdens some way, to lighten their oh, so heavy loads.

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The Prevention of Literature (Free Speech essay by Orwell)

“About a year ago I attended a meeting of the P.E.N. Club, the occasion
being the tercentenary of Milton’s AEROPAGITICA–A pamphlet, it may be
remembered, in defense of freedom of the press. Milton’s famous phrase
about the sin of “killing” a book was printed on the leaflets advertising
the meeting which had been circulated beforehand.

There were four speakers on the platform. One of them delivered a speech
which did deal with the freedom of the press, but only in relation to
India; another said, hesitantly, and in very general terms, that liberty
was a good thing; a third delivered an attack on the laws relating to
obscenity in literature. The fourth devoted most of his speech to a
defense of the Russian purges. Of the speeches from the body of the hall,
some reverted to the question of obscenity and the laws that deal with
it, others were simply eulogies of Soviet Russia. Moral liberty–the
liberty to discuss sex questions frankly in print–seemed to be
generally approved, but political liberty was not mentioned. Out of this
concourse of several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly
connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could
point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means
the freedom to criticize and oppose. Significantly, no speaker quoted
from the pamphlet which was ostensibly being commemorated…..

…almost nobody in our own day is able to speak out as roundly in
favour of intellectual liberty as Milton could do 300 years ago–and this
in spite of the fact Milton was writing in a period of civil war.

…In the past, at any
rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the
idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic–political, moral,
religious, or aesthetic–was one who refused to outrage his own
conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:

Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known

To bring this hymn up to date one would have to add a “Don’t” at the
beginning of each line. For it is the peculiarity of our age that the
rebels against the existing order, at any rate the most numerous and
characteristic of them, are also rebelling against the idea of individual
integrity. “Daring to stand alone” is ideologically criminal as well as
practically dangerous. The independence of the writer and the artist is
eaten away by vague economic forces, and at the same time it is
undermined by those who should be its defenders. It is with the second
process that I am concerned here.

Freedom of thought and of the press are usually attacked by arguments
which are not worth bothering about. Anyone who has experience of
lecturing and debating knows them off backwards. Here I am not trying to
deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the
claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in
democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition
that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of
anti-social selfishness. Although other aspects of the question are
usually in the foreground, the controversy over freedom of speech and of
the press is at bottom a controversy of the desirability, or otherwise,
of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report
contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with
the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer
necessarily suffers. …

The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a
plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth
is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of
emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always
branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, of either wanting to
shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display
of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history
in an attempt to cling to unjustified privilege. The Catholic and the
Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest
and intelligent. …The familiar tirades
against “escapism” and “individualism”, “romanticism”, and so forth, are
merely a forensic device, the aim of which is to make the perversion of
history seem respectable.

… any writer or
journalist who is fully sympathetic for the U.S.S.R.–sympathetic, that
is, in the way the Russians themselves would want him to be–does have
to acquiesce in deliberate falsification on important issues…..Forgeries almost as gross as this have been
committed in recent years. But the significant thing is not that they
happen, but that, even when they are known about, they provoke no
reaction from the left-wing intelligentsia as a whole. The argument that
to tell the truth would be “inopportune” or would “play into the hands
of” somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable, and few people are
bothered by the prospect of the lies which they condone getting out of
the newspapers and into the history books.

…This kind of
thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright
falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any
given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration
of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very
existence of objective truth. ”

Read the whole thing.  

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