Before I begin this latest blog, may I just post links to my other blog Waking The Monkey! the online version of my book of the same title about my experiences at the Hundredth Monkey world healing camp
Chapter 2: And So It Begins…
And so to my thoughts on one of the most important books of the twentieth century...
Brave New World
I’ve just finished reading Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley in 1931. As many people know, it is a famous and highly influential seminal book that has given immense insight into the present and ongoing state of the developed world today.
It could almost be taken as a textbook for the implementation of the ‘dumbed down’ culture which has so taken hold of the mass mind.
Clearly a great deal has already been written about this over many years, and it is not my intention to simply repeat all that. However I would urge anyone who has not read it to find a copy and read it. I found a nice old orange and white 1950s Penguin edition in my local Oxfam bookshop, readers of this blog will know of the pleasure I take from old editions. At a mere 200 pages it is a very easy read, only taking me two days. It is a curious mix between the description of the banal culture which has become endemic throughout the world and the deep philosophical insight of John Savage who has grown up in an ‘uncivilised’ reservation with only a technical handbook from his mother, and the complete works of Shakespeare for his literary education.
This device is used to allow the immortal bard to speak through John Savage, quoting mostly from the Tempest (Miranda’s comment about the ‘brave new world’ which comes to her in the form of the drunken sailors used for the title), but also, Hamlet, Othello and other plays.
While brilliant in his usage of this poetic language to critique the emotionally vacuous values of the society conditioned to only seek pleasure and consumption, while avoiding all conflict, it is also the keyhole view into the essential flaw of the philosophy espoused by the world state, but which Huxley barely touches upon in this work. It is intriguing that he later explored the spiritual dimension and his other most famous work ‘The Doors of Perception’ engages with this to a degree.
The key feature of the Brave New World is the control of everyone from conception, first by chemical manipulation of the foetus and then through childhood conditioning, in order to suit them perfectly to their economic function in society. Even the deliberately retarded lower castes are happy with their lot because they have been built to be so. And as the Controller for Western Europe explains to the rebels near the end of the book, when Cyprus was cleared and repopulated exclusively with Alphas, the intellectual and administrative class, they soon came to civil war since they all wanted the ‘high grade’ jobs and rebelled against ‘a spell of low grade work’, and shortly begged the World Government to reassume control.
In the Brave New World there is no social mobility, no unexpected chance, no variation that is not planned for. A stifling and stultifying stagnation has descended upon human society allowing for no change, development or evolution of any kind. Even most technical innovations are dead ended since they are considered a threat to stability. John Savage himself is a similar threat since he refuses to engage in free sex or the pleasure drug soma and is a potential social contaminant of discontent.
Huxley, writing as he was in the aftermath of the Great War, the Russian Revolution and at the time of the Great Depression, appears to be posing a dilemma between the chaos of the nationalist, class and economic struggles of his time and the stability of total control. Perhaps I should not disclose the final denouement for those who have yet to read this great work, but suffice it to say that Huxley, through his hero Savage, appears to see no way out.
Not that he is advocating the totalitarian behaviourist state: his sympathies appear to be with the philosophical insight and existential plight of the stranger in the strange land who is Savage, yet poses in opposition to this the crushing weight of the Controller’s argument that too much freedom inevitably leads to conflict. Thus only the elite of elites should have the power to make real choices, relieving the mass of the population, even most of the Alpha class, of this burden.
So far so bad. But Huxley has himself presented the crack in the armour which potentially offers a way out, though whether he saw it himself or not at the time is open to debate.
It is the exclusive reliance on intellectual and academic development as the criteria of class position. He himself was a product of the British class system which itself was founded on such an assumption, at least for those who had to work rather than being born to the aristocracy. This was the product of centuries of social Darwinism whereby power and control had become the sole deciding value. All other values are seen as either subsidiary, subservient to it, or else irrelevant and either to be discarded or destroyed as a potential threat.
What might be termed the ‘yin’ values of the native peoples (on whom he based his savage reservation of Native Americans) of lands overtaken by the Empire of Western Dominance, or within our own culture as ‘feminine values’ are seen as of no economic value, and therefore have no place within the Brave New World. When shall we see womanly times?
It is in ‘the spell of low grade work’ that the key lies. All the Alphas on Cyprus wanted to be the Administrator who tells everyone else what to do. None are willing to sweep or sow or cook. But these things in themselves have value, it is only that the value assigned to them by the Alphas is small, though they benefit from them as much as anyone. It is no coincidence that the term ‘Alpha’ is often associated with ‘Male’. The Alpha Male is the leader of the tribe in so called ‘primitive’ cultures or animal herds. But even in such cases the Alpha has earned that position by taking risks and showing better leadership or greater strength than his rivals.
In modern society apparently too many people think that they deserve this status while it actually becomes less and less useful. A popular song tells us that ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’. At least too many do. While in actual fact we need to take responsibility for what is in our own purview, and not seek to dominate others. Such domination is an avoidance of things we might think to be beneath our dignity, while actual dignity is found in engaging with these things. An unwillingness to get our hands dirty is a sign of alienation from the real world. Role models such as ‘royalty’ as seen today are a perversion. The ancient kings would stand at the front of their army in battle, would lead by example, were servants of their people, would die for them if required, and so earned the right to be the Alpha. They did not inherit wealth and status and power simply through the accident of their ancestry.
I believe it was Martin Luther King who said (though I am willing to stand corrected) that should life put us in the position of sweeping streets for a living, then we should sweep the street as if we were Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. When a mother washes her soiled infant she does not see it as low status work, but does it with love and treats her child as though he were the infant Jesus. This is the highest status work that can be imagined, a labour of love and service.
If we all gave that devotion to whatever tasks life presents to us, and equally, if we all valued such tasks when performed for us by others then there would be no ‘low grade work’ or ‘high grade work’, but only devotional service to the whole community. We would not need people to be bred and conditioned to ‘love their servitude’. It would not be servitude ~ servitude is a relationship to a person or a system which is in domination and command over one. Service is the correct nature of work when carried out in freedom rather than coercion.
But a system of thought which sees only economic value and sees no spiritual value in people will only see their work in terms of economic value, human relationships become no more than commerce instead of love, respect and trust.
This is the grand conflict the world faces today. The economic, financial and corporate elites, and those whose souls are stunted by generations of separation from what it truly means to be human such as the royalties and aristocrats who trace their ancestries into the mists of history are in danger of destroying the human race with their unsatiated lust to keep the billions of ‘proles’ as Orwell would put it, in perpetual servitude. We see this in the debt enslavement and dispossession that has advanced apace in recent times. Ancient nations in their entirety have been swallowed up into the servitude to the bloated coffers of these elites. Human need has been discarded for the greed of these power elites, and the sleight of hand which leads to both Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984 is almost complete.
The only antidote to this is the assertion and practise of human value. Service through willingness and love. Revolution by force will only replace one power elite with another. The Alpha Controllers of the world cannot see this because they are trapped in their own prison of intellectual domination, while they separate themselves from humanity and their own souls. The challenge of the present time is not one of economics, intellect or how to ensure the people love their servitude, but one of soul, human feeling and service to one another through love and respect.
My own background is one in which I was brought up with an Alpha education at schools which I am reliably informed are in the top class of the English establishment.
There is no question in my mind that academically speaking they were indeed very good. But while I had seven years of Latin, science teachers who were the best in their field, an introduction to literature that I would probably not have had in the state system, and so forth, the regime brutalised me and left me so damaged that it took me many years to find a way out and heal myself.
Without delving into the idiosyncrasies of my personal psychological makeup suffice it to say that by my late teens I had embarked on a quest of personal spiritual discovery that has spanned the last forty years of my life. I could perhaps have taken the opportunity to integrate myself into the system and had a more comfortable life in material terms; I remember how in my late twenties my father offered to pull some strings and find me a position in the Civil Service, but I couldn’t give up who I was.
It has been a lonely path in many ways, and for that I identify with the experience of John Savage. Like him I was in part spat out by the class in which I was brought up, but also like him, I had spat it out too. Rootless for some years I sought a place where I could give service only to find, even when such a place where I now abide presented itself, that I was a fish out of water in many respects. It is a tragic irony that the community I have given service to often treats me with suspicion and it has been a hard realisation that this is a class mistrust. I once had a working class friend who perpetually accused me of looking down on her because of her class, despite the fact that I never once said anything to give her cause, while she was almost obsessed by my class background. Sadly a case of projection.
Like John Savage I seek a world beyond the class expectations and dominance that we find in our society today, but it has been a grim realisation, slow to dawn on me, that like the Deltas of Huxley’s world, too many people are wedded to the position they found themselves born into, though unlike those contented Deltas, they live in a state of class envy and resentment.
If we are truly to find a new way of being which can lead the world out of the parlous state into which it has fallen, we must first free ourselves from our conditioning, free ourselves from judging others by their class, their race, their education, their religion, their economic status and all the rest; we must see each other as unique souls worthy of respect, worthy of being served with love in humility, and dispense with this corrupt and perverse model of human relations as mere commerce for profit in which one party is bound in servitude to another, even to soulless corporate bodies, worse even than the ties of serf to mediaeval lord, in which at least some elements of loyalty and responsibility might show themselves.
To achieve this we must first see the dignity of the human soul, in oneself and in each other. We must have compassion even for the lost soul of the dominator who seeks satiety in sucking us dry like the symbolic vampire, for in that symbol lies a profound truth. We, though materially sucked dry, have that which the vampires seek, because they have lost contact with their souls.
We must renounce the servitude which repays us only with soma and circuses and reclaim our souls, give ourselves in service to our fellows and find that value in them shown in the washing of the disciples feet by Jesus. To do so is not to submit, but in the recognition of our soul value we assert ourselves as more powerful than those who seek to exploit us. It is better to die free than live in chains.
We must shine our light for others, though the darkness comprehend it not, neither can it overcome it.