Lesson 19- Brave New World continued
As I ended my last program, I was using excerpts from Aldous Huxley’s book, Brave New World, to illustrate what an Anti-Christ society might be like and the conditions that might precede it. Most of us, when we think of the Anti-Christ society predicted by the Bible at the end of time, think of a harsh enslavement of the human race by a vicious leader who uses torture, whips, chains, and the threat of death to control us. This, of course, is what slavery has meant in the past. However, Huxley give a different, and in some ways, more chilling description in Brave New World. It is not the “hard slavery” practiced in the past that used all of the aforementioned devices which, in the long term, are counter-productive because people don’t like being tortured, or whipped, or chained, or killed and eventually they will rise up and revolt. However, Huxley said that the 21st century would be a dictatorship based on technology and science that would never end because its leaders would never run out of “bread, in the form of welfare benefits, or circuses, in the form of entertainment to distract the people from their slavery. What he was describing was “soft slavery” in which the leaders keep the people debilitated much, like and over-protective parent keep the child dependent on him or her, by removing all hardships and responsibility from its life. In other words, by removing all crosses, problems, or antitheses, they undermined the “laws of development” described by Hegel in which hidden potentials in the Thesis are actualized in the Synthesis resulting from the challenges presented by the Antitheses.
Think about it. The Thesis is what already exists or we as we presently are. The Antitheses are the problems, challenges, and crosses of life which confront us and all living creatures. The Synthesis is our response and that of all living creatures to these challenges that results in an adaptation based on abilities and strengths that were latent or hidden within us and other creatures. They were potentials waiting to be actualized. Jesus had said, “If you want life, and you want it fully, pick up your cross and follow Me.” We could paraphrase this by saying, “If you want to be “all that you can or were meant to be”, you must confront, embrace, and overcome all the problems and difficulties that life brings you by following the Truth that alone is capable of setting you free from the Gehenna of Mental Darkness in which you were first born.” Let me repeat that more slowly so that you may fully grasp the depths of its meaning. “If you want to be “all that you can or were meant to be”, you must confront, embrace, and overcome all the problems and difficulties that life brings you by following the Truth that alone is capable of setting you free from the Gehenna of Mental Darkness in which you were first born.” The problems in life are “gifts from God” who knows that without the Cross there can be no Resurrection or, as Fredrick Douglas did, “without struggle there is no progress” or as Hegel had observed,
“the problems of evil are real enough. But they are, in (God’s) Wisdom (or Jesus’) way of looking at things, stages or steps to the fulfillment of the good. Struggle is the law of growth; character is built in the storm and stress of the world, and a man reaches his full height only through compulsion, responsibilities, and suffering. Every pain has its purpose: it is a sign of life and a stimulation for reconstruction…” In other words, pain let’s us know that something is wrong and motivates us to do something about it. It is a blessing, not a curse, for without it we would never when things are malfunctioning or to seek a solution to the problem.
To our hedonistic, animal nature and today’s secular humanistic social engineers that evaluate good and evil according to feelings and sensations this sound ridiculous. Embrace pain, suffering, and struggle as good and life-producing instead of pleasure, comfort, and ease. Why, with enough money, they could solve everybody’s problems and eliminate all difficulties from their lives. And, yet, the more they try to solve other people’s problems, the more dependent and debilitated the beneficiaries become. Someone once said, “God’s discipline is more merciful than Man’s kindness.” Or as one minister once said, “Sometimes, just when God has a person to the place where he is about to make a life-reforming decision, we lend him ten dollars.” Or put another way, “Give a man a fish and he eats for one day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” In other words, knowledge is better than bread because it last forever whereas bread is quickly eaten, digested, and eliminated. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth or God.” Remember that whenever God speaks, He speaks His Word or Wisdom, who is Jesus and, according to the ancient Hebrews, Wisdom is the Bread of Life that feeds the soul that is destined to live forever. The wise man knows that there is no such thing as a “free lunch” and that everything worth having involves commitment, work, and struggle.
Perhaps this is why St. Paul said that salvation was through the cross which the world considered to be absurd and foolish because it was based on suffering, struggle and growth rather than comfort, ease and stagnation. Perhaps we get it wrong because we really don’t understand what life is about. St. Thomas Aquinas said, that a thing is good or bad according to how well it served its purpose and thus, if we knew the purpose of life, we would then know how to evaluate it. Is it to exist or develop?
When, as a teacher, I addressed this issue with my students, I used to begin by saying that a thing is perfect to the degree that it performs the purpose for which it was created and thus we couldn’t evaluate anything until we knew its purpose. To illustrate my points I said,
“Suppose I had a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that I wanted put together so that I could see what it portrayed and I gave it to my nine-years-old daughter. “Carolyn, I said, “Put this puzzle together so that daddy can see what it is.” “Okay, daddy, I’ll do my best.” After an hour I asked her, “How is the puzzle coming, honey?” “Daddy, this is a hard puzzle and I only have some corner pieces done.” “ What? Come on! You should be further along than that and I am impatient to see what it is.” Hour after hour I ask the same question and get a similar response. She has more of it done but it is still far from finished. Finally, with an air of impatience and disgust I say, “Give it to me! You’re too slow! I’ll do it myself!” And this, of course, would be my attitude if my purpose was to have a perfected puzzle.
However, what if my real purpose was to perfect my daughter, Carolyn and I gave her a five piece puzzle that she could finish in less than five minutes without any struggle or difficulty. Would that have been the perfect puzzle to accomplish my purpose? I doubt it. So this leads us to the most important question in our lives. “What is the purpose of life? To exist or develop?” If it is to exist, then there are many paths and many cultures that to one degree or another makes existence bearable and even pleasant. Thus, it would be different strokes for different folks and who could say that one answer was any better than another answer since most people will defend whatever style of life to which they are accustomed. However, if the purpose is to develop then the answer is entirely different since development requires certain conditions, the most important of which is the freedom to change. So this leads us to another insight. We all wish that the world was perfect, trouble free and complete. However, if this were so there would be no reason to move or change since everything was already equally perfect and to change means to move to something either more perfect or less perfect. In other words, a perfect-completed world is stagnant and sounds like the entropic world of the physicist where everything in the universe has returned to a steady state of equality. Nothing can move since all places and situations are equally good and desirable or equally bad and undesirable. In a sense, it’s a cloned universe.
Physicists tell us that the only way that movement or work can take place is when there is an inequality or difference between energy sources. Thus, for example, it is the unequal distribution of electron between two poles that cause them to move though a wire, causing it to glow and produce light, that allows us to use electricity to perform essential jobs for us. Once the electron in both poles equal out the flow stops and so does the energy that produces work.
Mother Theresa was fond of saying that the poor people she worked with were a gift from God to her because through their needs, they drew out of her a growing capacity to love. It is the needs of others that offer all of us to discover that “it is in giving that we receive.” If everyone knew everything, the would be no need for me to teach; if nobody ever got sick, there would be no need for doctors to heal; if nothing ever broke, there would be need for other to become repairmen. Paradoxically, it may be that what we consider to be the imperfection in our world are, from God’s point of view, what makes it a perfect world for accomplishing His purpose for us, which is, perfecting us through the challenges that life places before us.
John Garner, former head of HEW once observed:
"Despite almost universal belief to the contrary, self gratification, ease, comfort, diversion and a state of having achieved all one's goals do not constitute happiness for man. We are coming to a conception of happiness that differs fundamentally from the storybook version... The storybook conception tells of desires fulfilled; the truer version involves striving towards meaningful goals... goals that relate the individual to a larger context of purposes. Storybook happiness involves a bland idleness; the truer conception involves seeking and purposeful effort. Storybook happiness involves every form of pleasant thumb twiddling; true happiness involves the use of one's powers and talents. Both conceptions of happiness involve love, but the storybook version puts greater emphasis on being loved, the truer version more emphasis on the capacity to give love."
So, with these observations in mind, let me return to my description of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, an Antichrist society based on “soft slavery” in which everybody is debilitated by a Super-welfare state dedicated to the removal of all problems and crosses in people’s lives.
As I ended my last program, I was describing Aldous Huxley’s book, “Brave New World”, that demonstrated what could happen when utopian-minded leaders were free to use science and technology to eliminate the problems created by human freedom. When I ended my program, we had already heard:
1. That babies were created through “in vitro” fertilization from eggs that were harvested from females and sperm from males. Impregnation took place in a soup-like mixture and each egg was microscopically inspected to see that it came up to the “quality-control” standards set by the leaders. Those that didn’t were discarded.
2. The fertilized eggs were placed in bottles that were lined with uteruses taken from pigs. This is reminiscent of a radio program that I heard in which two female doctors were arguing about the effectiveness of testing new drug on human embryos. One pointed to a study conducted in California as
proof of the effectiveness of this while the other protested the results because the fertilized human embryos had been placed in the wombs of female rats who were then injected with the drug to be tested. Thus, without objecting to the method used, she argued that the inclusion of the rat in the experiment tainted the results. I wonder how the mother of those embryonic children would feel if they knew that there were placed in the uteruses of female rats.
3. While on its 9 months trip on the conveyor belt, the embryos in the bottle were subjected to Pavlovian conditioning designed to shape their minds to accept the conditions that the leaders had pre-destined them to assume. Thus, those destined to work in the tropics were alternately sent through tunnels that were hot and cold. While in the cold tunnel they were subjected to X-rays that caused them discomfort. As a result, they developed an inherent aversion to the cold and an affinity for the heat.
4. Each developing child was assigned one of the five social classes in “Brave New World.” The Alphas and Betas were predestined to become leaders while the Deltas, Epsilons, and Gammas were predestined to serve the more menial jobs. And each, through the manipulation of the oxygen going to their brains during their gestation period, were given an I.Q. that was most compatible with their assigned role in life.
Their next stop was the Neo-Pavlovian Nurseries where the Pavlovian conditioning methods were continued after birth. Before describing this, let me digress a bit to explain who Pavlov was and what he did.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian biologist who was born in 1849 and died in 1936. He became the darling of the Soviet Union under Communism and his theories on behavior modification were used to shape Soviet children. His greatest discovery involved “conditioned reflexes.”
As a biologist he was interested in measuring and quantifying biological phenomena among which are responses known as “natural reflexes.” A reflex is something that occurs in response to something else. For example, when we enter a dark room, the iris in our eyes responds by opening up to allow more light in and when we enter a bright room, the iris responds by closing down. In like manner, when we are hungry and we smell food, our salivary glands begin to produce saliva in preparation for the digestion of the food we hope to eat. In other words, our mouths begin to “water.”
Pavlov was interested in measuring the amount of saliva that a hungry dog would produce when presented with food. Therefore, he cut two holes in the jowls of a dog and attached hoses leading to tests tubes which would collect the saliva. As expected, when food was brought into the room, the smell of it caused the dog to salivate and the tubes began to fill. Then something unexpected happened. As the days passed, the dog began to salivate whenever the door opened.
Whereas it was a “natural reflex” for a dog to salivate at the smell of food, it was not natural for him to salivate at the sound of a door opening. Obviously, the dog had learned the connection between the opening of the door and the arrival of the food. Pavlov called this a “conditioned reflex” because it had been learned through the repetitive association of two things: the door opening and the arrival of food. Later, if I remember I will tell you of a lesser known but more interesting experiment conducted by Pavlov. But for now, let me continue my description of Brave New World.
The students were led by the Director to the Neo-Pavlovian Nurseries to observe how children were further shaped by the state to serve its interests. As they entered the nursery, he said to the nurses:
"Set out the books and flowers". In silence the nurses obeyed his command. "Now bring out the children." They hurried out of the room and returned in a minute each pushing a cart with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since their caste was Delta) dressed in khaki.
"Put them on the floor." The infants were unloaded. "Now turn them so that they can see the flowers and books." The babies, attracted by the bright colored books and flowers, began to crawl towards them. The swiftest crawlers were already at their goal. Small hands reached out uncertainly, touched, grasped, embraced the flowers and books. The Director waited until all were happily busy. Then, "Watch carefully," he said.”
The Director raised his hand and as he dropped it, the nurse on the other end of the nursery pulled a switch and an ear-blasting siren and crashing bells began to sound. The children were terrified and screaming. Then, at a second signal, the nurse pulled a second switch and an electric current through the floor begins to shock the infants. Huxley writes:
“the screaming of the babies suddenly changed its tone. There was suddenly an insane wailing quality in the shrieking of the children. The Director nodded approvingly and, after a minute, when he was sure that the lesson had been made on the children, returned the levers to the "off" position. The explosions ceased, the bells stopped ringing, the shriek of the siren died down from tone to tone into silence. The stiffly twitching bodies of the babies relaxed, and what` had been the sobs and yelps of infant maniacs broadened out once more into a normal howl of ordinary terror.
"Offer them the flowers and books again." The nurse obeyed; but at the approach of the roses, at the mere sight of the books, the infants shrank away in horror.
"Observe," said the Director triumphantly, "Observe; books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks- already in the infant's mind they are connected; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or similar lessons they'll be inseparable.”
One of the students said that he understood why they didn’t want Delta children liking books but what about the flowers. The Director explains that at one time Delta children were conditioned to love flowers so that they would use public transportation to go to the country. However, the leaders soon realized that this was wasteful because, although their trips kept transportation drivers working, the flowers were free and kept nobody working. Therefore, it was decided to continue to condition them to love the country but to hate flowers. Instead they were conditioned to love country sports that required a lot of expensive equipment thereby providing jobs for those who made them.
Remember, I said that Brave New World combined what was worst in both Communism and Capitalism. We have already seen how its radical emphasis on the state’s control over the individual reflects Communism and here we see how its economic policies reflects the problems of Capitalism.
You might remember from a previous program how Marx in the Communist Manifesto said that Capitalism would destroy itself through reoccurring depressions because it had tied the production of good and the distribution of goods to each other. As a result, it could not stop production without also stopping distribution. Thus it was caught in a dilemma. It had to find ways to keep people working, whether what they produced was needed or not, so that they could earn the money to buy the things that the economy produced. Otherwise, it ended up with the insane problem of overproduction in which the warehouse were overflowing with the goods that people wanted but, because the factories had shut down and the workers were laid off, there was no way for them to earn to money to buy the surplus. To solve the problem of surplus, says Marx, Capitalism either had to find new markets or destroy what it had made so that workers could be paid to make it again. In other words, we didn’t need the products but we did need the jobs and so some way had to be devised to keep people working otherwise the economy would slip into a recession or, even worse, a depression. We should note that Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1932 during the greatest depression to hit the Western World.
If you think that this is too far-fetched consider the fact that when Chrysler went bankrupt, our government lent them over a billion dollars to keep them afloat. Not because there wasn’t enough cars to meet consumer demand but, rather, because we needed the jobs.
The worst thing that could happen to a Capitalistic economy is that the consumer should suddenly “have enough” and that is why hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year in advertising to stimulate desires that the consumer never knew he had. We have a consumer-driven economy which rises or falls with consumer spending and that is why the banks and credit card companies are so anxious to lend money to people who, in the past, would never have gotten past the front door of a bank due to their insufficient income or bad credit.
In a sense, we have a hype-active economy that is on an amphetamine high that, if it ever comes down, will collapse like a “house of cards.” It is being driven by increasing debt as people are maxing-out numerous credit cards, using one to pay the other. Logic says that it’s a game that has to come to an end as people are spending money that they have not yet earned or may never earn. Thus, our motto might be, “Buy or die!”
Brave New World just carried this strategy one step further by taking the decision away from the conscious mind by implanting the desires deep into the persons mind through Pavlovian conditioning. As we shall see in the next program, they didn’t stop there.