Farmer, activist, and philosopher Julian Rose invokes Aldous Huxley and Erik Fromme to describe prophetic foundations that haunt this “brave new year,” during which we “can, and must, and will,” he says, “take back control of our destinies!”
December 27, 2013
by Julian Rose
We can, if we so desire, refuse to cooperate with the blind forces that are propelling us. – Aldous Huxley
So here we are, moving into 2014. And no doubt with that sense of expectancy and promise which comes with all ‘New Years’. But maybe also with that nagging sense which has its foundation in the fact that the previous year may not have quite lived up to expectations?
For example all those ‘events’ both cosmic and earthly that were supposed to have caused some grand disruption to the abysmal status quo and its dumbed down daily grind — what happened to them? How is it that even the widely predicted great financial collapse has so far managed to stall — and its proponents’ prophesies likewise put on hold?
Even visiting comets seem to have been unable to pull-off a much hoped for mighty upheaval to the sterile patterns imposed upon the human race. Consequently, the relentless bankster/government top-down squeeze on both the economic viability and civil liberties of working men and women, continues unabated.
So now might just be the right time to do a reality check on hopes and expectations for 2014.
To help ground our aspirations and expectations, I would like to draw-on a lessen from history concerning the ever illusive ebb and flow in the tides of man. In endeavouring to do this, I am putting together a number of prescient quotes from Aldous Huxley’s last major piece of writing Brave New World Revisited.
This work was published in 1958 — that’s fifty six years ago — and yet it remains as starkly resonant today as it must have appeared back then for anyone who had ears to hear.
We will be reminded, at a glance, just how well laid are the foundations of the seemingly impenetrable oligarchy that still holds the majority of humanity under its spell to this day; just how deep is the quagmire that has sucked so many into its oozing grasp; just how steeped in delusion remains the greater part of the human population.
Yet there are flashes of great insight here as well — about the way out. Clear precedents for a way forward that can steer mankind back onto a humanised, cooperative plan of action based upon tried and tested models of community life and self reliance.
..Many sociologists and psychologists have written at length and with deep concern, about the price that Western man has had to pay and will go on paying for technological progress.
They point out, for example, that democracy can hardly be expected to flourish in societies where political and economic power is being progressively concentrated and centralized.
But the progress of technology has led, and is still leading, to just such concentration of power. As the machinery of mass-production is being made more efficient it tends to become more complex and more expensive — and so less available to the enterpriser of limited means. Moreover, mass production cannot work without mass distribution; but mass distribution raises problems which only the largest producers can satisfactorily solve.
In a World of mass production and mass consumption the Little Man, with his inadequate stock of working capitol, is at a grave disadvantage. In competition with the Big Man, he loses his money and finally his very existence as an independent producer; the Big Man has gobbled him up. As the Little Men disappear, more and more economic power comes to be wielded by fewer and fewer people.
Well isn’t that exactly what we witness today—- at the hands of the Walmarts, Unilevers and Monsantos of this world? Yet Huxley clearly recognizes that this trend was well under-way in the early 1950s — and that the Little Man was already under the cosh of an increasingly centralised corporate cabal which threatened to crush him completely.
What he did not add — at least here — was the equally crushing level of environmental pollution and destruction that was to accompany the progress of this vast corporate machine.
We see then, that modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and political power, and to the development of a society controlled (ruthlessly in the totalitarian states, politely and inconspicuously in the democracies) by Big Business and Big Government. But societies are composed of individuals and are good only so far as they help individuals to realize their potentialities and to lead a happy and fruitful life. How have individuals been affected by the technological advances of recent years?
The answer to this question is provided here by respected philosopher-psychiatrist, Dr Erich Fromm:
Our contemporary Western Society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure ……. Let us beware of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symptoms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting.
Huxley adds that the really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal — and Fromm continues “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.”
In other words, continues Huxley, “They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish the illusion of individuality — but in fact they have been to a great extent de-individualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity.”
Fromm ends this passage by stating “Uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too … man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.”
Huxley then makes a particularly salient statement: “ In the course of evolution nature has gone to endless trouble to see that every individual is unlike every other individual. We reproduce our kind by bringing the father’s genes into contact with the mother’s. These hereditary factors may be combined in an almost infinite number of ways. Physically and mentally, each one of us is unique. Any culture which, in the interests of efficiency or in the name of some political or religious dogma, seeks to standardize the human individual, commits an outrage against man’s biological nature.”
How similar this is to Krishnamurti’s observation: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Fromm (with whom I had a short correspondence circa 1980) saw how the capacity for love was being strangled by the machine like advances of the age of consumerism, citing the frenetic ‘drive for work’ as one of the classic escapist symptoms of those most unwilling to explore the true source of their problems.
The searing truth which emerges from all this is inescapable — it hits us like a ton of wet cement: we have been and continue to be, operating within an essentially insane set of norms. Norms that demand our constant adjustment; that is, if we choose not to become estranged from our workmates and ridiculed by those with whom we share our daily experiences, hopes and fears.
RD Laing, the radical psychiatrist, opened his infamous rehabilitation centre in London based on this same insight. He helped ‘unadapted’, shcizoid outcasts find shelter and support while a regimented conformist society marched on — ridiculing such initiatives as heresy.
Turning to the wider social sphere Huxley states: “It is the social sphere, in the realm of politics and economics, that the Will of Order becomes really dangerous. Here the theoretical reduction of ‘unmanageable multiplicity’ to ‘comprehensible unity’, becomes the practical reduction of human diversity to subhuman uniformity, of freedom to servitude.”
Ah yes, an unavoidable observation for anyone who has eyes to see today.
Then, on the urban dilemma: “But life in the large cities is not conducive to mental health — nor does it foster the kind of responsible freedom within small self governing groups — which is the first condition of a genuine democracy.”
Then somewhat later he adds “We know that it is unsafe to allow power to be concentrated in the hands of a ruling oligarchy; nevertheless power is in fact being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. We know that, for most people, life in a huge modern city is anonymous, atomic, less than fully human; nevertheless the huge cities grow steadily huger and the pattern of urban industrial living remains unchanged. We know that in a very large complex society, democracy is almost meaningless except in relation to autonomous groups of manageable size; nevertheless more and more of every nation’s affairs are managed by the bureaucrats of Big Government and Big Business.”
Here the theme of ‘autonomous groups of manageable size’ is returned to once again. It is undoubtedly the key for both survival and eventual emancipation for the rump of humanity. It is what I put forward in ‘Quit the Matrix — Build the Ark’ and other related essays — as well as increasingly in practice at our Polish workshops – and as much as possible in daily life.
Huxley recognises that a countryside setting is needed for this form of community to take root. However, he does not completely rule-out the possibility of an urban revival, but only in circumstance in which many village like ‘caring and sharing’ communities are formed within the greater urban area. I would add that a radical greening of the concrete jungle would be another indispensable corollary.
The author of Brave New World Revisited goes on: “That we are being propelled in the direction of Brave New World is obvious. But no less obvious is the fact that we can, if we so desire, refuse to cooperate with the blind forces that are propelling us. For the moment, however, the wish to resist does seem to be very strong or very widespread.”
Yes, and remember — that was more than fifty years ago — any more strong or widespread today?
On broadly the same theme he states: “ To give organisations precedence over persons is to subordinate ends to means… In the more efficient dictatorships of the future there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin. The future dictator’s subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained Social Engineers.”
There can be little doubt that social engineering is permanently at work in 21st century society. Painless it may not be, but effective it certainly is. Huxley’s famous treatise on the power of government and corporate propaganda in Brave New World is reviewed in his return to its contents thus:
They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.
This almost limitless appetite for distractions was to reach epidemic proportions after Huxley’s death and remains at the heart of millions of listless, restless, fear-driven lifestyles to this day; spurred on by a mass media in the servile employ of the ever watchful controlling government/corporate cabal.
It was in June 1926 that Huxley made his first trip to the USA, and it was reportedly this experience that made him so pessimistic about the future of Europe. In ‘Jesting Pilate’ he writes “The thing which is happening in America is a revaluation of values — a radical alteration — for the worse — of established standards.” Brave New World is modelled on this insight, and he never made peace with Hollywood Syndrome or the fascination of the superficial facade of modernity that still grips the US Continent to this day.
Huxley also harboured a nagging preoccupation with overpopulation, leading him to state that, should it continue unabated, most of humanity would face a choice between anarchy and totalitarian control. But, as we saw earlier, he also recognized that ‘technological progress’ presented an equally daunting threat to humanity, stating:
Technological progress has merely provided us with a more efficient means of going backwards.
He longed for a resolution to the seemingly endless calamitous state of humanity and in Brave New World Revisited he writes:
Almost all of us long for peace and freedom, but very few of us have much enthusiasm for the thoughts, feelings and actions that make for peace and freedom. Conversely, almost nobody wants war or tyranny; but a great many people find intense pleasure in the thoughts, feelings and actions that make for war and tyranny.
On the penultimate page of Brave New World Revisited he touches the raw nerve of democratic failings in post industrial society:
That so many of the well-fed young television-watchers of the World’s most powerful democracy should be so indifferent to the idea of self-government; so blankly uninterested in freedom of thought and the right to dissent, is distressing, but not too surprising.
Then at at the end he strikes a more optimistic note saying
The young people who now think so poorly of democracy may grow up to become fighters for freedom. The cry ‘Give me television and hamburgers’ may give place, under altered circumstances, to the cry ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’
I have put all this before us because I believe we need reminding. Reminding of the fragility of human freedoms and the fact that if we don’t fight for them we will lose them.
We can now see, that back in 1958, all the symptoms and indeed manifestations of an oligarchical hierarchy were already strongly in evidence.
This fact should serve to prompt us into realising that it has been ‘inaction’ by a broad swathe of the populous since that time (and before) that is responsible for allowing the unguarded door of freedom to be pushed further and further open. Pushed open to the point where the Centralised Superstate is being offered the almost unopposed opportunity of riding roughshod over the last line of our civil liberties — and imposing a potentially irrevocable dictatorship over the entire populous.
In 2014, we may well be faced with just such a prospect. Yet, with propitious use of our gathering spiritual energies poured into the most appropriate, purposeful actions, we can still fend-off — and ultimately dismantle — the heinous military industrial complex and its power obsessed puppet rulers.
We can, must and will — push back the vampiric power-mongers and lay the ground for the self-governing community-based cantons that Huxley so clearly foresaw as the most propitious antidote of the police state that is now at our door.
Let 2014 be the year we take back control of our destinies!
Julian is the author of In Defence of Life – Essays on a Radical Reworking of Green Wisdom just out now – www.julianrose.info – He is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, activist, writer and holistic thinker. He is currently President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside.