Tag: Essay

The Prophet Aldus Huxley

Aldus Huxley Reading

Brave New World captivated me as a child. I spent days reading and reading Chapter 3 when I revisited the book as an adult. Huxley’s world building in that chapter is a masterpiece of concise writing through the voices of his characters.

YouTube’s propagandist algorithm has pushed this video in front of me several times since I researched Aldus Huxley and Brave New World for my original review. I broke down this morning and watched it. Here are some interesting points.

Was Aldus Huxley Haunted by Visions or a Thoughtful Prophet?

“A man haunted by a vision of Hell on Earth!” And that is just the introduction to this Mike Wallace Interview conducted in 1958. Important because this is the tail-end of the McCarthy era of American politics. The Fund for the Republic sponsored the Mike Wallace Interview program. His Fordship, through the Ford Foundation, created the Fund for the Republic as a political arm of the Ford Foundation. It lasted all of two years, from 1958 to 1959.

Mike Wallace is sucking on the butt of a cigarette throughout the interview. He is incapable of putting it down.

The interview is a promotion of Huxley’s essays, Enemies of Freedom. Wallace wants these enemies to be people. Huxley redirects him to forces threatening the freedom of individuals. He discounts individuals as a threat to liberty, and throughout the interview talks of forces shaping public and individual opinion as a greater threat.

The first threat mentioned is overpopulation. The eight billion humans on Earth today would horrify Huxley. In defense of his argument, exploding population, and its desire to move out of poverty, is the driving force behind climate change. A world where fresh water is scarce could see the type of control Huxley feared.

Wallace is quick to turn attention to the Communist Party and the Catholic Church. The church for its resistance to birth control, and the Communist party because it’s well organized. John F. Kennedy would become America’s first Catholic President in 1961. Joe Biden is the second. China’s Communist Party is something to be feared.

Next on the list is hierarchical organizations controlled by deep bureaucracy. Huxley states the growth of technology will benefit these organizations. I have long argued corporations are a greater threat to freedom than any government or political ideology. Huxley may have shaped my views through his fiction.

Anyone working for a large national or international corporation can attest to the constant monitoring and suspicion with which those organizations operate. Amazon tracks its employees and its contractors every move, as if a lost minute of productivity will bring the megalith to ruin.

Aldus Huxley on Propaganda

Propaganda is the bulk of the discussion. Aldus is rolling in his grave at the efficiency with which Facebook and YouTube algorithms have produced flat earthers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorist, and Trump insurrectionist. Notice the complaint against television as a distraction instead of promoting a message. Now think how YouTube and Facebook algorithms direct a steady diet of content for you to consume.

As the interview nears its end, Mike Wallace mentions soma as a drug to pacify the populace. The last twenty-years have seen many American states hollowed out by an opioid epidemic that made the Purdue Pharma corporation billions. Have you ever wondered about all those laws legalizing marijuana? Where is that money going? In twenty years, how will we view this new liberal drug policy?

Huxley’s primary point about propaganda is that the dictatorship of the future will look different from those of the past. He argues the new dictatorships will not use terror and violence to preserve power. Instead, they will seek the consent of the ruled through drugs and propaganda. They will use technology to appeal to the subconscious and deeper emotions of the individual to make the slave enjoy slavery.

“Could this Brave New World come to America?” Mike Wallace asks. Yes, the prophet says. Through technology and drugs, this world will consume our shores. He fears the rise of the personality candidate, over the competent candidate. He was especially concerned about Madison Avenue shaping of candidates like Nixon and Kennedy.

He argues the fewer the agencies of propaganda, the more threat they are, especially to children. He refers to American children as TV fodder. Comparing the reference to European children as cannon fodder because of the many wars fought on European soil.

According to Huxley, propaganda becomes brain washing when propaganda gets a hold of a person’s psychology and breaks them down to put a new idea into their psychology. These individuals become fanatics.

“The passion for power is the most moving passion in man,” Aldus says. “It is important to not to let one man or group have too much power for too long a time.” People need to be on their guard for the verbal booby traps to which they are always being led.

Socialism Anyone?

After you watch this video, I want you to consider how much of American production is in the hands of a few corporations. As a child, my food came from local farmers. Now it is massed produced by a few mega-corps. You had to visit multiple retailers for your back-to-school shopping. Now you can get everything delivered by Amazon. Huxley says that if you can break up the bigger unit to small units, you can protect freedom.

“Is freedom necessary?” Wallace asks?

“Yes. Freedom is necessary for a productive society,” Aldus says. The life of man is impossible without individual freedom, which breeds initiative and creativity. You can recognize this fact in societies and organizations that are not free. Those at the top, running the organization have more freedom than those at the bottom, sustaining the organization. Those at the top need their freedom to continue to come up with new and creative ways to keep those at the bottom in bondage. The most chilling statement is the final one in this essay:

A situation where the top is free and the bottom is not, can last longer than one where everyone is not free.

Aldus Huxley

Putting an End to Hibernation in Sci-Fi

A science fiction hiberation pod

Galaxy crossing science fiction space operas are pure fantasy. Sure, we call them science fiction because they have spaceships and plasma rifles, but there is little science in even the most hard sci-fi stories. The term “hard science fiction” is rather new. When Arthur C. Clarke was writing his novels and fashioning one of the most influential movies of all time, science fiction was still just science fiction. In fact, Sir Arthur’s definition of fantasy and science fiction had nothing to do with dragons or spaceships, but human desires and fears.

Science fiction is something that COULD happen – but usually you wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that COULDN’T happen – though often you only wish that it could.

Arthur C. Clarke

Hibernation in Sci-Fi is BORING!

When I see a new book or book series promoted as hard science fiction, my gut reaction is that it must be boring. My gut is usually right. Endless exposition on the construction of generational ships, or faster-than-light travel speculation is text ignoring the characters I came to engage. I complained about this dull speculative writing in my review of the Arthur C. Clarke’s work. His masterpieces are his short stories, where limited space forced him to focus on the story’s beat and character development. Anything longer, (Rendezvous with Rama, anyone?) and things became sleepy.

The problem with science fiction is that you can’t have a planet hopping adventure unless you can transport your mortal characters across immortal distances. As a writer of “hard science fiction,” you have three choices: hibernation, warp drive, or a generational ship.

The third option, a generational ship, is the most likely option for human beings to travel the stars. But who wants to read about a hundred years of travel before you get to the center of the story’s action.

For a good story, the second option is the best and does not have to be a warp-drive. Worm holes, space folds, hyperspace, and gap drives are all good options. Hard science fiction ruins it, however, by exploring the time paradox of your hero crossing the galaxy in a few hours, while a loved one and human civilization perishes from old age.

The last is the compromise option. Put your characters in to a deep cryogenic sleep, a generational-type ship crosses the expanse, and your characters wake up to carry-on. Seems a safe bet, but I argue it is the worst option. In my review of Children of Time, I shared how it can go wrong.

Cryogenic Hibernation is Impossible

This article from universal-sci.com discusses human hibernation and how a deep torpor might be useful for crossing the distance from Earth to Mars. It does not draw any conclusions, but one fact is obvious. No matter how deep you sleep, you age. Which means hibernation is the worst option for a hard science fiction story. Not only did you put your heroes to sleep (boring), they died on the trip to save the world.

Stop with the hibernation chambers already. Sleepy people don’t read books.

There is some good hard science fiction available. All of it ignores the galaxy for our local planetary system. Ben Bova’s twenty-five book The Grand Tour is worth your time, and a study in how to do it. If you can get past the fact that the key to Mark Watney’s rescue, Mars’s thin atmosphere, makes the storm that stranded him impossible, The Martian is excellent.

Mother’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Other cultures have harvest celebrations, but the tone of an American Thanksgiving is unique to history. I drafted this essay after the September 11 terrorist attack, while the Iraq war was still young, and the Afghanistan conflict had failed to capture or kill the 911 masterminds. I published it once in that form, then took it down when the theme felt tired.

Since then I have edited this work for exposition, tone, and theme annually, hoping I would capture the mood of our nation as we endure this extended weekend. I rejected my work every year till 2018. The result was the angst I felt over the undoing of civility the 911 attack ushered in is gone. Missing is a paragraph lamenting the loss of American, Afghanistan, and Iraqi mothers must feel at wars fought over theological ideals that lack humanity. Some angst of separation is still here, hints that modern connected society lacks connection. Cleared of those old notions, the result is short, simple, and heartwarming. Then 2020 happened.

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The Gun Lobby and Rotary Phones

A Rotary Phone

When I say the NRA, what do you think? The National Rifle Association, but what does that mean? What do they do?

I am aware of the NRA’s long history, but the NRA of today is not the NRA your grandfather, or father joined fifty years ago. Today’s NRA is the lobbying arm for weapon manufacturers. That is all. They are not a great American organization defending your rights till their hands are cold and dead. They are a lobbyist for a trillion-dollar industry that represents everything wrong with our government.

Through the NRA, gun manufactures managed to tie their product to an amendment of the United States Constitution drafted to maintain a well-regulated militia. By focusing like a laser on the latter clause of that amendment, they managed to create a group of customers that put even Apple fan-boys to shame.

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Evolution and Salt

Troy in the Underground Salt Museum

My wife and I visited the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson (aka the Permian Sea). I mention this because evolution, and the need to deny it, is in the news again.

One of the Republican up-and-comers, Marco Rubio  was asked how old the earth is. He answered that he didn’t know, and that it might have been created in seven days.

The scary fact is that he is not alone. According to the NPR article, forty-six percent, or nearly half, of Americans have a nonscientific belief about the creation of our Universe. My question is why? Why does your God deny you salvation because you accept some proven facts? But wait, it gets worse.

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