Today in History: Oct. 21

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war—in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.—Aldous Huxley, a letter to George Orwell

Aldous Huxley and George Orwell not only wrote two of the twentieth century’s best-regarded dystopian novels—Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four—but they knew each other as well: Huxley, a decade older than Orwell, taught French at Eton when Orwell was a student there and Orwell was one of his pupils.

Huxley wrote a letter to Orwell about their mutual interest in society’s many possible wrong turns into totalitarianism on this date in 1949. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell offers a vision of a nation-state whose rulers keep the ruled full of fear, at war, and under continuous open surveillance. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a society amusing itself to death and embracing its status as the ruled with drugs (Soma) and sex made available by the rulers.

The last paragraph from the letter is quoted at the top. The full letter is included as a comment at the bottom of this article.

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Ferdinand Magellan and his crew crossed into the strait that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on this date in 1520. He dubbed it the Channel of All Saints; it was later renamed in his honor the Strait of Magellan. It took the ex[edition 10 days to traverse the treacherous 373 miles and enter the Pacific Ocean.

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Jack Kerouac died on this date in 1969. John T. Scopes died on this date in 1970.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on this date in 1772. Alfred Nobel was born in 1833 on this date. Edna Purviance was born on this date in 1895. Sir Georg Solti was born on this date in 1912. Martin Gardner was born on this date in 1914. Dizzy Gillespie was born 99 years ago today. “Umbrella Man,” with Dzzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong:

 
Brent Mydland was born on this date in 1952.

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Joyce Randolph is 92 today. Whitey Ford is 88 today. Whitey Ford’s Hall of Fame video:

 
Ursula K. Leguin is 87. Manfred Mann is 76. Steve Cropper is 75. Judith Sheindlin is 74. Patti Davis is 64. Carrie Fisher is 60 today. Kim Kardashian West is 36.

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The letter from Aldous Huxley to George Orwell:

Wrightwood. Cal.
21 October, 1949
 
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
 
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
 
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
 
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
 
Thank you once again for the book.
 
Yours sincerely,
Aldous Huxley

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3 comments

  1. Pingback: Good Morning | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  2. Relax... · October 21

    Wow, all that heavy stuff to mine and muse –and music and baseball, too –but here I am, pissed to find I’m older than Carrie Fisher (and stunned to know that Manfred Mann is an actual person and not a band)! “Infant conditioning” about scared the hair off me.. there is already toddler conditioning, “Mom and Dad have to go to work, but we’ll visit after daycare.” Raised among wolves with strangers who wouldn’t die for him ir her. We’re there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loisajay · October 21

    Do wah ditty ditty! Rock on, Manfred Mann.

    Like

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