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Democracy or Hypnopedia?

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of the World State in the Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, a state intent on keeping itself intact. In the stable state, the people must be happy with the status quo; they must not be able to imagine a better world, and must not think of a worse one. In the stable state, a few people must be able to cope with unexpected change, but they should be unable to initiate it. In the stable state, the population must have certain proportions of satisfied citizens and innovators that can coexist.

The United States has already succeeded in creating the ideal population distribution - that of an iceberg, keeping nine tenths of the population below the waterline of the ocean of consumer culture, and barely one tenth above. In this field, this nation surpasses the World State: the American status quo appears to be maintained by perfectly natural forces. The US does not use the fetal alcohol syndrome, bokanovskification, or hypnopedia to manipulate its population. Instead, it utilizes the human tendency to absorb and accept the traditions of the society for conditioning, allows fluid social mobility to distribute people to their proper places in society, and gives a wide choice of amusements to occupy the time and spare the people unnecessary and painful thought on their condition.

The American waterline is defined by the culture of the country; the American waterline defines the necessities for happiness and the necessity of happiness. Some of the essentials of happiness today include a car, a TV set, a stereo, and mass media access twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Another integral part of happiness is the freedom to improve one's lot. The people consider both kinds of happiness quite necessary. If one lacks in such happiness, one also lacks in the diligence needed to acquire it, and thus clearly lacks in worth as a member of the greatest nation on this planet. This country's majority is free to do nearly anything it may want, and free to choose what it is free to do insofar as allowed by a representative democracy; accordingly, it defines its own principles of happiness, and keeps itself submerged. The immersed public makes the decisions concerning how and what the government does, and hence has its happiness fairly provided for.

In the American system of social stability, artificial physical impairment of human stock is not necessary, for the system itself sorts the people out and arranges them on the social ladder. This is a far more efficient design, allowing maximization of the society's production; this policy also carries a small additional benefit of being ethical.

The staple definition of happiness accommodates a good middle seventy percent of the population. Some are able to raise themselves above the waterline, and search for happiness outside the American dream. Other citizens find themselves scraping the muck on the bottom of the ocean, forced to dwell in poverty and unable to rise despite their struggles to live up to the standard. The society accommodates such inferior members by simply stating that since they cannot meet the expectations, they are defective and should be content with what they have.

Such a system sustains itself, because the seventy percent of the populace that fit their own definition of happiness tend to have seventy percent of the children, who learn that same meaning of happiness and pursue it in later life. Those few who manage to rise above the water, or sink into the muck are balanced out by a similar flow in the opposite direction. As a result, the iceberg stays upright, and resists the currents and winds of change.

In dealing with impoverished citizens, the United States may have much to learn from the World State, for these constituents are most likely to be distressed. Extending happiness to the poor would greatly augment the infrastructure of social stability, for an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor only leads to an ever-growing discontent and a mounting risk of revolt. Fortunately, they are comparatively few, disunited, largely hidden from the public's view, and therefore practically harmless.

At public amusements, the United States is almost nearly as adept as the World State. Sports, both organized and personal, both boost consumption and provide an outlet for the violence that may accumulate in the people. Organized sports demand the construction of stadiums, large expenditures on promotion, and great amounts of energy for transport, for major sport events draw people from all over the country. Personal sports have a constantly evolving array of equipment, and whole industries have emerged competing to make the lightest tennis racket, the best golf club, or the fastest flying golf ball. The mass media provide an endless source of relatively cheap entertainment to families, and additionally reinforce the American ideal of happiness - gratuitous consumption for the sake of consumption.

Aldous Huxley predicted too elaborate a method for achieving stability. A more natural course to the same objective allows people to believe that they are in command of their fortunes, for then they are docile without conditioning and happy without soma. The illusion of power is in itself happiness, and the most powerful tool of social control. A state well governed with such a tool indeed cannot escape stability. A few more decades will pass, the United States will resolve the problem of poverty, and Huxley's prediction will have been fulfilled five centuries early.

This essay is Copyright (C) 2000 Alexey Spiridonov. All rights reserved

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