Not Just Kennedy

Huxley the trouble with fictionBeing overshadowed today, as it was 50 years ago, is the death of Aldous Huxley (and also that of C.S. Lewis but I feel he was best described by Philip Pullman as a “tweedy medievalist” in an article The Darkside of Narnia).

Huxley, like Kennedy, died in somewhat unusual circumstances. Unable to speak, blind from a long-standing illness and terminally ill with cancer,  he apparently wrote a request to his wife that she inject him with LSD. She obliged with 2 doses and he passed away.

Whilst he said some things I wouldn’t care to promote too much, I do have a lot of time for his writing and thinking.

“Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in.”

Aldous Huxley Meaninglessness“And let me add,” said the Principal, “that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses—it’s the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people.

In that light, and given all the anniversaries are focusing on someone else today, here are a good few of them (just in case you’ve never noticed the quote at the top of this page).

There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays); it is demonstrably inefficient and, in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and school teachers.

…[such propagandists] accomplish their greatest triumphs,not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects… totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals.

 Aldous Huxley, in his 1946 revised foreword to Brave new worldHuxley on Propaganda

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