Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll – Chocolates for Marie

In case you missed it, my last blog pointed out that a passion for chocolate is bad for you, not to mention that an excess of chocolate won’t make you thin, nor make you rich.

On another level, a population’s chocolate passion may be perfect for a power-hungry regime, whether an organization, a large corporation, or an entire society.  At that level, it’s all about control.  

In his brilliant 1931 novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley describes a totalitarian system in which genetic and environmental engineering create a society centered on physical pleasure.  Its people consume disposable goods as much as possible, engage in wanton sex as often as they like, and are encouraged to take drugs whenever they feel unhappy or irritable.   

In short, decades before the phrase was coined, Huxley explored a regime built upon sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  The 60’s had nothing on Aldous.

And it’s worth pointing out that his novel pre-dates George Orwell’s 1949 masterpiece 1984 – by eighteen years.  Orwell was reacting to the cruelty, corruption, and oppression of the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin.  Instead, nearly two decades earlier, Huxley was reacting (ironically) to the economic successes of American industrialism.  

Huxley took the notions of the assembly line and its focus on consumer goods to their black, ultimate conclusion.  The god of this bleak world was none other than Henry Ford – “In Ford we trust” – the inventor of the assembly line.  

Indeed, writ large, this is the world of Marie Antoinette.  “Let them eat cake.”  Harking back to our last blog, in this world all eat chocolate every day.  There is no want.  All itches are scratched.

And in the process, man is turned into something not much more than an animal.  He eats, he sleeps, he defecates, and he copulates.   

Juxtaposed against this dark society full of aged adolescents, the alternative Huxley offers is his character (ironically entitled) “the Savage” – a man who through the study of literature (Shakespeare) has developed adult notions of nobility, responsibility, truth, and empathy.  

But there is only tragedy for the Savage.  His search for higher truth leads to sorrow.  At the end of the novel the Savage is put into an impossible position battling the expectations of a banal society – but against which he can only muster his solitary ideals for what is right.  Alone, he must face despair.   

The crushing message of Brave New World is that the individual, no matter how true, is helpless against the cruel, overwhelming, collective passions of a juvenile social order.

Huxley’s novel as a whole is powerful, but its ending evokes the extra poignancy of what is an eternal struggle for every free man or woman.  Each of us, likely more than once in a lifetime, will be caught between the horns of a painful dilemma, forced to choose between personal integrity and the demands of a larger organization, society, or culture.   Peer pressure exists at all levels and at all times.  It isn’t simply for teens in high school.

In The First Days of August, we meet characters, Dida Medicia and George MacGregor, who see consumption as the road to happiness.  Their desires for more, more, and ever more “chocolate” cloud all notions of principle – commitments to truth and reality – especially when these run counter to childish desire.

But the young protagonist Steve August faces the resulting pressure, “peer” pressure, with an ambivalent mix of compromise and resistance.  It is difficult to argue his decisions were wrong, yet their outcome seems less than right.  In the process, was he guilty or innocent…  villain or hero…  child or adult?

Prior to rendering our verdict on August, let us remember that “Truth” is everlasting and all-powerful, and it is stranger than fiction, and it is a perfectly fine reason for going to work in the morning.  Did Steve (at least) get this right?

Honestly, I believe this is where Huxley gets it wrong.  Truth ultimately wins out – always.  Although it may take time, organizations collapse, empires fall, and regimes change.  

Given enough time, objective reality, Truth, resides supreme.

Meanwhile, each step towards Truth, no matter how small, is a step away from Huxley’s dystopian Hell, and a step towards a greater reality and happiness for us all.  And this is a truth that is undeniable, inexorable, and even achievable.

God go with you, dear Reader, as you join Steve in this journey.

Read 837 times Last modified on Monday, 22 February 2016 16:17
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