How I Feel Today
A few hours ago, I concluded an e-mail reply to a reader about COVID-19, experts, “flattening the curve,” and the abuse of statistics, with this exhausted summary: “I’m getting tired of this story, since there is nothing left to save here, no one left to persuade, and no benefit to be had from muttering common sense into the ether. Slaves want to be slaves. That’s the problem. No fixing it.”
As is increasingly typical these days, my observations of the current world predicament, and my reflections on my own thought processes, led me inevitably back to Aldous Huxley’s 1932 forecast. As I have said before, the old quasi-academic debate about whether Huxley or George Orwell was nearer the mark is long over. Huxley by a landslide.
“But do you like being slaves?” the Savage was saying as they entered the Hospital. His face was flushed, his eyes bright with ardour and indignation. “Do you like being babies? Yes, babies. Mewling and puking,” he added, exasperated by their bestial stupidity into throwing insults at those he had come to save. The insults bounced off their carapace of thick stupidity; they stared at him with a blank expression of dull and sullen resentment in their eyes. “Yes, puking!” he fairly shouted. Grief and remorse, compassion and duty–all were forgotten now and, as it were, absorbed into an intense overpowering hatred of these less than human monsters. “Don’t you want to be free and men? Don’t you even understand what manhood and freedom are?” Rage was making him fluent; the words came easily, in a rush. “Don’t you?” he repeated, but got no answer to his question. “Very well then,” he went on grimly. “I’ll teach you; I’ll make you be free whether you want to or not.” And pushing open a window that looked on to the inner court of the Hospital, he began to throw the little pill-boxes of soma tablets in handfuls out into the area.
For a moment the khaki mob was silent, petrified, at the spectacle of this wanton sacrilege, with amazement and horror.
“He’s mad,” whispered Bernard, staring with wide open eyes. “They’ll kill him. They’ll …” A great shout suddenly went up from the mob; a wave of movement drove it menacingly towards the Savage. “Ford help him!” said Bernard, and averted his eyes.
—Brave New World, Chapter 15