Are You Loving Your Servitude Yet?
Charles Hugh Smith
Aldous Huxley imagined a world in which the Status Quo satisfies its lust for power by "suggesting people into loving their servitude."
Yesterday I discussed the Convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka as a means of understanding the global crisis. It's not just financial fraud on a vast scale, or debt or leverage or derivatives or a hundred other arcane mechanisms of parasitic predation; it's the partnership of a mindlessly expansive Central State with Monopoly Capital and the media machine that serves them.
I considered including Aldous Huxley in the convergence, as he too anticipated the essential nature of modern life. But perhaps his insights are more complementary than convergent, for he understood the media and State's capacity to not only present a deranged and destructive Status Quo as "normal" but to persuade the serfs to embrace it.
Aldous Huxley foresaw a Central State that persuaded its people to “love their servitude” via propaganda, drugs, entertainment and information-overload. In his view, the energy required to force compliance exceeded the "cost" of persuasion, and thus the Powers That Be would opt for the power of suggestion.
He outlined this in a letter to George Orwell:
"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.
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."
As prescient as he was, Huxley could not have foreseen the power of electronic media hypnosis/addiction as a conditioning mechanism for passivity and self-absorption. We are only beginning to understand the immense addictive/conditioning powers of 24/7 social and "news" media. What would we say about a drug that caused people to forego sex to check their Facebook page? What would we say about a drug that caused young men to stay glued to a computer for 40+ hours straight, an obsession so acute that some actually die? We would declare that drug to be far too powerful and dangerous to be widely available, yet the Web is now ubiquitous.
Servitude comes in many gradations and forms. Relying on the Federal Reserve to constantly prop up our pension and mutual funds lest reality cause them to collapse is a form of servitude; we end up worshipping the Fed's every word and act as mendicants worship their financial saviors.
That the Fed is unelected and impervious to democracy or the will of the people is forgotten; all that matters is that we love our servitude to it.
I have discussed the atomizing nature of social media and the way it conditions self-absorption in 800 Million Channels of Me (February 21, 2011), and the way that the consumerist ethos generates insecurity, alienation and social defeat. The only "cure" for social defeat is to love the servitude of consumption, convenience and the resulting debt-serfdom: The Last Refuge of Wall Street: Marketing To Increasingly Insolvent Consumers (December 12, 2011).
I have covered these topics in depth in my books Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change and Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation.
The Central State has the power via welfare (individual and corporate) and bailouts to buy complicity. Since the human mind rebels against hypocrisy and insincerity--we can all spot a phony--we subconsciously persuade ourselves of the rightness and inevitability of servitude and self-absorption.
And that is how we come to love our servitude; we persuade ourselves to believe it's acceptable and normal rather than deranged and destructive.