Wednesday, 25 May 2016

'Brave New Europe' (with apologies to Aldous)

You may like to watch this first before deciding if a Brave New Europe is upon us?

I have just finished two books I haven't read before. How could I have lived so long and read so little? The two books are Aldous Huxley's, Brave New World  and Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin. The former I found hard going. (In fact to be honest, I have yet to get to the end of it). The latter I consumed like a hungry cat! Perhaps it boils down to writing style, or subject or just personal preference?

The first looked forward, the other looked back, but both were very much of their time and circumstance. Now, over eighty years since they were written or published, we may ask if they have anything to offer in the current world of political ideas and decision making? Not least in the little 'local' issue of Britain's membership of the European Union (EU)?

The books were written in or about 1931. 'Brave New World' was published in the following year. In contrast, 'Goodbye to Berlin', actually a collection of related short stories, had to wait until 1939 to get into print. They couldn't be more different in style or content, although both emerge from the momentous events of the time, and the real or imagined threats that they created. Isherwood's portrayed a nascent fascism set in a decadent Berlin. History may repeat itself - as we are currently seeing with events across Europe.

Huxley's fear came from an opposite geographical direction, evoked by an American mass production society as exemplified by the Ford Motor Company. The 'Model 'T'' was still a comparatively new phenomenon. Characters in the book swear by 'Ford' not 'God' and are marked by a 'T' not a cross.

Both authors in their way, warned against the dangers of political fanaticism in the hands of an all-powerful and callous state. Neither could really know what the future would hold or the utter catastrophe to which it would lead.  (When Huxley did know in 1948, he penned the bitterly pessimistic 'Ape and Essence', which assumed a world taken over by primates intent on their own destruction.) Objectively looking back (or forward) we can hardly take the view it to be an over-statement of the human condition or world situation.

As with any futuristic novel, we with the benefit of hindsight and present knowledge, can compare and contrast with what actually emerged. The work is therefore not only judged on its literary merit but also it prophetic accuracy. However well-written, a personal account is no less esoteric, for it also takes us on a journey to a place and time of which we have little or no experience, creating it for us in the mind's eye, as if we were there. In both cases, whether literally true or not, it is a flight of fancy - a magic carpet of the imagination that widens our vistas and deepens our understanding.

For some reason this period of the early 20th Century was a time of literary soothsaying. As early as 1894 H.G. Wells' futuristic 'Time Machine' was published. 'Men Like Gods' followed in 1924 and is said to have influenced Huxley's work. (Claims of plagiarism were also subsequently levelled against Huxley by Polish author Mieczyslaw Smolarski.It was the start of a new genre that has flourished since.

Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote 'We', a novel set in the 26th century A.D. and first published in English in 1924. It describes life in a 'One State' totalitarian regime. 'Last and First Men' by Olaf Stapledon (1930), 'Anthem' by Ayn Rand (1938) and '1984' by George Orwell (1949) are other early and notable examples of the dystopian genre. Ayn Rand has had her own following and influence on political and economic ideas since - particularly in the United States. 'Trumpism' may be one result of it - yet to reveal its full implications for the world.

Huxley's Brave New World portrays a hedonistic society and a 'World State', where stability and numbed 'happiness' are achieved by sophisticated eugenics, a five tiered caste system and drug ('Soma') dependence. Old attitudes to family, love-based relationship and religion are eradicated, replaced by total loyalty to the state and its objectives. Some might argue a great deal of this has actually come to pass in the world, with the added advantage that the general population is unaware that it has! Is the EU its partial fulfillment?

When we note the huge divergence in wealth, which has never been greater; the contrast between the physical circumstances of one segment of the world's population and another; the swathes of destruction, destitution and displacement - a 'caste system' in all but name; the way in which television and entertainment industry have been used to pacify and subtly brainwash the population; the abandonment of ancient religious perspectives; the pursuit of hedonistic objectives of sex, money, fame and possessions; the rape and pollution of the earth and the callous disregard for human and other living things; 'heroic medicine' with its promise of freedom from pain and disease (of course another illusion); intervention in the reproductive process, both to create and abort human offspring; the endemic use of mind-altering and other chemicals; yet paradoxically humanity beset by despair and depression as never before; we might consider Huxley was indeed pretty accurate in his prediction.

Even so, it may surprise us to learn that such was the anxiety it created in power circles that it gained the reputation for one of the most banned books. From the first it caused controversy, banned by several countries. As late as 1993 an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove it from a California school's' required reading list. It would appear it still packs a punch.

Turning to the very different 'Goodbye to Berlin', here we are immersed in stories of personal relationships in the early '30's both funny and tragic, as Europe careered towards unprecedented death and destruction. Whilst reading it, I could not escape the thought that virtually all the people and interiors described, all the nicknacks and possessions, were no more, utterly destroyed in the bombardment that was to occur a decade and a half later. Indeed many were destroyed physically or mentally within the stories themselves. Here are described the first inklings of Nazi 'anti semitism' and its evil consequences that we hear so much about today.

Sometimes Isherwood, of whom it was sometime said that, "He could never describe a character if they were out of the room" can sometimes be laugh-out-loud funny as well as surgically descriptive. This passage for example:

"In the flat directly beneath ours lives a certain Frau Glanterneck. She is a Galician Jewess, in itself a reason why Frau Mayr should be her enemy: for Frau Mayr, needless to say, is an ardent Nazi. And quite apart from this, it seems that Frau Glanterneck and Frau Mayr once had words on the stairs about Frau Mayr's yodelling. Frau Glanterneck, perhaps because she is a non-aryan, said that she preferred the noises made by cats. Thereby, she insulted all Baverian, all German women: and it was Frau Mayr's pleasant duty to avenge them."

See how in illuminating the way in which prejudice works out in humdrum practice, potentially leading to malicious acts, he also manages to 'cock a snoot' at the ridulous yet dangerous philosophy of Natzism - indeed all racial stereotyping. Even minor insults can be used to justify quite disproportionate revenge.

Both Berlin and the EU have of course risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Hitler and the Third Reich. Some now believe the EU is its putative replacement. Since Lisbon there have been further indications of an intention to move towards political fusion and statehood. A 'President', a common foreign policy, European Arrest Warants and exchange of more intelligenge particularly as it relates to 'terrorism', common border enforcement and action on refugees/migrants, even combined military units, some of which have been on unreported exercises in Britain only recently.

It was Ian Kershaw, who on the 70th anniversary of the Hitler’s rise to power, drew attention to the world's obsession with 'him' and 'it': "It seems as if scarcely a day goes by without Hitler and the Nazis in one way or another – in newspapers, films, books, on radio and television – entering into our public consciousness." Indeed a new 'Law' has been created, referred to as 'Godwin’s Law'? This dictates that sooner or later every discussion on the internet - indeed anywhere - will revert to a  comparison involving Nazis or Hitler! No doubt the reader will have experienced or even fulfilled, 'Godwin's Law' at sometime or other?

So bringing the discussion belatedly around to the topic in hand (you will never have guessed) we find Godwin's Law most recently wheeled out by the flamboyant (ex)mayor of London, Boris Johnson - heir apparent to be leader of the Conservative Party and even Prime Minister - who likened the EU to Hitler's Third Reich. He is not the first to do so. Similarly the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone, got into hot water over the latter linking Hitler with Zionism, perhaps proof not only of Godwin's Law, but also the modern taboo of criticising Israel in any way.  

It has often been said that although Britain (with a little help from its friends!) won the war, Germany won the peace. It did so largely by diverting its economy and applying its technical expertise from militarism to manufacture; eschewing pomp, circumstance and self congratulation for determined reconstruction based on the export of goods and quiet influence; not 'getting cross but getting even'! Nor can we overlook the fact that the establishment of Israel, and all the misery consequent on it, could hardly have been possible without the holocaust and Second World War. Germany is now the undisputed economic master of the EU which if anything will be enhanced if Britain leaves.

Some even claim that through 'Operation Paperclip' and other covert means, defeated Germany had a huge influence over American military and secret service development, that can be traced through all the later western milestones of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Paradoxically it is a German/Jewish hegemonic thread, thus negating one of Hitler's principal objectives, to remove Jewish influence. There is some recent credible evidence that a German/Jewish cadre dominated post-war American foreign policy and disproportionately filled top Administration posts. There are even some that argue because of it, CIA turned a 'blind eye' to the fact that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide but rather with American help, relocated to Argentina!

Both Huxley and Isherwood moved to the United States, Huxley from 1937 to his death in 1963 and Isherwood (with W.H. Auden) moving there in 1949 - caricatured by Evelyn Waugh as the two despicable and cowardly poets, "Parsnip and Pimpernel". Isherwood became an American citizen in 1946 and remained so until his death in Santa Monica, California on 4 January 1986 aged 81. Huxley and Isherwood maintained a close friendship from that time onwards.

Hardly noticed is the fact that in one of those strange historical coincidences (another is that Isaac Newton was born on the very day that Galileo Galilei died!) Huxley and C.S. Lewis both passed away on the same day President Kennedy lost his life to a US Government conspiracy and thus in virtual anonymity. 'Brave New World' indeed.

The "Brexit" vote in the UK draws ever closer. We are told it is a "close run thing". Of course leaving the European Union or 'EU' as it is commonly called, is not the same as leaving Europe geographically, culturally economically or politically. Unless Britain is towed to the east coast of America and becomes the 51st state (God forbid!) it cannot change its geographical location to the European land mass, to which only a few thousand years ago, it was physically attached. Nor can it ever relinquish its long shared historical and cultural history. Needless to say, as an important destination market for much of what European manufacturers and agriculture produce, it is unlikely to be cut off by them.

Where would Britain be without Roman civilization, Italian renaissance, French Philosophe, German composers or all the other influences that found their way from the mainland to this little offshore island? The indigenous tribes craved the sophistication, ideas and skills of mainland countries whilst remaining infuriating aloof and independent, particularly after Henry VIII broke with Rome, merely to have his wicked way with Ann Boleyn - a very brief and tragic affair! By the eighteenth century, no young aristocrat's education was complete without the obligatory 'Grand Tour', invariably ending up in Rome, to where of course 'all roads lead'. It can be no accident that the EEC was formed by a treaty between six nations signed there in 1957 and called "The Treaty of Rome". It would be the first of several to increase the number of members (currently twenty eight) and deepen the political nature of the organisation.

The EU is a clumsy and inefficient organisation. It has to wrestle with the fact that it is a conflation of 28 countries and 24 'official' languages and many more 'unofficial' ones. It pretends to be is democratic when it isn't. The representative 'parliament' has effectively no power and few of the general public know what those powers are or how it functions and even fewer know who their MEP is or what they do. 

The organisation is actually run by ministers from member states and the 'Commissioners' they appoint.  It is also essentially corrupt, insofar its accounts have not been signed off for decades! No accountant can be found prepared to do the job, unable to determine with certainty where the money has gone!

All in all, it is a compromise that is working towards the unachievable 'United States of Europe'. The compromise and tension comes from pretending to speak for the whole of Europe when constituent states also want to retain their independence and freedom to act. It tries to reconcile this with its philosophy of 'subsidiarity' or devolving every decision or implementation, to the most local level possibility. In practice decision-making goes ever-upwards away from the locality, becoming ever more remote and unrepresentative of the public mood.
(A work in progress!)


Aldous Huxley

Christopher Isherwood

Ayn Rand

George Orwell


  1. the first link to a facebook page doesn't work!

    1. Thanks for advising 'Trueabundance'. I think it was deleted at source but I have removed reference to it as well. Kind regards, Tim.

  2. For a Jewish/German connection on America see:

  3. Is this what we are moving towards? Is this what is setting the agenda?

  4. Was Jesus a real person? Did he do and say the things recorded of him in the four Gospels written up to century after the events described? We are in the realm of belief here, and human beliefs certainly influence human life and society but they are notoriously unreliable. How are we to validate our beliefs? As we see in the comments below/above, people either resort to reason or experience. Reason though can lead to quite opposite conclusions and personal experience can also be unreliable and unreplicable. Science has provided us with many answers that previously religion tried erroneously to do. However humans search for, and appear to need, answers to their own existance and purpose, that only religious experience and belief can provide. Even if the historical Jesus was not exactly the person described, we would need to create him. Faced with our own doubts and failures, we need heroic exemplars to whom we can aspire. Whatever we believe about God, there is no doubt, "My soul knows right well we are fearfully and wonderfully made: and marvelous are his works." And who knows, if there is such a thing as an immaterial mysterious force in the universe, to which "God" is the only adequate description, he might even want us to be good, happy and fulfilled? Every one of the seven billion humans on the earth have to make their own journey of spitual discovery, either to a place of faith in some divine revelation and purpose, or perhaps the much more brave realisation that we are alone in our consciousness, to disappear completely does it. In Voltaire's words: "I believe that when I die I shall rot".

  5. But will the immaterial part of us continue into eternity? Somehow I rather doubt it and there really is no way of knowing.




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