A society controlled by inflicting pleasure

Aldous Huxley, who died on this date 50 years ago along with C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy, was the author of Brave New World.  The other great dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell offers many lessons about totalitarianism and state tyranny.  But the year 1984 came and went, and though we worry about “Big Brother” and rewriting history, most of Orwell’s predictions did not come to pass, at least not yet, and at least not in America.

But back in 1931, Huxley predicted the severance of sex and procreation.  Children are conceived and engineered in laboratories and brought up in state-run nurseries, eliminating the family.   The population doesn’t worry about its all-controlling government because everyone is blissed out with drugs (“soma”) and constantly entertained with “feelies,” which offer total immersion into what we would call virtual realities, including those of a pornographic nature.  Though romance is forbidden, casual sex is encouraged.  And at the age of 60, everyone is cheerfully euthanized.  Any of that sound familiar?

Huxley himself seems to have missed the message of his own novel, becoming an early adopter of LSD and other soma-like drugs and embracing the ideology of the brave new world that was the ’60s.  But his book was more prescient than he was.  After the jump, a comment from the late media critic Neil Postman about Huxley’s novel that will leave you reeling. [Read more…]

Pulling back from the culture wars?

Church historian Martin Marty discusses how conservative Christians are pulling back from the culture wars.  He cites the leadership of Pope Francis for the Roman Catholics and Russell Moore for the Southern Baptists.  An additional factor is the increasing secularization of the conservative movement, citing the Tea Party’s general indifference to moral issues the church has been concerned with.  (He might have added the active atheism and hostility to Christianity of the hard-core libertarian followers of Ayn Rand.)

Read what Dr. Marty has to say–and what I have to say about what he says– after the jump.   [Read more…]

Holy Communion, Culture, & Vocation

We often talk about how God works through material elements in the sacraments to convey His grace in Christ.  But I came across a quotation that adds a dimension I never thought of before.  The water of Baptism is certainly a natural substance, but the bread and wine of Holy Communion do not occur from nature alone.  As James K. A. Smith points out, they require culture.  And I would add, they require vocation.  [Read more…]

Teenagers are losing interest in driving?

You thought it strange that Japanese young adults are losing interest in sex?  How about American teenagers who are losing interest in driving?  Only half of teenagers have a driver’s license by the time they are 18.  Twenty years ago two-thirds did.

After the jump, a report on the phenomenon.  The study cited, sponsored by the automobile industry, blames the economy and expresses the hope that teenagers will want to drive again once the economy improves.  But I’m not sure that’s what the data shows. [Read more…]

Electronic cigarettes

We Americans tend to get suspicious of people enjoying themselves too much, especially if it involves some kind of physical crutch.  Smoking was condemned as a vice even before the incontrovertible evidence of how bad it is for you.  But now electronic cigarettes have been invented, little battery-operated devices that look like a cigarette but involve no burning of any tobacco, just dispensing a nicotine-laced water vapor to breathe in.

But even though there have been no studies proving them harmful, the anti-smoking forces, not content with their victory over tobacco, are trying to put restrictions on electronic cigarettes also.  In Europe, on the other hand, the medical profession is lauding the devices as “infinitely less dangerous” than tobacco and far more effective than nicotine patches in helping people stop smoking. [Read more…]

How exceptional is America?

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has been scolding Americans for thinking our country is exceptional.  Robert Samuelson takes up the question of American exceptionalism and, without being triumphalist about it,  highlights some distinctive qualities of the American mind. [Read more…]


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