The human condition has long been characterized by man’s selfish, animalistic, impulses co-mingling with a metaphysical awareness of his own mortality. This has led to scientific developments that have subsequently made human life, at least in the upper socio-economic castes, more conveniently maintainable and luxurious. This has subsequently led to man becoming accustomed to greater and greater material comfort and scientific, manipulative power over the elements of his material environment. This scientific alteration of man’s environment for his own self benefit has seemingly proceeded to backfire against man as many of his technological developments and high-maintenance social niceties appear to be destroying the very planet he lives on. Despite the indications that man’s behavior has brought destruction upon his very own ephemeral domicile, people continue to justify self-serving, indulgent, or environmentally destructive behavior via the concept of “Social Darwinism”. Social Darwinism proposes that much of the selfish behavior perpetrated by civilized man is just natural instinct manifest. It’s very handy way to defend social, political, or economic corruption and selfish, inconsiderate behavior while still sounding fancy-dance. Both Aldous Huxley’s novel, A Brave New World and the song “Do the Evolution” by Seattle rockers Pearl Jam lament the utter inhumanity of humanity justifying it’s behavior too absolutely via science, religion, sex-drive or other fragmented perspectives on the essence of being.
By observing life through the lens of science man sees life as comprised of a series of mechanical parts believed to relate to one another in a direct, immutable, cause-and-effect way. This deconstructionist outlook on life, which views existence as one giant puzzle with a specific quantity of interactive pieces, can give man a short-sighted view of his being via giving him false pretenses of drawing nearer to an objective knowledge of the nature of all things. By viewing things as isolated parts through science, man automatically falls short of understanding the spiritual essence or, more pragmatically put, the nature of whatever he’s studying because he has attempted to consider the material item in question apart from the rest of material, manifest existence. The spiritual shortcomings of man’s science-heavy social bent are addressed by Huxley as well as the great harper Eddie Vedder. Vedder does a character portrait with his singing of “Do the Evolution”, evoking the spirit of “a blind man drunk on technology,” to use his own words. He croons, “On the loose, I’m a Truck, All the rolling hills, I’ll flatten em out, yeah,” (Pearl Jam). Again, Vedder does not express his own personal sentiments in the song, but rather sardonically mocks those of the stereotypical, self-assured, blindly faithful modern American. By addressing man’s destruction of natural habitats in “flattening” the “rolling hills” for his own convenience, Vedder connotes a feeling of environmentalist fervor while hinting towards man’s need for all things to be uniform with the phrase “flatten em out”. With no variation in landscape and a perpetual, flat terra firma, man’s experience of ephemeral reality would become maddeningly dull and redundant. By identifying himself as “a Truck” Vedder highlights the supersession of material development over biological development for the evolution of man, as man actually physically steers the truck while driving it while he remains seated and simply twitching his right food around and moves his hands in a circular motion for turns. Science has allowed man to find himself in this position, where he can attain most all his ends with very little physical expenditure, his own biological way and means seeming paltry and insufficient in the face of the awesome power of modern technology. In Brave New World, the director discusses the aims of their classical conditioning conducted upon children as trying “to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport,” (Huxley, 22). This correlates with Vedder’s critique of cars and manipulation of the environment. A reverence for nature, which would likely keep one from aggressively and blindly sapping it dry of all it’s gifts like an expendable toy, is admonished against by the director. As a testament to Huxley’s precocity, it has, in recent years especially, set in how truly environmentally destructive cars can be.
Huxley’s impression of the then fairly novel motor vehicle craze shows itself in the religion the members of the dystopia novel practice. They worship Ford, based off of Henry Ford, and hold up a lower case “t” in homage to his model T car instead of to Jesus. When addressing a large group of people World Controller Mustapha Mond says, “You all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk,” (Huxley, 34). Syntactically, this statement teems with hypocrisy. First off, Mond asks them to “remember” that “history is bunk”, a pretty difficult thing to do if all history is considered worthless and forgotten. The play on words with “Our Ford” instead of “Our Lord” gives further subtle credence to the subtextual message. Though the new religion of the land is based around a corporate mogul it has stolen all of the symbolism of Christianity, a religion who’s spiritual figurehead and namesake spoke adamantly about the corrupting power of material wealth and attachment.
By programming all of it’s citizens from birth to think and function in a totally socially-compatible way, controlling their exposure to texts and media, and eliminating parental responsibility from existence, the society denies it’s citizens the ability to meditate upon epithets of wisdom that have stood the test of time and develop any sort of pride in a filial or spiritual background. This shifts the entirety of the citizens pride to their country and themselves. This effectively creates a spiritually void, externally uniform society whose people are free from any responsibility for their actions outside of their pre-determined job within the framework of the society. It even programs people from a young age so that actual physiological movement is regulated somewhat by the society. It impedes upon free will and the innate spiritual searcher in all of us. The director articulates the aim of the social programming done to children within the society as “making people like their inescapable social destiny,” (Huxley, 16). This infringement on perfunctory spiritual freedom to develop naturally outside of rigid, stringently-regulated conditioning is also addressed by Vedder in “Do the Evolution”, as Vedder’s modern ignoramous intones “Admire me, admire my home, admire my son, admire my clone,” (Pearl Jam). By asking that he himself be admired, the man singing the song effectively betrays himself as an idolater and thinks himself worthy of “playing god”. When the Director plays dream learning tapes to program the children to fit their social niche, he plays God and purposely imposes upon the natural, sleeping subconscious of a child his personal ideologies and religions as if they were scrolls from on high. The parallels between the two works continues as Vedder’s first-world fool demands that the listener “ admire” his “son”, which he calls his “clone”. In Brave New World, the scientifically manufactured babies reflect an extreme of man’s attempts at “playing god”, as they effectively are clones of the same five or six different prototypes in terms of mentality and internal emotion. There’s no room for even the slightest individuation so that the first rule of genetics concerning spreading the genes apart for greater diversity in nature is flatly ignored here.
The licentiousness of the new society is directly fueled by the religion practiced in the novel, and the oft-employed drug soma often culturally correlates with the act of coitus. The resultant social mentality towards sex is one of irresponsible, completely casual indulgence, more or less irregardless of past emotional interactions with the person. In fact, in a reversion toward roman excesses, the citizens from the very young age of twelve engage in “orgy-porgy”, a giant sexual orgy. In performing this rite, they consider it spiritual and they offer thanks to Ford saying, “Ford, we are twelve; oh make us one\ Like drops within the Social River;\ Oh, make us now together run\ As swiftly as thy shining Flivver” (Huxley, 81). The irony of Ford being the God the people worship as they perform a lusty self-indulgent sex orgy echoes the sentiments of several philosophers that the modern American “empire” via globalization and subtle policing of the world repeats the history of the Roman Empire, which everyone who studies history (hmmmm....) could tell you eventually crumbled. Though the majority of Americans are professed Christians, there’s still a great deal of material excess and indulgence in our country, and we seem to be culturally ensconced with an overly carnal, visual conception of sexuality that makes dolls of men and women. This two-fold vanity shows the hypocrisy of practicing a religion which admonishes revering sex for the act of conception and love within the bounds of monogamous marriage while simultaneously generating a culture obsessed with glitz and sexually promiscuous intrigue. By supplanting the Christian notion of a Lord with “Ford”, Huxley seems to suggest that what people really expect out of life and religion is convenience and a means of justifying their own selfish desires. They use religion as selfishly as they use everything else. In Pearl Jam’s aforementioned song Vedder yelps, “I’m at Peace, with my lust\ I can kill ‘cause in God I trust, yeah,” (Pearl Jam). This relates directly to Huxley’s precept about the two-faced nature of those who use religion like an opiate. People find “peace with” their “lust” by satiating whenever it’s convenient for them to do so, with no consideration for higher spirituality and ethics like the wasting of the seed of life via contraceptives, etc. Though this perspective might sound overly moralistic for some, there does seem to be a correlation between man’s inability to find spiritual balance and his justification of carnal pursuits as “evolution, baby,” (Pearl Jam). Vedder notes that people justify all kinds of acts that are continually purported in religions to go against God’s will, such as killing, by saying “In God I trust,” and deluding themselves into believing their will and God’s will are one and the same, or essentially, they can do no wrong.
Through conveniently justifying selfish behavior via a myriad of argumentative crutches including religion, science, and blinding nationalistic pride, the citizens of Huxley’s dystopia and their slightly less dehumanized, modern, potential predecessors show themselves to ultimately just as selfish and indulgent as the animals they have supposedly evolved beyond, while showing themselves to be less honest, as no animal I have ever discussed theology with tried to justify cheating on his mate via theories of evolution or it being God’s divine will.
Pearl Jam. Yield. Sony. 1998.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins. 1932.