A Monopoly on Truth and Experience

The control of the past and future is just one of the aspects of the totalitarian regime's attempt to gain a monopoly on the truth and experience. Everything must be controlled in the interests of stability. When Bernard, Helmhotz and John are brought before World Controller Mustapha Mond, the true nature of the World State is laid bare. John remonstrates with Mond over the banning of such books as his beloved Shakespeare, which he thinks is beautiful. But, says Mond, "Beauty's attractive, and we don't want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones." And when Helmholtz declares that he wants to write something like Othello, Mond replies, "And it's what you will never write... because if it were really like Othello nobody could understand it, however new it might be. And if it were new, it couldn't possibly be like Othello... Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers [cars] without steel - and you can't make tragedies without social instability." Instead, the population of the World State is entertained by anodyne, safe, formulaic 'Feelies' and propaganda songs and verses. When Helmholtz writes a verse about solitude, he is immediately reprimanded and brought before the authorities. Solitude is strongly discouraged - as Lenina's friend Fanny says of Bernard with horror in her voice, "And then he spends most of his time by himself - alone." And why is it frowned upon? Because solitude creates individual instability - "feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude: in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?" - and it also distracts from the greater cause. But paradoxically, it is the desire for solitude that unites Helmholtz, Bernard and John.

Despite the appearance of a shining future full of technological innovation, science is another potential threat to stability. As Mond reveals, "We don't want to change. Every change is a menace to stability. That's another reason why we're so chary of applying new inventions. Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even science must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy... It isn't only art that's incompatible with happiness; it's also science. Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled... all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody's allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn't be added to except by special permission from the head cook." In other words, the World State has not reached, nor is it striving for, a pinnacle of science and invention. Instead it has arrived at a manageable plateau. Says Mond, "At the time of Our Ford... they seemed to have imaged that it [scientific progress] could go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else. Knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value; all the rest was secondary and subordinate. True, ideas were beginning to change even then. Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered." But the Nine Years War changed everything: "What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when anthrax bombs are popping all around you? ... People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been very good for happiness. One can't have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for."

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