Monday, October 19, 2009

Rockism versus Popism in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World:

"And yet," said Helmholtz when, having recovered breath enough to apologize, he had mollified the Savage into listening to his explanations, "I know quite well that one needs ridiculous, mad situations like that; one can't write really well about anything else. Why was that old fellow such a marvellous propaganda technician? Because he had so many insane, excruciating things to get excited about. You've got to be hurt and upset; otherwise you can't think of the really good, penetrating, X-rayish phrases....

[Said the Controller]"But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead."

[said the Savage] "But they don't mean anything."

"They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience."

"But they're … they're told by an idiot."

The Controller laughed. "You're not being very polite to your friend, Mr. Watson. One of our most distinguished Emotional Engineers …"

"But he's right," said Helmholtz gloomily. "Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say …"

"Precisely. But that requires the most enormous ingenuity. You're making flivvers out of the absolute minimum of steel–-works of art out of practically nothing but pure sensation."

The Savage shook his head. "It all seems to me quite horrible."

"Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."

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