Written almost a century ago, the text of the English writer Aldous Huxley, in which he assures readers that humanity will destroy the pleasure.
Writer Aldous Huxley
Writer Aldous Huxley
The dangers that really threaten our civilization are hardly external in nature. These are not insane politicians, not wars or bankruptcies caused by them. The dangers that threaten it from the inside are much more alarming – they threaten not so much health and property as the very consciousness of modern man.
In my opinion, of all the various poisons that our civilization slowly synthesizes in its own womb, there is hardly a more potent than a strange and terrible phenomenon, commonly referred to as “pleasure” (I take this word in quotes to show that I’m not talking about real pleasure, but about the types of organized leisure that are common in our society). Like any other person in good sense and with a normal psyche, I can not stand to work. But I would rather agree to hatch every day for eight hours at the official table than to be doomed to a life full of “pleasure.”
There was a time when entertainment required some mental effort from people. For example, in the 17th century, members of royal families and their entourage received true pleasure while listening to the speeches of erudite preachers (say, Dr. Donna) and disputes on theological and metaphysical topics. A part of the entertainment program proposed by Frederick’s Palatine Count on the occasion of his marriage to Jacob I’s daughter was a scientific discussion, I don’t remember what philosophical topic there was between the keeper of the royal press Lord Williams and a group of Cambridge logicians. Imagine what the current ruler would say if university scientists offered him some fun!
The faces of royal blood were not alone in their love of intellectual pleasures. In the Elizabethan era, any lady and any gentleman of the middle cultural level could, if necessary, participate in the performance of a madrigal or a motet. Those who know the incredible complexity and sophistication of the music of the XVI century, will understand what it means. Even commoners chose for themselves entertainment that required a certain ingenuity, eccentricity and personal initiative. They listened, for example, to Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet — obviously with interest and understanding. They sang and played musical instruments. Year after year, the peasants performed the usual rituals: in the spring and summer they were dancing, in the winter – pantomimes, in the fall – the harvest festival. Their pleasures were intelligent and alive, and people themselves made efforts to entertain themselves.
We all changed it. In place of old pleasures that require intelligence and personal initiative, we put gigantic organizations supplying us with finished entertainment products – products that do not require pleasure seekers from personal participation, or any noticeable intellectual tension. Millions of cinemas are treating the public with the same fresh nonsense. Third-rate writers and playwrights have always existed, but in the past their works quickly died without crossing the borders of the city or country in which they were born. Today, the work of mediocre screenwriters spread from Los Angeles around the world. From the countless viewers do not require any mental effort, no participation – they should just sit and stare at the screen.
Do people in democracies need music? In the old days, they created it themselves. Now they just need to turn on the gramophone. And if they want literature, there is a Press for this. Of course, nominally the Press exists in order to supply information. But in reality, its task is to occupy people without requiring the slightest effort from them and without aggravating their mind with a single thought. It should be recognized that this task it performs with exceptional success. For many years in a row, you can read two newspapers on every weekday and another one on Sundays, without ever having to move your brains and concentrate at all a little – just slide your not too careful look along the printed columns.
In some sections of society, sports that still require personal participation are still popular. Many middle and upper class play golf and tennis, and those who are richer shoot birds, hunt foxes and ski in the Alps. But huge masses of the population even do sports indirectly, preferring to watch a football match and the dangers of the game itself. It is true that they are still dancing in all layers – but they are dancing, everywhere making the same movements under the same melodies. From the dance now all the traces of both local and individual originality have been carefully etched.
These passive pleasures, these ready-made entertainment, the same for all the inhabitants of the Western world, of course, represent a formidable danger to our civilization. During working hours, the overwhelming majority of people are already engaged in performing purely mechanical tasks, and now, during leisure hours, we resort to entertainment that is just as standardized and requires just as little intelligence and initiative. Add such leisure to such work and get a total of an immaculately empty day, to finish the end of which is a huge relief.
Poisoning itself in this way, our civilization can easily sink to premature marasmus. With soul and brains atrophied by inaction, unable to entertain themselves and so fed up with stamped entertainment that only an ever more visible demonstration of violence and cruelty can hurt him for being alive, the democratic society of the future risks sick with deadly chronic boredom. It is likely that it will follow the path of the ancient Romans – the Romans, who in the end, too, just as we are now, have lost the ability to entertain themselves; the Romans, who, like us, also began to live on ready-made entertainment, without taking any part in their organization. Unbearable boredom forced them to demand more and more gladiators, more and more elephants able to walk on a tightrope, more and more exotic animals, which can be slaughtered in front of the public. Our society demands the least, however, thanks to the existence of a few idealists, it does not receive all that it wants. The most cruel kinds of entertainment are now enjoyed only secretly; To satisfy your desire for murder and bloodshed, you must become a member of the Ku Klux Klan. However, one should not despair: most likely, we will still see how blood flows through the arena of the hippodrome. Curbing people who are eager to stifle boredom at all costs can be a daunting task even for idealists. Do not despair: most likely, we will see how the blood flows through the arena of the hippodrome. Curbing people who are eager to stifle boredom at all costs can be a daunting task even for idealists. Do not despair: most likely, we will see how the blood flows through the arena of the hippodrome. Curbing people who are eager to stifle boredom at all costs can be a daunting task even for idealists.