Saturday, November 23

Brave New Gadget

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Aldous Huxley's death. The author of "Brave New World" feared a future where it is the things we love that will undo us.

Unlike the totalitarian society in George Orwell's "1984" Huxley feared a world where information is drowned in a sea of irrelevance, where we are willingly distracted and therefore do not act when our freedom is taken away.

I live in the time when ten percent of the Swedish population say they will vote for a fascist party and our government just started chipping away at the policies of openness that are a cornerstone of democracy.
I have a degree in political science and journalism. I studied human rights, peace and conflict studies and the history of propaganda.
I never thought I would see history re-enact itself in my lifetime. Not in the corner of the world I call home.

And there are protests - but not nearly what there should be. Have we become what Huxley feared 82 years ago?
Are we docile and sedated by our beloved gadgets? Or can we simply not see what our actions or lack thereof will lead to in the long term?

I am an early adopter of technology and I work in the field - I know why I spend so much time staring at screens. But when I look around and see the entire bus doing the same thing I start to wonder what we are doing. Are we choosing the digital soma (the pleasure drug Huxley describes in "Brave New World") instead of participating in the world around us?

German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller illustrates what happened when the Nazis rose to power and began eliminating group after group. And how high the price will be if we choose sloth and not action.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.

We are only free as long as we demand to be. Trading freedom for security is a dangerous gamble.

The Guardian has an excellent article on Huxley.

And this comic explains the differences between Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World".

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