The less you are and the less you express your life—the more you have and the greater is your alienated life…Everything the economist takes away from you in the way of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth.
Fourteen years after writing Brave New World, Aldous Huxley argued that if he were to rewrite this ‘fictional story’, he would offer the pagan (1*) a third scenario: “a community of exiles and refugees from the Brave New World” where sanity would be possible by means of an alternative way of living in a community in which the “economics would be decentralist”, the politics “Kropotkinesque and co-operative”, where science and technology would be used to honoring life, and religion “would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of [hu]man’s Final End” (Huxley, 1946). I believe this envision matches with the great-human state already described in the previous reflection, and therefore not only with both the specific fragments encompassed by this module and the full Gaia Education’s program, but the whole systems approach itself. In fact, what Huxley reflects is nearly a choice for retrofitting the prevalent socio-economic model as well as an option of pursuing essential socio-ecological innovations for the sake of the entire web of life. Thus inspired both by Huxley and the collective mind I want to pose some further arguments as follows.
By emphasizing on the ‘collective mind’, I just mean those systems thinkers or Homo Sapiens (wise humans) –or I’d say some savages/pagans exiled from the prevalent system– who have lucidly addressed Huxley’s interpretation. In researching on the cultural evolution towards the ecobiopsychosocial conception of humankind, in addition to Nietzsche among others, I’ve also approached Peter Kropotkin and Erich Fromm (Fromm’s body of work has loomed large to me in several ways). Indeed, Kropotkin’s ideas widely touched Huxley’s thinking (2*). In short, Kropotkin defended that “Mutual Aid” is bulkier than “Mutual Struggle” as instinct in all living species. He argues that solidarity is not just shaped by human character but are intrinsic in our DNA. Furthermore, the Russian exiled explains in his book Mutual Aid: a factor of evolution that the ancient Mutual Aid Institutions (“the tribe, the village community, the guilds, the medieval city”) started losing their primitive character of solidarity and collaboration by the time the revolution of individuals against these institutions endured two different sides: on one hand were those who aimed to “purify the old institutions” with the purpose of reaching commonwealth still centered on mutual aid principles, i.e., what we have better grasped as Socialism which grafted onto Communism (because of Marx & Engels) in the same milieu. In parallel, “another portion of the same individual rebels endeavored to break down the protective institutions of mutual support, with no other intention but to increase their own wealth and their own powers.” (Kropotkin, 1902) i.e., those who started giving form to Capitalism. Kropotkin didn’t live enough to see how both Communism and Capitalism (because of our Homo ignarus condition) were becoming in different sides of the same coin, or in Dystopia and Utopia according to Huxley. Nonetheless, he was quite right by proclaiming that between both “lies the real tragedy of history”.
With respect to Erich Fromm, it’s necessary to dedicate an entire paragraph since there are various dots to connect in regard to this reflection. I strongly suggest diving into the legacy of this whole systems thinker who have keenly addressed ecobiopsychosocial implications for a necessary cultural evolution of humankind. Fromm was who coined the term biophilia by making reference to the necessary return to the essential unity of love between Humans and Nature, that is, what we’re seeking out through Gaia Education. Moreover, the wartime exiled have precisely conveyed the alternative of a new humanity’s Final End by dint of his extensive work (3*). In his book “To Have” or “To Be” he thoroughly approaches the need of The New man and The New Society by stating the thesis on how “social change interacts with a change in the social character” and how ‘religious impulses’ provide the indispensable energy to drive humankind to achieve such drastic goal. He argues “that a new society can be brought about only if a profound change occurs in the human heart—if a new object of devotion takes the place of the present one.” (Fromm, 1976) Consequently, by exactly scoping out the collective mind, the sociologist expresses that “many political revolutionaries believe that one must first change the political and economic structure radically, and that then, as a second and almost necessary step, the human mind will also change: that the new society, once established, will quasiautomatically produce the new human being.” (Fromm, 1976). In this line, the humanistic philosopher maintains that “socioeconomic structure, character structure, and religious structure are inseparable from each other.” Fromm clarifies that the religious criteria he’s referring about, does not necessarily imply the “concept of God or with idols or even to a system perceived as religion, but to any group-shared system of thought and action that offers the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion.” (Fromm, 1976). Thereby he emphasizes this object of devotion is needed to move our powers towards a new mindset that is required to give shape to what the psychoanalyst calls a new “human Utopia” which demands “living in solidarity and peace, free from economic determination and from war and class struggle” (Fromm, 1976). Lastly, Fromm claims this new Utopia can be achieved insofar as “we spend the same energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm […] as we have spent on the realization of our technical Utopias.” Thus it’s easy to affirm the object of devotion that drives us is ecology, or The Oikos: our household, our life, as the crux of our human priorities as well as the wellbeing of the whole web of life.
As we can see reality overcomes fiction. Nowadays many aspects from Brave New World have already ensued, others are situated in the forefront of science and technology, whilst others are on the brink of happening…the list is substantial. The Norte-Dame-des-Lande recent case is by all means an example. The called Zadists can be gazed as pagans or savages that flee from the totalitarian capitalistic system (4*) to a reserve where they “were seeking an alternative, simpler and more utopian way of life.” One of the members of this community said that they were “building something extraordinary, something that goes back to the simple life of our grandparents […] We are able to produce what we need, and we don’t need a lot” (The Guardian, April 9, 2018). Arguably they could have been inspired by the Huxley’s third scenario. Additionally, CONSUMERISM is clearly a sort of worshiped ‘GOD’ that everything sees, knows and controls (Dataism, a new kind of religion) and science is already able of setting up humans in tubes (creatures without any authority at all upon their lives), among many others current societal issues. That’s why we urgently have to act with skill and commitment –and the patient that entails the thriving of nature– to try to shift the overwhelming scenario from the Homo Ignarus Deus towards the Homo Sapiens Reciprocans.
(1*) Pagan really means ‘peasant’ (farmer). Both terms were deceived by Cristian church to labeling those persons outside of such monotheist religious fiction.
(2*) Paradoxically Kropotkin hardly opposed to someone whit the same last name: T.H. Huxley, a biologist called as “Darwin’s bulldog” due to his radicalism on Darwinism.
(3*) As a matter of fact Huxley was one of the homo sapiens who inspired him. Fromm makes references to the Brave New World novel in some of his publications.
(4*) A dictatorial systems hidden behind the mask of ‘Freedom’ and the ‘American Dream’.
Author: Juan Sebastián Cárdenas Salas (May 12, 2018)
From the serie: Reflections Around Gaia Education
Enroll in Gaia Education
Read Brave New World
Read Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
Read The Guardian: French police fire teargas to expel anti-capitalist squatters
Resources of Support/Book & News references
Economic Dimension – Module’s 4 Handbook general contents and references (Gaia Education, 2018)
A New Brave World by Aldous Huxley (1946)
Mutual Aid: a factor of evolution by Peter Kropotkin (1902)
“To Have” or “To Be” by Erich Fromm (1976)
The Guardian: French police fired teargas to expel anti-capitalist squatters (April 9, 2018)
Cover Image taken from RFI.fr report: ‘Notre-Dame-des-Landes: zadistes et préfète se rencontrent ce mercredi’