I hate to be That Guy Who Argues With Everything, but I will. I'm a big fan of Huxley and Brave New World, but he wasn't particularly visionary with Soma. Drug use goes back as far as humankind does because people have been trying to cope with the stress of life since there have been people. If you're looking for a drug that helps with the anxieties of everyday life, alcohol would have my vote. It's been used for thousands of years, for better or worse. Alcohol use comes with lots of problems, of course, but that doesn't stop it from being the socially acceptable drug of choice.
As for Valium, it seems odd this article even makes a big deal about it. Valium (and benzodiazepines in general) aren't prescribed as much these days because of their addictive potential. Their spike of popularity came and went in a few decades, roughly 1960-1980. Benzos are still popular in illicit use, but a key point of Soma was that it wasn't illicit---it was sanctioned by the state.
Also there's a very important difference: Soma is described as non-addictive, no hangover. It's a way to control society but keeping it productive at the same time. Any drug that causes "epidemics" that result in death or defeating from work would be useless. You can argue that it's enough that most people keep working though, even if a fraction gets trashed.
Edit: if anything, social media or other addictive distractions are more like soma.
I've had valium for a spinal tap (2nd attempt). Alongside a numbing agent, I didn't care what they did.
Which is a key for using such medicines for pain: You might be in pain, but you don't care. My understanding is that for folks allergic to anesthesia, they can literally relax them enough that the person doesn't care if they are doing surgery on them. They don't feel the pain either, but it isn't generally as convenient as folks being put under.
> Some benzos have muscle relaxant properties but I've never heard of them prescribed for pain.
Back pain is thought to be mostly psychological, so it makes sense. Also, if you have minor tears or congenital defects in tissue around your spinal cord then anxiety can cause inflammation, which can then cause your spinal fluid to push against your actual spinal cord and cause all sorts of problems. (Or something like this, I'm not a doctor but that's the basic idea.)
I'm very skeptical of this. A common claim that's long been floated around the medical community, most recently in the "evidence-based" medical community, is that if there isn't a hard test for a condition, then it's psychosomatic. It's an arrogant and abusive conclusion that's also ironic: we don't have a diagnostic test to prove it, so the cause is something that also doesn't have a diagnostic test.
You can also call it "Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions" -- if the matter seems a mystery, well, then the answer surely must be a mystery as well! I cannot be something simple and comprehensible
Interesting that the numbers are the same, I think it’s just coincidence, they are measuring different things on different time scales. It peaked in 1978 with several billion pills being dispensed in a single year. I had a psych professor that said that 70% of US adults were on Valium at some point during the 70s. Anecdotal but I think it’s in the right ballpark.
While caffeine is technically a drug, it's just very different than alcohol and other drugs. People can go to work, spend time with family, and even make important life decisions without caffeine getting in the way. The same is not true for alcohol, cocaine, meth, etc.
(Nicotine is similar, I imagine, though I've never actually used it)
I dunno. I think it's whatever society will tolerate. It used to be pretty common in America to drink on the job. Plenty of folks worked/work and do cocaine. Heck, Freud was a huge cocaine addict, and he's still widely celebrated for his stim-induced work!
Yeah absolutely not. You can certainly drink and work, just as it's possible to drive drunk without killing someone.
These isolated cases without incident don't really matter in the context of society-wide taboo, however.
Coffee and cocaine are worlds apart. Most people don't have jobs that would work with a coke addiction. Freud was exceptional and I think he did most of his influential work not under the influence anyway.
> Coffee and cocaine are worlds apart. Most people don't have jobs that would work with a coke addiction. Freud was exceptional and I think he did most of his influential work not under the influence anyway.
I have no caffeine tolerance as I rarely use it. Every time I have an espresso, the experience is practically identical to doing a bump of cocaine. The effects are so similar it's something I'll do when feeling nostalgic about past coke-filled city life years. I've been assuming others who enjoy an occasional espresso have similar memories being relived by the sudden stimulation it delivers.
Speaking of those coke-filled city life years, quite a few of my peers developed expensive coke habits and they were perfectly functional and many climbed their respective corporate ladders quite successfully while addicted to this substance.
The only thing separating cocaine and caffeine by a gap miles apart is cost and access.
If you can afford and access clean product, coke is a very productive and perfectly functional drug. I suspect most sociopathic high-level executives use it regularly, as it really amplifies that side of one's personality, which isn't necessarily undesirable for leadership roles at large organizations.
Don't forget cocaine once was in Coca-Cola. That wouldn't have occurred if it interfered with people's jobs.
> If you can afford and access clean product, coke is a very productive and perfectly functional drug. I suspect most sociopathic high-level executives use it regularly, as it really amplifies that side of one's personality, which isn't necessarily undesirable for leadership roles at large organizations.
I was agreeing with the sentiment of your post up until this point, I too cannot withstand caffeine, the most I'm willing to consime is found in most Kombucha and even then I try to break it into 3 servings now. I've worked in 2 Industries where Cocaine use is as common as coffee is in an normal office setting, its pretty alarming at times. The mood swings and emotional instability from constant use is something I don't think it lends itself to well-being, and 'productive' is a useless word in that context: if you close 5 deals and make the business a ton of money that day you're productive, but if you got there by raging, anting and throwing stuff at people who no longer want to give you leads or access to their sales pipeline what's the point?
Funny story, I was just re-watching Bourdain's podcast with Joe Rogan and they said that in England coffee shops were seen as dens of sedition and were being shut down, because prior to that mead was the drink of choice for the working class. Which lead to mass intoxication and made the effective rule of the Monarchs absolute; it was when they were 'sober' that it led to things like the Magnacarta was supposed to usher in (Workers Rights, Property Rights etc...)
Personally speaking my palate is too sensitive, which affects my current role as a chef, if I drink coffee (which smells and tastes like burned food) I cannot taste things correctly for hours. I will however de story cans of Thai Tea.
What about Stephen King? It seems he has mixed feelings about it today; regret, but he's also not sure he would have been so prolific without it.
I say all this as a person with zero cocaine experience, but lots and lots of caffeine experience. Stims don't make you better (usually worse, actually), but they do have a relationship to quantity of output.
Coffee and coaine are not actually worlds apart in terms of mechanism of action, they both act on the same brain pathway though coffee has a limited ability to activate this pathway in comparison to cocaine.
This is a completely meaningless comparison. Even things that behave waaay more similar than cocaine and coffee in terms of brain chemistry can have even more disparate effects. And I was talking about the effects.
This meaningless comparison is a fundamental concept in psychopharmacology. Different substances can have different effects whilst acting on the same pathway. And to your point re: "effects"it should be noted the SAME substance can have very different effects (biphasic effects) depending on dose (alcohol being the key exmaple).
To be clear, I think alcohol, cocaine, and even caffeine do cause significant stressors on a life, to varying degrees and in different ways. They just aren't mutually exclusively with being highly productive in any given field.
Alcohol may be better aligned with physical labor, where there's some benefit from not noticing as much when you hurt + adrenaline spikes as it wears off. Cocaine probably aligns better with writing, when word vomit helps get something down that can later be edited. Neither has a particularly great track record with living a happy life.
Sometimes taboo makes it worse than it needs to be, though. An addiction, treated as a crime, leads to an even more desperate addict.
Commenting on "lumping all drugs together", I believe this is due in large part to ignorance of each drug. You'd have to have personal experiences with them to understand the differences, hence people lump them together because they are labeled as a "drug."
I think there is a difference to the common drug consumption in the past. People believe psychotropic drugs to be medicine since they have or had a subscription. True in some cases, but the awareness of using a drug is different. People also take them not only to cope, but to help them learning, sleeping, concentrating... That goes beyond traditional use in my opinion. Plus, access to these drugs is much easier than in the past and taking them has become trivially normal.
It is also the first weapon to deployed if some kids are deemed to be unruly. Nobody would think of giving them alcohol however.
Yep. Huxley was heavily into Hinduism. "The original soma, from which I took the name of this hypothetical drug, was an unknown plant (possibly Asclepias acida) used by the ancient Aryan invaders of India in one of the most solemn of their religious rites." (_Brave New World Revisited_, Aldous Huxley)
What is interesting is that the same family owned company that created oxycontin also created valium originally. Amazing to think of how much damage one family owned business has done (Purdue Pharma) to an entire nation.
Folks blame the drug company, but honestly there are a variety of factors at play here.
Some folks genuinely need the pain relief. My mother gets migraines (or a variant). They last literally weeks and months. Sometimes these drugs work. Other migraine drugs have similar issues (addiction and tolerance), but this is villified. The doctors simply talk to her about these things.
But just as importantly, folks aren't really able to take time off to heal properly nor can a group of folks afford medical care. If you can't take time off of work and rest, you wind up needing to take more pills. For example, I had gall bladder surgery some years back. Doctors said 7-10 days completely off work. I didn't have a choice but to go back before the 10 days (and 2 days before I went back to the surgeon for aftercare checkup). I hadn't used the prescription pain meds for a few days before I went back to work, but needed them that day. And if you can't afford to e fixed, you get bandaged over - drugs.
Just as bad is that we aren't simply making sure doctors know how to talk to patients about addiction with these. Signs, symptoms, and that there is care for it if they notice the early signs.
Now, the main thing with the drug company was that they weren't upfront about risks, and that is horrible and meant that we couldn't do the things we needed to do. Not that it matters anyway: Folks often can't take off work for drug treatment nor can they afford the care in so many cases.
Purdue pharma knew that their drug was more addictive that what was reported by the FDA, and chose to keep distributing it and pushing doctors to recommend it to people who didn't need it instead of re-doing the evaluation.
I did mention that they were not upfront about the risks. This is definitely not OK, but it is still only one of the factors.
Now, as far as pushing it to doctors: That's not an issue that is unique to this drug or this drug company. It is generally more referred to as an off-label use, which has its good and bad uses. And with things like pain medicines, it gets complicated because there are so many compounding factors. (Yes, they are prescribed too much, but we need more than tight controls on one drug class).
As someone who has had to deal with restrictions on other drugs I need to function, I’m always a bit reticent to go full in on “this drug is evil” narratives.
Is Oxycotin particularly addictive in itself in ways it could otherwise not be? Or is this about general painkiller addiction plus the pharmaceutical company taking advantage of this to push it out too much?
In other words, is there a way to tackle this problem that doesn’t cut access for people who actually need this stuff?
the problems with Purdue/oxycontin was their false and extreme marketing that falsely claim lower/tiny addiction rates, bribing doctors to prescribe, claiming 12 hour relief when many users got 8 hours, and the list goes on. perhaps a misleading shorter half-life could be 'more addictive' in that users took more than prescribed to keep effect going.
In general there seems to be a rule of thumb that shorter half-life drugs are more addictive - they hit you fast and wear off fast.
Within the same category of drugs, e.g. Benzodiazepines, it's pretty well established that the first step towards getting clean is to get the dose of low half-life drug swapped out for an equivalent dose of a long-acting drug, then taper down from there.
I believe this is also the theory behind the use of Subutex/Buprenorphine and Methadone as ways to get people off heroin and oxycontin.
So conversely, if Oxycontin had a shorter half-life than was advertised then one would expect it also to have a worse addiction profile.
I'm not sure about Oxycotin specifically, but people in severe pain generally should receive medication to alleviate it. I've had severe burning. Pain medication greatly reduced the amount of suffering that occurred.
The newer formulations - especially those that are slow release and combined with naloxone, are fine and have their use. The problem is the 20+ years of overprescribing straight up plain and crushable oxycontin that for a time was better than heroin
While it post-dates BNW my friends and I often joked that Rollerball was the first (film) reference to MDMA. Mind you the party scene wasn't a rave but the dancing and the touch sure make a good case for ecstasy.
> Drug use goes back as far as humankind does because people have been trying to cope with the stress of life since there have been people.
I do not think the second half of your statement is true. Certainly there was drug use in hunter/gatherer societies but it was mostly shamanistic/ritualistic use, not 'stress relief'. The example that you give of alcohol only really came on the scene with the advent of farming, which remains a small fraction of the history of humankind.
Ok, I just did a bit of searching for studies on hunter-gatherer use of drugs.
This paper  supports my characterisation of being mostly for shamanistic/ritualistic use.
And this paper  suggests that drug use also had medicinal benefits. But that is from a modern hunter-gatherer society that has undoubtedly been influenced by outside societies (indeed the drug they smoke has been imported from another continent), so I'm not sure how indicative of pre-historic hunter-gatherer use it is.
Where I remain dubious is the assertion that drugs have always been used for 'stress relief'. My feeling is that stress - as we understand it - was not something much experienced by hunter-gatherer societies.
Was it now? Alcoholic beverages were seen as a nutritious (!!!) staple food from it's discovery until recently. It was also the only thing to drink in areas that lacked clean water (and one cared about avoiding it).
And yes, people have been trying to deal with people since there were people. And people have always been stressful.
Alcohol has a ton of calories, it's cheap & easy to make, and keeps really well. The fact that it takes the edge off is just a bonus. Even without the effects of alcohol, beer is the perfect food for feeding slaves and soldiers.
Yeah, Huxley was writing almost a century after the Opium Wars, which managed to reduce the greatest civilization on earth to a bunch of drug addicts within a few decades. Laudanum (10% tincture of opium) was extremely common within the late 19th and early 20th century Anglo-American world.
The reason soma continues to resonate in literature is because it reflects fundamental truths of how the world works. Huxley didn't create or predict the pill-popping epidemic, he had a rich tapestry of former pill-popping epidemics to draw on.
Yup. There's a certain irony how, a century and a half after Britain and the U.S. managed to reduce the greatest civilization on earth to a bunch of drug addicts and trigger a civil war and the fall of the empire, the rump state of that civilization is now reducing the new greatest civilization on earth to a bunch of drug addicts, triggering the fall of its empire and a potential civil war.
There is a really interesting tension in the world of propaganda - I see it in the modern Hong Kong situation. The better job the propagandists do of minimising Tienanmen for example the more likely China is to get Tienanmen-like protests again.
From that perspective, Western democracies have really struggled to assimilate their long history of toppling other nations and benefiting from their resources into the cultural framework. That probably leaves a vulnerability to being toppled in the same way.
>From that perspective, Western democracies have really struggled to assimilate their long history of toppling other nations and benefiting from their resources into the cultural framework
I think that's a post internet thing. Pre-internet most of us got all of our historical information from school, and there weren't places like Twitter or Facebook to spread what were previously dismissed as fairy tales.
I certainly wouldnt have been aware of much of the shitty "world building" that the US goes around doing without having visited some of the internet's scummiest corners in the last decade or so. It's actually amazing to see how much of this has trickled into the mainstream as it became acceptable discourse on more mainstream places like Reddit and eventually FB and such.
I mean sure, you had things like Vietnam which were polarizing along this very dividing line, but the average person was fed a different set of spin on much of what they ultimately grew up learning, and I think that may have played a role in American Exceptionalism. Nowadays people, especially young people, tend to be far less patriotic and I would attribute this apathy or even disdain for at least part of the current breakdown in political discourse and ostensible early decline stage of the American Empire. Of course it's worth saying that much of this divide falls neatly along left/right as critics/apologists of/for American realpolitik.
I'm talking young adults. 20 somethings. They won't grow out of it if they have nothing cohesive to grow into, and I think many see a broken history as a huge smear on the country. There were fewer of these people pre internet because most then learned a somewhat biased account in school and then went off to join society with little chance of encountering revisionist history, outside of certain relatively small social circles.
Now it's all over the internet, a sort of radicalization-lite that starts in tighter circles where kids swap conspiracy theories and alternative perspectives, and more of this stuff quickly starts leaking mainstream.
I think any dominant culture de facto produces and consumes its own propaganda, to some extent. That's good and bad. The information age has made the system more chaotic because of the speed and convenience of data exchange, and that leads to more frequent clashing and fracturing in society, as common indoctrination does lead to greater social cohesion, across cultures. Propaganda has less of an effect and people have less reason to rally together because of different views on, say, in America's case, history and even some of our modern world building.
What, you think radicalization is unique to the chans? You'll see it's all around us if you're not unfairly exclusive in your definition of radical.
Very refreshing to read what I hold to be both a simple and material conception of present political currents. The internet is a complicated blessing.
Separate and beyond your point, which I very much agree with, I predict this will ultimately re-center a focus onto publicly ratified power. As it stands, corporations are effectively state institutions with no public ties. There are some striking congruencies with feudalism in modern capitalism, but technology makes it all virtually incomparable in the big picture. The internet transcends beyond physical empire not only for worse but ultimately for better in this case. If only the road to democracy from here were not so bloody nonetheless.
Are we overreacting a little? Drug addiction is a serious problem, as it has been for many decades, but it’s not on the verge of collapsing US society. The vast majority of people aren’t addicted to opiates and aren’t going to become addicted to opiates, and of those they are... well, most of them would otherwise be addicted to something else anyway.
I've spent a good deal of time reading opioid users forums and I think that statement only half tracks. The way opioid users describe the high of slower release opioids (i.e. oxycotin pills), and to some degree snorting/smoking opioids, is not radically different from other drugs. The way opioid users talk the high of injection opioids is totally different: they describe an immediately obsession-inducing experience. As one user said, injection "fundamentally changes your relationship with your self."
Non-injection administration dominates illicit opioid use* overall, but injection causes most overdoses. Illicit use and overdoses are two related but separate aspects of the opioid crisis, so I think it's fair to say that many illicit users would be addicted to something else anyway, but the same cannot necessarily be said for injection users.
*I say illicit opioid use instead of opioid addiction or abuse because this study includes users who might not be addicted or might be using it for medical purposes
That doesn’t seem so obviously wrong that one should simply downvote rather than counter-arguing.
Drug trends come and go. People who for whatever combination of reasons (genetics, life circumstances, surrounding culture) are likely to get addicted to drugs seem to find their way to whatever the currently popular drug is.
> genetics, life circumstances, surrounding culture
Life circumstances like “needing to get their wisdom teeth removed.” The doctor prescribes you painkillers afterward and makes absolutely no mention of how addictive they are, or even that they’re opioids.
I don’t think those people were going to wake up one morning and start using on heroin on their own, so I have a hard time writing them off as “well, some people would have used drugs anyway.”
Oh please spare me the sermon. You dont just wake up one day an addict. Its similar bullshit to "the first hit is always free". Its propaganda. As much as wide parts of American society dont want to believe it, as an addict you make a choice. Its your god damn agency. You dont just find out that the yummy candy made you an addict. Thats nothing but a nice excuse. You keep using stuff that you know you shouldnt use, because it feels good and it often beats the alternatives. The quote that stuck with me most was an Heroin addict who explained how he started using. "At that point it was either becoming an addict or becoming a corpse". When you think that your sober life sucks this hard that you perceive a noose as the likely next step for you, hard drugs look like a bloody good deal. Demonizing a drug is just much easier then accepting, that someone you know and love made that choice. Its absolutely mind boggling how many non experts and non addicts suddenly have "informed opinions" on how opioids are basically the new materialized evil. They are the same stuff it always was, you just gave people a socially acceptable way to use that stuff recreationally.
The problem starts when this social shaming of illicit drug use swaps over from American suburbs to the rest of the world. And we are, yet again, faced world wide with American fundamentalists who are going on a crusade on necessary medication that could spare millions of pain patients world wide an existence of utter torture. In case anyone isnt aware of the situation, morphine based pain medications is what the large majority of the world population is using for pain relief. All those fancy analgesic the pharma industry pushes as an alternatives are too expensive for the majority of countries out there.
The direct result of the absolutely thoughtless scapegoating, that millions of people are suffering an easily treatable existence that amounts to torture. About 20 million people that live without access to pain medication in “untreated, excruciating pain” and could be treated with cheap-ass morphine. With no patent and a production price of cents.
If this is all to abstract for you, my grandmother recently passed away. Cancer and the painful kind. I unfortunately only later found out that she wasnt given proper pain medication until she had to be moved from her home to palliative care. Because it apparently was thought to be too risky for the doctor in charge to give it to a dying women at home, since who knows who will clear up the estate afterwards?
So if you want share your opinion about opioids, please think about the consequences of your action. You having a fuck up in your family or watching too much TV doesnt make you an expert on pain treatment worldwide.
I agree with much of what you say, but it would have a much better impact if you didn't phrase it in such an angry, finger-pointing rant that doesn't really seem to fit here. Yes, a lot of people become addicted to drugs via their own "god damn agency", but it's also true that those who haven't experienced such addiction have no idea how overwhelming it really is and how insidious the addictive process is. It's also true that a lot of the people who become addicted started because
While Opium did cause major problems China was already on their way out due to their own stupidity - as is a reoccurinf "tradition". China had previously cut the navy massively and even turned away from a profitable sea trade over internal squabbling. It lead to being forced to pay ransom to and pardon pirates prior to this and then refused the easiest way to get a prebuilt experinced navy - hire the pirates as the new navy.
While the deeds were reprehensible China already had the taste for Opium. The British were specifically seeking a non-silver renewable trade good to avoid deflationary issues in precious metal standard days and guess what they actually had demand for? Opium. They were imperialist assholes but they never were the original sin - that is letting their targets off far too easily.
For people who are a fan of Huxley's work, I would recommend taking a look at Island. It contrasts well with the dystopian view of Brave New World by providing a look into other reasons a successful utopia might fall.
Of course, the constant theme of experimentation with hallucinogenics is apparent in this book as well.
Soma became a reality and takes the form of constant distractions and serotonin hits delivered via our mobile devices and TV screens. It's the status notifications, the likes, the latest Netflix series, browsing Reddit in bed. It's pornography and follower counts. We consume the Soma until our pleasure receptors are fatigued then we sleep and repeat the process. Huxley was right and it has nothing to do with pills.
I am a practicing anesthesiologist and I see every day what medications my patients take, because we review preoperatively their in home meds. And it's astonishing that a large chunk of population takes either psychiatric or psychoactive prescription meds plus cannabis, etc. I even have a joke that Americans voluntarily take meds that in Soviet Union were only given to the political prisoners.
This presents an interesting diversion: the phenomenon of anesthesiologists who are addicted to drugs. I worked with one who lost his position as chief because he was caught buying street drugs . . . on a city street. If people who are so well-educated about the effects of recreational drug use can still succumb to it, it's unreasonable to expect that the average person should be "smart enough" to be immune to the risks.
First, most people are not at all "well-educated about the effects of recreational drug use", including medical professionals who are mostly only versed in the effects of legal drugs... Or are you referring to "legal" drugs here?
Second, there is a whole pharmacopeia of drugs that elicit a wide range of effects, and many of these drugs are not necessarily particularly "harmful" (e.g., the psychedelics). But really, moderation is the key ingredient in mitigating many of the compounding effects of repeated use (like physical dependency, which is a symptom only of certain classes of drugs).
Third, drugs are fun and people like to do them. Alcohol is a potentially debilitating, life-ruining drug, but we advertise it on the television. I would bet that most medical professionals consume alcohol.
Freedom is about assuming risk. Pretty soon we'll have no risk though, if the Plans continue as Planned.
I think it obvious personally - you would find it difficult to find an anaestiologist who fears the drugs. Also notably the reason you heard about it was because the hammer of the state, not because the drugs itself ruined his life.
I generally agree about the hammer of the state angle, but another angle here is that if medical people are addicted to drugs and they have access to patients' drugs, they can potentially skim some of the drugs that they're supposed to be giving their patients.
Huxley and Orwell saw two dystopian futures in different ways: one, totalitarian and ever watchful government. The other, a society robbed of cognitive and personal agency via societal pressure and medication.
When I was young, I thought Orwell's future was the most dangerous an imminent. Then later Huxley, especially once things like "apps" were created. Now I see they both work together to erode liberty.
Your culture works against the expression of your constitutional rights, especially in certain areas of our country. And of course, if you stop using those liberties you might never notice once they're taken away.
The weird thing, if you study history and step outside the culture you were raised in, is to realize that Huxley and Orwell were both describing the world they were writing in, not some hypothetical future. 1984 is based on Orwell's experiences writing propaganda for the BBC during WW2; 1984 was intentionally chosen by switching the last two digits of the year it was written, 1948. Brave New World is a Depression-era reaction to the excesses of and hangover from the 1920s. The World State of Brave New World is based on Fordism, the logical result of taking Henry Ford's assembly-line mentality and applying it to a whole society. In many ways the creative class (which didn't really exist in the 1931 of Huxley's day) enjoys significantly more liberties than the populace of Brave New World.
It's also interesting to note that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are also literary reactions to that time period. Note that Saruman turns Isengard evil with "The fires of industry"; orcs cut down the trees and defile large areas of the countryside, while the Nine Rings corrupt men in the name of greed and power. Tolkien's answer to industrialization was to return to small pastoralist villages; Lewis's was to accept the redemption of Christ, in the form of the lion Aslan.
> Tolkien's Lord of the Rings...literary reactions to that time period
It was also a response to WWI. Tolkein's childhood friends were killed and shattered by that war...and why? Because in 1831, Britain agreed to be a guarantor of Belgian neutrality.
So when Gondor calls for aid... when Isildur calls the Men of the White Mountains to war... when Minas Tirith is besieged... what ought elves and men do but honour their allegiance? We now have all seen that war is obscene as cancer, but perhaps to march to death is still more fitting than to forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship.
Tolkein apparently furiously denied allegory - although there are preexisting tropes that predate even his influence (decline of the mythic past Götterdämmerungn Atlantis) is hard to not see. Which I suppose probably owes itself both to decline of youthful myths like "parents and ancestors as infalliable" and the distant mutated memories of the Bronze Age collapse where the greatest empires indeed did fall from lofty heights and take millenia to be reached again.
What I'm pointing to isn't allegory though. Allegory would be if the Rohirrim at Helms Deep represented the Belgians and the elves led by Haldir represented the British Expeditionary Force. They don't.
But stories are still about (among other things) the choices people make, the way we see those choices, and the things we think about our own choices.
He denied allegory with WW2 in the foreword to Lord of the Rings. It's nearly impossible that his own service in WW1 with its industrial warfare had no influence on his writing. Mordor bears a striking resemblance to the trench-infested battlefields of Europe.
Similarly, the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen-Million Merits" is sometimes described as being about some kind of possible future, but I'm pretty damn sure it's just depicting now (or, "now" when it was made a few years ago, anyway) through the lens of a kind of heightened sci-fi allegory.
1984 was basically a sci-fi adaption of Koestler's Darkness at Noon, which was based on the real-life Moscow Trials. Orwell had read (and favourable reviewed) Darkness. He also used a lot of similar details (Rubashov even had a tooth-ache that flared up for dramatic effect much like Winston's varicose vein).
I read both books one after the other a while ago to compare them. I think there are aspects of both that are becoming reality (or have been reality for some time), but can absolutely say that Huxley was closer to predicting the future (at least in the West).
The rise of mass media (hollywood, netflix), pornography, the pill (and other forms of contraception), large expendable incomes, smart phones, pharmaceuticals - the world now is basically Huxley's + a bit of a Orwellian propaganda sprinkled on top to keep you in Huxley's world.
On the other hand consider all the ways in which our society is fundamentally unlike BNW. The big one: we are not bred in test tubes and raised in massive government-run factories with our destinies determined by a letter from alpha to epsilon. Families have not been abolished, nor has pair bonding. Our lives are not engineered by an all-powerful global government, not even by an all-powerful national government.
Maybe you could say that these are non-core aspects of the story, like the fact that in BNW they travel by rocket instead of jet, but I think they’re extremely central to the story.
These ideas didn’t come out of nowhere, many of them ( like the replacement of family life with communal life) were taken seriously by progressives of the day.
Huxley took the trends and novelties of the early 1930s and imagined what things would be like if they continued in that direction. Some trends continued, but others stalled out, and these trends are perhaps more interesting than the ones that continued.
Well yes, there are plenty of ways we are unlike BNW. I see those things are plot devices to explore the deeper concepts of: lack of individuality / self-determination, increase in use of contraception, increase in diversion and hedonism, trivialising of religion, ostracising of those that will not conform, etc. He takes all these things to extremes, yes, but I think our own society is moving in that direction more than moving in Orwell's.
Just consider the Facebook newsfeed. Do you think the false headlines, or the memes and reaction videos scattered throughout, have more of an effect on people's inaction to perceived injustice? People won't react any differently to a headline that claims one things or the other. That's Huxley's prediction right there.
I think the most fundamental difference between our world and BNW is that I know many people who lead fulfilled lives, carry on meaningful relationships, and who critically examine the culture that surrounds them.
> I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.
I'd agree with the spirit of your assertion that both the state, through surveillance and beauracratic control, and the market, through ever increasing share of our attention and hold over our appetites, are having harmful effects on many people. But it's interesting that you frame that harm as 'eroding liberty'.
I've recently been reading a book called "Why Liberalism Failed" by Patrick Deneen, which also sees these two forces as working together to harm both the individual and society at large, but not by restricting our liberty so much as trading away other valuable social goods for a surfeit of liberties most of us don't actually need or benefit from. The liberty to buy whatever our appetites desire, at any time. The liberty to uproot ourselves and live "globally" without concern for the locales we leave behind. The liberty to profit seek without regard for externalities.
Deneen draws a contrast between "liberty to <do, own, or be something>" and "liberty from being ruled by our animal urges and appetites". The ancient Greeks who coined the term saw liberty as a virtue explicitly in the latter capacity. But the modern sense of what it is to be liberated is explicitly centered around the former. But I think the liberty you allude to is more of the ancient conception, and I agree, the pincers of the government and the market are eroding our liberty from animal urges, in exchange for an ever expanding menu of nominal liberties to which are often harmful to ourselves and others.
I’d think a Roman or Latin-descendant-language-speaking person would have coined the term, since it's based on the word liber, Latin for “free”. I would also think the ancient Greek word  would have been more commonly used in context of freedom from slavery than from any self-imposed restraint (or lack thereof).
The scariest thing in this article to me was buried at the end describing how many of these drugs can be found in the water supply (albeit in mostly trace amounts). Whether you want them or not, it seems like everyone is going to get these medications in trace amounts and who knows what they will do to our bodies over time.
Is there anything that I as an average person can do to remove as many of these chemicals as I can? A special filter?
Fentanyl wasn’t on offer, but agents kept following the digital trails that have made it easier for people like Muhammad and Yan to enter the global drug trade and for investigators to hunt them down. Because Yan used Gmail, operated by U.S.-based Google, Gibbons and his team could persuade a judge to let them monitor his communications in real time.
FAANG is an extension of the US' Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies, in case anyone had any doubts. This is why they get so much funding from both respectively, and why they can get away with such egregious infractions and unlawful behaviour.
Those of you dropping where you work should really have some reservations of what is taking place with your labour and in your name.
I think it is cute that the author trys to make some leap about valium. If Huxley was talking about, or thinking of anything it would have been a more contemporary problem. Though my memory of the book is hazy, I do not recall that Soma was addictive or potentially deadly.
The contemporary family of drugs would have been barbiturates, and in the very early days of their use. Well before we knew how bad that they were in regards to addition and withdrawl. Valium is a benzodiazepine, and those come much later, again we don't find out how bad the withdrawal from them is till much later. In some regards benzodiazepines end up replacing barbiturates not for consumer heath reasons rather for patent and profit reasons because as it turns out both are fairly damaging.
I will probably go against the grain here but my inner tinfoil hat is telling me that the recent marijuana legalization is actually secretly run by the military industrial complex in order to silence dissent. Kind of the 'lithium in the water supply' thing.
> I will probably go against the grain here but my inner tinfoil hat is telling me that the recent marijuana legalization is actually secretly run by the military industrial complex in order to silence dissent. Kind of the 'lithium in the water supply' thing.
That's specious reasoning; consider that California had passed the compassion act in 1996, with the explicit intention of allowing this drug to be used for severe and chronic pain inlieu of harder narcotics (opioids). When the counties realized this was a cash cow, laws got relaxed and it was easier than ever to get high grade legally produced MJ, to the point where it was more accessible than alcohol or tobacco when I was growing up. The costs reflected that.
MJ legalization is and continues primarily be one of a money grab via taxes, in 2007 I went to CO on a school trip and I predicted that given the amount of illegal street deals MJ would have to be legalized at the recreational level, they were losing way too much tax revenue. In 2011 Amendment 64 was created, and in Nov of 2012 it was passed.
These trends and evidence is inline with basic projections of cause and effect from a local/state tax (or as its called in CO: revenue) matter and nothing less.
Anecdote: Colorado has experienced a population boom since 2012, not a reduction in population, so I don't see the correlation.
Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion were here earlier this year in Denver, eco-centric protests have and will continue to be a thing so no one is being docile, if anything most are appreciating how we must protect Nature and stop things like fracking now where prior to legalization it went on unfettered and was a significant Industry in the state. Now potable water for Ag and residential development use is scarce and fracking is partly to blame.
Anecdote 2: California still suffered raids from the DEA up until as late as 2012; I launched my startup in fintech to service the Industrial Hemp Industry in part because I was on campus during 'Operation Sudden Fall' in 2008. It was terrifying to see a University get occupied by the armed goons of the State.
The more opposition you appear to have, the more people will fight for it. My theory is that (again, tinfoil hat) if the federal government really didn't want marijuana to be legal, it wouldn't have been. If they really cracked down on it on the ground in the states where it was tolerated (before getting legalized), it wouldn't be legal now. Unless we get another Vietnam, where the government fears that young folk is too woke/high to fight in a war, it would rather have them sedated than dissenting. Automation is growing, blue collar jobs are going away, not everyone invested in their white collar future, income inequality keeps growing, better have them baked rather that raising their fists.
we've reached a point where we can wage war with way WAY less people and way more taxpayer money so the number of folks who want to go to war or who support war doesn't really matter. The draft is an outdated concept. You'll always have people who want to go into the army for the welfare.
Also, weed is much stronger today than it was in the '70s and now you have regular folks walking around secretly addicted to pot . That was definitely not the case in the '70.
Did he miss the mark? Ask the average person on the street why congress are having impeachment proceedings against the president. most will either regurgitate some fox news conspiracy theory or say something about Russia. while the actual reason is he attempted to extort a personal quid pro quo from the Ukrainian government in exchange for releasing foreign aid funds they were due. Sounds to me like he predicted people not reading and getting nothing but propaganda misinformation and empty mindless entertainment from tv just right.
The partisan nature of media companies certainly contributes when 90% of the reporters lean one way and laud social media strategies for one candidate and loath when the other follows suit. No one network has a monopoly on conspiracy theories.l, they all push narratives. As far as entertainment, that industry is notoriously scummy and rife with political connections.
Ask the average person on the street in the 60's to explain why America was at war in Vietnam and they'll tell you something vague about Communism. Ask the average person on the street in 1776 to explain the economic and political factors that lead to the Declaration of Independence and they'll think it has something to do with tea. The fact that the world is not filled with current event junkies is nothing new. I'm not saying there's been no eroding of American democracy or the like, but it's not like people have been suddenly brainwashed in a way that's fundamentally different than prior decades.
To quote the conversation with the firechief Captain Beatty;
"There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick"
More importantly, he predicted the rise of The Pill (birth control) very eerily too. And the long term effect that it will have on civilization is undeniable.
Whatever your stance on the pill, I think it is naive to think that it will not have a lasting and deep impact on western civilization (and as it spreads globally, to all of human civilization).
Never before has sex been able to be had without consequence. Or the urge to have sex not led to at least the possibility of reproduction. For those that grew up entirely in a world where it exists and is readily available, it will have a huge impact on how they see sex, relationships, dating, and reproduction.
Sure, the world has a lot of people. But a civilization that by default, does not want to produce children? (As Huxley envisioned, and as I think will be the case in the coming decades) is headed for sure collapse.
> Sure, the world has a lot of people. But a civilization that by default, does not want to produce children? (As Huxley envisioned, and as I think will be the case in the coming decades) is headed for sure collapse.
Contraception and abortifacients have existed for millennia.
People in the developed world are choosing not have children because of costs. Having children in the developing world is an investment that is paid back in the form of free labor, dowries and someone to care for you when you're elderly.
The drive to develop them has existed for millennia, sure. But never as reliably or safely as they exist now. The fact that it is so accessible and there is very little stigma around it, is what will change our civilization and culture. The way Huxley depicts it in Brave New World, is the direction it is heading in. And we are at the forefront of that right now for the first time in human history.
> 80% reliable contraception is of dubious utility.
You realise the quoted reliability rates are per year, not per act? For example, the withdrawal method (available to everyone, for all time) has a reliability rate of 78% for typical use and 96% for perfect use.  Obviously, even at 78% reliability over a year, that is of a great deal of utility. 78% of the time a woman whose partner practises withdrawal will not get pregnant over the course of a year.
It is observably a fact that the "sexual revolution" was a qualitative change and not just a quantitative change. Presumably something changed for that to happen. A student of history will note many, many times in the past that cultures would have been willing to make that change, but couldn't for some reason, so "it's just because we moderns are so uniquely awesome and wise and wonderful" doesn't strike me as a likely answer.
I suppose it could conceivably just be the ability to treat STDs, but I don't think that's enough, personally. YMMV. (Plus I'm not sure that the time works out correctly.)
I didn't say "without consequence". I said "safe". And by "safe" I didn't mean "literally no-one ever will ever have a problem with it in any way", but something more like a normal meaning of the term.
Sorry but this is not a narrative rooted in reality.
People don’t not want kids. Lots of people want kids at the right time. Others want it but find they would be unable to provide for their children due to a generation and a half of wage stagnation, along with women not wanting to have to change their profession to “full time childcare”.
Giving people access to childcare is documented to work. There isn’t some magic cultural collapse. It’s just capitalism squeezing everything out of people, and people worn out from it.
I'm not sure which Gen Z's you've spoken to recently, but the next generations certainly want kids much less than previous generations. And this trend will only continue. We have seen family sizes continually drop, until now the average is about 2. That will soon drop below 1 where most people do not have children. Give it 30-40 years max.
again, this narrative falls flat against empirical evidence that policies that support child care increase birth rates!
If you only care about population decline, you have an easy to undrestand tool for solving this problem, that doesn't involve trying to establish cultural hedgemony to try and convince everyone that they have to have at least 2 kids each.
Thanks to you and hnick. I'd never seen that kind of double negation.
Actually I think people acts according to circumstances. Kids are a blessing and a burden at the same time, always have been, and some other factors helps decide.
But unwanted pregnancy is not "a help to decide" and it's weird to say that the fate of civilization should rest in people being unable to have safe sex.
Low birth rates are only seen as a problem in the context of race or nation: "if we don't reproduce, our genes/our culture will disappear and foreigners will replace us". Globally there's no problem at all. When low birth rates extend to the whole planet, the problem will solve itself very quickly by elemental incentives.
The decoupling of the sexual act from the procreative act was transformative to society and I think we're just becoming aware of the consequences. Every developed nation has to import mass quantities of immigrants just to mask the problem, causing social unrest in their traditional populations. Then the newly arrived immigrant communities remain fertile for a generation, but quickly take on the mores of the surrounding nation and birth rates plummet.
Sprinkle on top a nascent anti-natalism coming from the environmentalist left and you have a recipe for a societal disaster.
> The decoupling of the sexual act from the procreative act
The sexual act has been 'decoupled' from the procreative act since forever. People have always had ways to avoid pregnancy (some more successful than others) and sexual acts have always entailed much more than procreation. Not just within our species; look at how bonobos use sex for purposes other than procreation.
And falling birth rates in developed countries are not because of this mythical 'decoupling' you write about. There are many reasons for people not having as many children today and those reasons have been trending for a long time before the invention of the modern birth-control pill.
> The decoupling of the sexual act from the procreative act was transformative to society and I think we're just becoming aware of the consequences. Every developed nation has to import mass quantities of immigrants just to mask the problem, causing social unrest in their traditional populations
What is the problem you're referring about? Most would argue the world is over populated. Cost of homes are rising from scarcity to how many people there are. Most young people cannot afford a home to even consider having a child.
From my perspective, Brave New World was a cautionary tale of transhumanism, technocracy, secularism, and hedonism. The climax of the novel delves into theology and the condition of man, with the protagonist lamenting the disappearance from society of God or any higher allegiance than to the self or state.
Whenever I hear John Lennon's Imagine, I always imagine the world portrayed in this story.
Brave New World is one of my most favorite books. Ever. The scary thing about it is that reading you start to understand that although this might be a vision of the future, it really is just a replica of what is already going on. Pill popping has been happening for ages, especially for a happy-feeling reason.
Would at least be useful to point out in this article that Huxley didn't have an overly moralistic view of substance use in general and he wrote one of the most classic books about using psychedelics to explore consciousness with Doors of Perception!
I tend to find simplistic pro and anti substance screeds yawn-inducing. All psychoactive substances, whether legal or not, whether they have physical dependency issues or not, whether they are used by rich people or poor people, have a unique set of consciousness-altering properties in the short-term and long-term. They give with one hand and take away with the other.
Whether something is useful for short-term or long-term use is a profoundly individual choice that is best made with as much information available as possible, and far separated from moralizing judgement. And sometimes, far from the pharma companies and current psychiatric fad.
I don't see much new in this article. It's true lots of people are popping pills to deal with late capitalism, but maybe that's what a lot of humans have to do in late capitalism til we figure out something better.
Slaves to capitalism? Slaves to authoritarian government? Slaves to mindless entertainment? Slaves to theocracy? Slaves to addiction? And then it hits you... people want to be slaves, and in the heart of every dystopian novel is the wretched truth that most people find purpose and comfort in no longer needing to worry about thinking.
I've never taken anti-depressants and don't understand why so many people do. If you can't calm down your own mind, then you've got a problem no pill is going to solve - and the fact that people abuse these pills or keep taking them habitually proves this.
You don't understand depression or antidepressants period.
Antidepressants typically take weeks to take effect and have a low efficency rate overall - the reason why so many are approved is because it is a matter of cycling through them to find one which is actually effective and without unacceptable side effects.
The closest form of "abuse" aside from idiots who take any random substances to try to get high (in which case Mike & Ikes or kitchen spices also qualify because it is a matter of intent) is using them to try to make other withdrawal symptoms more tolerable which is far from mainstream even among burnt out addicts.