Re: virus: Building Utopia

Tue, 23 Mar 1999 10:58:02 -0800

Reed Konsler wrote:

> I have a question. If you had never suffered any frustation, would you
> value art?

I don't know. It depends what you mean by art, I suppose. As you may have heard, I draw comics. For me, "art" is a means of self-expression. I think that if I'd never encountered any frustration in attempting to communicate an idea by putting lines on paper, if my every attempt to express myself in this fashion came off perfectly, that I might take the ability for granted and not think to value it any more than most of us think to value our eyesight while wathching a movie. At the same time, if my every attempt to communicate an idea with my "art" were successful, then that would strongly reinforce my art-making behavior.

> I think this consciouness thing is kind of a consolation prize
> for putting up with the bullshit of life.

That's got a nice ring to it, but I don't know if I buy it. I'd be more inclined to say that "character" fits the above sentence better than "consciousness." Still, I think I know what you're saying.

> It's like building a taste for spicy
> foods...once you have it, you can never imagine going back but before
> you have it, you could never imagine why anyone would want it.

The inhabitants of BNW are content. Their needs are met (with the exception of the need for self-actualization) and their minds are kept occupied with trivialities, but I think you'd be hard pressed to convince Plato that they're happy.

> <I> wouldn't want to live in the Brave New World, either. But <I>
> wouldn't ever exist there...all the pain and suffering of my life would
> never have happened.

Well, the system wasn't perfect, and some people were dissatisfied, but I agree that the complex of formative experiences that produced Reed Konsler are not likely to have taken place in Huxley's Brave New World.

> Or, if it had, I would be on one of those islands.
> I think I'd like a nice sub-tropical one.

As I recall, the island mentioned in Brave New World was an experiment to see what would happen in a society composed entirely of Alpha's. They started a war, and the experiment was terminated. By the time the events in BNW took place, there were no such island enclaves for the dissaffected. In the afterword to the edition I read, Huxley wrote that if he had it to do over again, he would have given the savage the option of going to live on an island, but that wasn't an option in the "Brave New World" that Huxley wrote, and the savage ended up hanging himself.

I haven't read "Brave New World Revisited." Perhaps the island option comes from that sequel to BNW.

> But, even as you an I wouldn't live in BNW...don't we as a culture try
> to preserve innocence into ever and ever longer periods of life.

If by "we" you mean "society," then yes. I think it's a destructive practice. We attempt to deny children any knowledge or experience of adult vices (with the exception of violence which we celebrate for children in image and word from the moment they're able to focus on a tv screen) until they reach the age of majority at which time they are free to wander naked and blind onto the obstacle course.

> We
> invent childhood, and then adolecence, and then college. The tend
> seems to be an attempt to alleviate frustration, offer a
> longer period of innocence.

And the result is that an enourmous number of college freshmen, given their first oportunity in 18 years of life to make they're own decissions, who drink themselves into oblivion and flunk out or drop out of college in their first semester. At MU, the first semester dropout rate was over 30%. That was fine with the administration however, as they required all freshmen to live in the dorms and to pay for tuition and room and boar up front, and after the first month, none of that first semester's fees are refundable, so the university gets paid for instruction never received and room and board never provided.

> It strikes me that this general trend (do you agree with my perception?)
> is indicative that, while we might recognize our own taste for the
> perverse, we try to make the lives of our children less so.

I recognize the trend, but leave KMO out of "we," cause he thinks it's a bad plan.