JOHN ROBSON:  National Post- Excerpts

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, peace on Earth, etc. But I fear the happiness I wish you and the sort you’re likely to be offered soon have very little in common.

Last time I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, in 2002, I was already struck by his profound vision of big business and big government converging in a hedonistic managerial state that treated human nature as a problem to be solved and, in a ghastly way, solved it. Rereading it now, I shudder at Huxley’s 1946 comment that while he set his nightmarish dystopia 600 years away, “the horror may be upon us within a single century.”

Ford is worshipped in BNW for inventing standardized mass production. But also because “Our Ford — or Our Freud, as, for some inscrutable reason, he chose to call himself whenever he spoke of psychological matters — our Freud had been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life.”

There are increasingly eerie parallels to our own time. For instance, in BNW, the words “father” and “mother” are taboo, vulgar, even obscene. As recently as 2002 I felt Huxley was straining to make a point here. Yet politically correct government forms now forbid these terms as oppressive to gays, the transgendered and what have you. As for “marriage,” we’re diluting it into meaninglessness so it can painlessly fade away.

Painless is vital here. BNW conditions people to be hedonistically happy, unreflective, untroubled by real emotions or important causes. Hence long-term relationships are frowned upon, early sexual experimentation is strongly encouraged, contraception is everywhere, babies are raised by the state, people are constantly entertained, genuine individuality is rare and shunned. Absurd?

Meanwhile the new Ontario sex ed curriculum, which includes pre-teens, never mentions love or marriage. We attack awkward historical statues and schools banish books with disturbing sentiments. And euthanasia is creeping up fast, a logical consequence of “Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.” In another book, Huxley called death “the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.” But give us a minute here. We’ve been busy.

Government and corporate science have not yet found Huxley’s side-effect free SOMA. But they’re sure pumping anti-depressants, ADD medications and the like into young and old alike. And in 2005, the Daily Telegraph said “Mind-altering drugs could be as common as coffee within a couple of decades to boost performance at school and at work, to ‘unlearn’ addiction and to erase memories of distressing events such as a terrorist attack, according to a government think-tank…. the report shies away from discussing whether future governments will be tempted to encourage the use of ‘happy pills’ for social control.”

As with Nineteen Eighty-Four, it can happen unless we prevent it. But the soft seduction of trouble-free life is harder to fight off than Nazi jackboots because it whispers from within.

In 1946 Huxley also regretted offering only insane Utopia or primitive savagery, not simple sanity. But sanity is becoming less simple, and rarer. If his sexually and materially abundant, safe, regulated, conformist, morally and emotionally empty Brave New World no longer viscerally disgusts young people, ours already has such people in it.

National Post