Monday, January 15, 2007

Another Brave New World Post

“The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.” – Aldous Huxley

The above quote is taken from the 1946 foreword of Huxley’s book, Brave New World. The foreword itself is an excellent piece of writing with several exceptional insights. This line on propaganda and its effectiveness by its restraint was that which stuck.

Imagine just what the line means. Propaganda is at its most effective and sublime when it is silent about truth. With lies, an elaborate and eloquent machinery has to be set up to propagate the lies, to cover-up, to make them seem real. This is both costly and risky for political powers. Lies could probably work in a world where every one of its citizens is separated from one another; it could probably work in an Orwellian 1984 world of constant surveill. But in modern nations, however cut off, channels of information flow, communications make it hard, virtually impossible to pull off large scale national lies. Propaganda. The swath of violence in pre-independence Timor, in May riots Jakarta, attest to this. No matter how hard Government tried to lie, tried to portray untruths, the reality was quickly presented. Forcing Governmental capitulation.

That’s why, Huxley, writing in 1946 unravels the darkest heart of propaganda. Its not the lies really. It’s the silence about truth. This silence about truth is the most elegant form of propaganda. Imagine, you as a citizen, presented with 99 truths each day but only one truth is not mentioned. It is mute, silent, silenced. The citizen goes on with 99 truths. The citizen has no need whatsoever to verify the silenced truth. Because the citizen does not even know it exists. If it does not exist, how can the citizen find it? How can he prove anything? How can he fight?

For the truth to stay silent. To be silenced. It is not only about controlling all the instruments of media, all the channels of communications and enacting a state of perpetual surveill. As mentioned, propaganda itself can be efficient and un-obstrusive. For truth to stay silent, propaganda has to attain its ultimate goal. To borrow Huxley’s words “the positive sides of propaganda must be made as effective as the negative.” In short, propaganda must make people happy. It must make people “love their servitude”.

To love servitude. How to make people love servitude? Its not about chains and whips. Its about joy in the state of servitude. Its about being content in servitude. Its about a sense of security, a sense of dependence on servitude. This can really only be established with a fundamental revolution in the mind and body of the ruled. This is propaganda in the modern sense. Its not about Goebbels-ic propaganda with all its pomp and paegeantry. Its about this nursing of your soul as a baby, and the slow inscription of invisible tattoos into your body, your psyche as you become adult. Inscription is an important word. To inscribe. Scribe. Words. Thought. Action. Inscription. A script. A story. A narrative. The inscription of the body and soul. Like a tattoo. Like a brand.

Propaganda. Such a simple word when taught in schools. But its hardly that. Its about staying silent about truth. Its about nurturing a love of servitude. Remember that.

Blogos seems fairly prominent recently. Non appearances by political bloggers in BlogTv. A call to unite the blogos and mainstream media by Cherian, to mend the schizophrenia. Another commentary on the divide between mainstream media and blogos by Littlespeck. These are all fairly true. Truths actually. A multiplicity of truths. No one is right nor any really wrong. All this attention around the truth of the blog and its existence.

But the blog is only a medium. The medium delivers a message. The message is more important than the medium. Especially in Singapore. As it enters the Brave New World.

Quotes of the Day –

“The world is stable now. People are happy. They get what they want and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill … they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave … Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability … Happiness is never grand” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“Universal happiness keeps the world turning; truth and beauty can’t” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


Anonymous amethyst psychic said...

I read Brave New World some ten years ago. You've inspired me to reread it with different eyes. I really got chills reading this piece. Who are you?

9:06 PM  
Anonymous specimen said...

Community, identity, stability.

Chilling indeed. A hatchery and conditioning centre? The first paragraph has already gotten me hooked. I'll read the whole book.

It's online:

10:32 PM  
Anonymous ghost said...

rivetting stuff, count me in on the xenoboy book club lolz

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Neo said...

This post is so clear about what is happening around us. Wished that it was out earlier. Now, some things come to full circles.

Suddenly, we can see the green streams of characters in front of us...

2:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:05 AM  
Anonymous kf said...

I love this post. Blinding as daylight.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Ben Ho said...

Brave New world is should read Jacques ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. The book tells you why Man needs propaganda and is a much complex, richer read than Brave New world.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are living in a Brave New World known as 'Unique(ly)' Singapore.

The interesting parallels between the world of alphas, betas and who can forget epsilons and Singapura is too close for comfort. Remember the "Two is enough" and graduate mother policies?

Thank you Xeno Boy for helping us frame our reality that is truly Unique.

Lunatic Fringe

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am tempted to raise my arms and whine like some MPs, "The gahmen is not evil! Why do you all want to paint the gahmen until so jialat and evil?!"... "May i appeal to your common sense? Look around you and ask yourselves how much we have done for you and this country? So why do you hate us so much? Are we evil?"... (teary eyed, palms open)

hehehe standard deflection of issues and avoiding the questions... reminds me of the MM and PM dialogue with "selected" citizens.

8:36 PM  
Blogger anibodi said...

I read that book by Huxley some 40 years ago and can only remember the Title (Brave New World).

You are fantastic. You have awakened me inner thoughts. I will read the book again, this time with a different perspective.

Thanks indeed.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any Iraqi will gladly switch places with all you ingrates here for a life of servitude. At least in Singapore, the hangman does his job more professionally and clinically.

Will our diaspora polar bear Inuka, bred in the comfy confines of Singapore for the past 17 years in captivity be happier in the wild Arctic which he has no idea of nasty poachers and oil rigs?I rather be covered with algae than to be shot.

U do not need to look for miracles in church everyday. If you are holding a red sg passport, you are already a miracle! And you probably did something really good in your past lives.

3:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just dumped my red passport and stepping into the brave new world out there ...

It's a very different feeling I have for Singapore now. Pity and sympathy. That's how I feel about singaporeans.

God bless you all.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Brave New World :)

And that first quote of the day from Huxley, is one of my favourite chunks of words from the book.

How do you manage to write like this, all the time?! Ha.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over 20 years ago I stepped out into the world outside of Singapore & have survive nicely and comfortably in my adopted homeland, the land of the brave & the free. And I'm very proud to be identified as an American today. The grass is truly greener on the other side from my perspective.

5:02 PM  

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