Any attempt to claim knowlwedge of human nature will properly be met with a stream of exceptions. However, as we interact with one another, we have no choice but to make assumptions about who we tend to be and who we probably are not. We do not have the time to explore the inner dimensions of everyone we meet. That task would be hard enough even were we to have unlimited time to explore the dark and bright iin all whom we meet. So each of our relationships begins with an assumption about the dependability, honesty, prudence, level of narrcissism, and other directedness of others.
When I observe and think about humans as a group, I see the discussions in seminar rooms about the meaning of life as unusual reveries. From what I can tell “demotic” or typical “happiness” is little but sensate pleasure.
Turn up the amplifiers at concerts we attend; follow Lewis C.K.’s habit of eating not until we are full, but rather until we finally have reached a level of self-disgust; yearn for the victory of our home team so that we can bask in shared celebratory domination; seek good health so that we can live longer for additional bundles of sensate pleasure; by all means, drink immense rivers of alcohol; eventually reach a financial landmark such that we can stay in those hotels that sit serenely out into the bays of Bali; (I just cannot give sex its due here because my rhetoric could never attain the heights of Trump’s example.)
Oh yes, I know about Doctors without Borders and dozens of others who make us all proud to be humans. But in the main I think most people by far would rather just take some Soma and a nap.
If I am correct, maybe we can better understand why most of us probably see Huxley’s Brave New World as a utopian novel. Recall that the emphasis of the behavioral engineers who governed the world was SECURITY as the alpha value justifying what the intellectuals in the room might see as a stultifying sameness, destruction of imagination, and a loss of even the illusion of personal freedom. While Huxley probably thought he had implanted enough negatives into the novel to create disgust in his readers, I am guessing that when queried, most readers would yearn for the brave new world. The entire scenario reeks of safety. Fear has been booted from our homes.
In a few days, 50,000,000 Americans will vote for a Presidential candidate who promises to eliminate immigrants who would take our jobs, eliminate the puny 30,000+ in ISIS, provide high-paying jobs even for those who have been abandond by the political establishment, prevent the appearance in our midst of those who do not applaud our values, and create a tax code that we can understand. “Fear, be gone.’
And surely that candidate would have tens of millions more votes were he not so personally loathesome. We are terrified of terrorists, even though they are a relatively minor threat to our well-being compared to any number of problems that the national security apparatus blithely ignores. And the Presidential candiate in question pledges to move so aggressively against terrorists that punishing their relatives is a real possibility, We are very afraid.
One final bit of evidence for our abiding focus on security is our willingness as a nation to tolerate secret prisons and the abandonment of due process when we torture suspected terrorists. Did you catch the October 8th NYT video “Memories of a Secret CIA Prison”? Torture a few souls and who knows how much security will emerge? Just how far toward Huxley’s portrayal of a programmed authritarian regime would we be willing to go to be secure? For without security, how could we be “happy”, at least in this desiccated, corrupted sense of the word.