British Writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
I have always loved the work of Aldous Huxley and have been reading him almost worshipfully for over fifty years. While I admire his fiction, particularly Point Counter Point (1928), I like his essays best. Several years ago, I dished out a couple hundred dollars to buy a clothbound six-volume set of his collected essays. Today I picked up one of his essays, “Revolutions,” written in Do What You Will in 1929, where I found the following:
The revolution that will then break out will not be communistic—there will be no need for such a revolution, as I have already shown, and besides nobody will believe in the betterment of humanity or in anything else whatever. It will be a nihilistic revolution. Destruction for destruction’s sake. Hate, universal hate, and an aimless and therefore complete and thorough smashing up of everything. And the levelling up of incomes, by accelerating the spread of universal mechanization (machinery is costly), will merely accelerate the coming of this great orgy of universal nihilism. The richer, the more civilized we becomes, the more speedily it will arrive. All that we can hope is that it will not come in our time.
Huxley was lucky. It came well after his death in 1963. It started with the Tea Party movement around 2009 and reached an apogee with the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016. Whether that particular individual lasts, we still have the revolutionaries in their Southern or Midwestern fastnesses.
Vladimir Putin: A Man’s Man?
We have been enemies with Russia for a century now. What happens sometimes during these long sieges of enmity, we lose sight of who we are and who the Russians are. We have gone from the benign presidency of Obama to what looks to us like a would-be Tsar, the narcissistic Trumpf. Russia, in the meantime, traveled a much longer route: From Communism where there was some attempt to help the common people, to the kleptocracy under Yeltsin, to the quasi-dictatorship of Vladimir Putin, former KGB Chieftain. And this Putin had the nerve to try to influence our election!
There is no doubt that Russia under Putin is an amalgam of discipline and targeted cruelty. Enemies of Putin, such as journalist Anna Politkovskaya, were ruthlessly murdered; and friends of Putin shared in the billionaires’ bounty of their leader. Do we want Russia to become a democracy like ours? Like ours under Trumpf?
According to Russian novelist Mikhail Shishkin:
To call people to the barricades in Russia is beautiful, but senseless…. We lived through all this already in the early ’90s. All revolutions take place in the same way—the best people rise up to fight for honor and dignity, and they die. On their corpses, thieves and bandits come to power, and everything comes full circle. The same thing happened during the Orange Revolution in Kiev. The same thing is happening right before our eyes in the Arab world. Apparently, in Russia a new generation has grown up who want to experience the barricades. All right. They will experience them. And they will be disappointed.
There is, to my mind, very little difference between Trumpf and Putin—except the difference in the two cultures. Trumpf would do the same things as Putin if he could. There still seem to be checks and balances in the United States, but for how long?
“Never, perhaps, have I lived in such total serenity. There is great happiness in being detached from everything and understanding everything. The happiness I feel is immense, bitter, painful, and calm. Life appeared suddenly before me stripped of everything that encumbered it: habits, conventions, duties, worries, superfluous relations. We end up abandoning our souls almost entirely to these things. Do you remember that story by Kipling we read together at Vevey: ‘The Miracle of Purun Bhagat’? It’s the tale of an old Westernized Hindu who retires high up in the mountains in order to finish out his life there with the earth, plants, tame animals—eternal reality. I’m an occidental. I have no wish to remove myself from men or from action: these too belong to eternity. I wish only to overcome my own impotence and to finally understand the curve described in the sky by the hurricane which is carrying all of us along with it.
“All man’s miseries are reduced to naked simplicity here. We live the life of the poor. And I understand the poor, their direct vision of reality, their power to hate, their need to overturn the world. I have no hate, except, perhaps, in the end, for the things I love the most—I believe we are almost all of us without hate in this prison. I may be mistaken, for I don’t observe the others enough. I don’t have the time, would you believe it?
“They say the terror is going to end; I don’t think so. It is still a necessity. The storm must uproot the old trees, stir the ocean to its depths, wash clean the old stones, replenish the impoverished fields. The world will be new afterward.”—The Counterrevolutionary Professor Lytaev in Victor Serge’s Conquered City