Erasmo Calzadilla

Aldous Huxley

HAVANA TIMES — Towards the 1930s, the West watched the ascent of fascism and communism in horror. Novelist Aldous Huxley, however, cast a glance at the times and presaged the advent of a Western-styled totalitarianism: one that would encourage hedonism, sexual permissiveness and the enjoyment of material possessions, a world where people are eternally young, healthy and happily alienated.

Years later, already an old man, the restless pioneer would experiment with a new “toy”: psychedelic drugs. His reflections on these would contribute to the cultural revolution that shook the United States and other parts of the world in the 1960s.

Much has been written about psychedelic experiences. Few, however, have managed to combine the analytical distance of the scientist, the humanism of the philosopher, the sensibility of the artist and the mystical openness of the bold psychonaut in their writings, as Huxley did.

I’ve enjoyed Huxley’s works immensely, but, this late in the game, I thought the old man no longer had anything in store to surprise me with me. I was wrong. Devouring Point Counter Point, a novel published in 1928, I ran into one of the first literary references to the geologicallimits of exponential growth. Let us hear the exchange that Huxley’s politician, Webley, has with the farsighted Lord Edward:

“Progress!” he echoed and the tone of misery and embarrassment was exchanged for one of confidence. “Progress! You politicians are always talking about it. As though it were going to last. Indefinitely. More motors, more babies, more food, more advertizing, more money, more everything, forever. (…) What do you propose to do about phosphorus, for example? (…)“you’re simply draining the soil of phosphorus. More than half of one per cent a year. Going clean out of circulation. And then the way you throw away hundreds of thousands of tons of phosphorus pentoxide in your sewage! Pouring it into the sea. And you call that progress. Your modern sewage systems!”

“But all this has nothing to do with me,” protested Webley.

“Then it ought to,” Lord Edward answered sternly. “That’s the trouble with you politicians. You don’t even think of the important things.

“Talking about progress and votes and Bolshevism and every year allowing a million tons of phosphorus pentoxide to run away into the sea. It’s idiotic, it’s criminal. it’s … it’s fiddling while Rome is burning.”

He saw Webley opening his mouth to speak and made haste to anticipate what he imagined was going to be his objection.

“No doubt,” he said, “you think you can make good the loss with phosphate rocks. But what’ll you do when the deposits are exhausted?” He poked Everard in the shirt front. “What then? Only two hundred years and they’ll be finished.”

Today, in the 21st century, Cuban politicians are as staunchly in favor of exponential growth (the kind measured on the basis of GDPs) and as indifferent to the fate of phosphorous as their capitalist counterparts were a hundred years ago. The difference is that the matter has now become a burning issue and they need to disguise their schemes with the makeup of “sustainable development.”

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

7 thoughts on “Huxley: The Farsighted Anarchist

  • You mention the irrational fear of nuclear power, and how you cannot understand why people oppose it. Perhaps you are looking at the issue only as about economics & environmental science. From those sciences it’s relatively straight forward process to arrive at rational policies. But that’s not where the most fervent opponents of nuclear power (and coal, and oil, and hydroelectric) power are coming from.

    There is a radical Luddite attitude, infused with Marxist, anarchist, anti-capitalist & anti-Western ideology at the base of the environmentalist movement. They oppose almost all technology because they oppose the civilization which created it. Their opposition to development is a strategy to weaken and eventually destroy Western civilization.

  • On that I agree, but again thats is not good enough reason to not doing what we can to minimize our ecological fingerprint.

    One little comment on the issue of hydrocarbons; unless we unleash a thermonuclear war we are never going to run out of hydrocarbons. Fossil fuel is just the fossilized remnant of ancient flora and fauna and as long as there is life on earth we are going to have the materials needed to make more and algae and plants are pretty adept to recycle the carbon we burn in the atmosphere. Sure, we can’t use it to replace the ridiculous amount of oil we are burning right now and there are a lot of ethical issues involved, but is been done as we speak (see maize alcohol in the US or sugar cane in Brazil)

    On this subject, I find tremendously stupid the irrational fear of nuclear power that for some weird reason permeates our societies. Not only we are discarding what is probably the most effective way to obtain power (and so far the cleanest and safest), but by actively opposing it we are making it unsafer for everyone by extending the operational life of decrepit old plants instead of building newer and safer ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *