14 June 2009

Quote for the Week: Aldous Huxley

This quote could, at first, seem rather depressing. The question is:
Is he wrong? Are we humans, after evaluation of our known history, very different to this description?

"I know of no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not lead him to destruction: a victim to endless illusions, which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fills his physical life with barren toil and battle.

He attains a certain degree of physical comfort, and develops a more or less workable theory of life, in such favorable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or of Egypt, and then, for thousands and thousands of years, struggles, with varying fortunes, attended by infinite wickedness, bloodshed, and misery, to maintain himself at this point against the greed and ambition of his fellow-men. He makes a point of killing and otherwise persecuting all those who first try to get him to move on; and when he has moved on a step, foolishly confers post-mortem deification on his victims."


laBiscuitnapper said...

I think he's got it pretty much spot on, tbh, but then, Mr Huxley wasn't a complete idiot.

And I don't think it's that depressing, from an objective perspective. All it's saying is 'That is what humanity is'. It'd be like saying gravity is depressing because it's 'only' an attractive force. Humans are stupid, intelligent animals with quirks that separate us from other species and similarities that bind us to them as well. The point is to just accept what humanity is and work with it, rejoice when we better ourselves and not waste time mourning when we head into a Dark Age.

Or at least, that's my take on it.

David said...

Look what happened with the recent election in Iran. Horrible. We’d think darkness has won. But here in America Obama won, and we have change. The truth is existence is a mixed bag, and was always have to struggle to bring evolution to society. We can never be complacent.

Greta Christina said...

I think there's truth to it... but I don't think it's the whole truth. I think the human race is all of that; but I don't think it negates the loving, inspiring, creative, generous, and just plain funny side of our nature. In a way I think it's a cop-out: it's easier to be cynical and focus on how much we suck, than to accept what a wildly mixed bag we are. If you don't have hopes for humanity, you don't have to be repeatedly disappointed.

On an unrelated topic: This is Greta Christina of Greta Christina's Blog, and I'm wanting to email you but I can't find your email address on your blog. Can you drop me a line? I'm at greta at gretachristina dot com. (Sorry to use this un-kosher method; I just couldn't think of anything else.) Thanks.

C Woods said...

Since we don't have cable, my husband and I have been viewing some historical TV series from Netflix, most recently HBO's ROME. There has not been one episode where we don't look at each other and say, " Does that sound familiar?" or "Nothing's changed." An episode showed a man with a cloth wrapped around him being dunked in water ---an early form of water boarding? Caesar promised a small amount of money to every citizen ---economic incentive payments? The King of Gaul was captured in war and executed ---like Saddam Hussein?

Sometimes I am deluded into thinking human progress has been made, for example, we surely must have learned something from the Holocaust, then Rwanda happened. I start to think people are more compassionate, then I see the greed of Wall St. juxtaposed against children starving the the streets around the world, and I want to cry.

My husband accuses me of being an optimist ---and I am in my personal life ---but when I look at the big picture, I tend to agree with Huxley.

Ralph Dumain said...

Not bad. Huxley was a mystical crackpot, too,but he did score some points.