Wednesday, April 29, 2020


The Individual Is Maimed

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Beyond the Mexique Bay (London: Chatto & Windus, 1950), pp. 259-260:
A primitive is forced to be whole — a complete man, trained in all the skills of the community, able to fend for himself in all circumstances; if he is not whole, he perishes. A civilized man, on the contrary, is under no external necessity to be whole. He can go comfortably and, as we judge success, successfully through life, incapable of doing anything except, shall we say, writing detective novels; within the strong economic and legal framework of civilization he is perfectly safe. A highly organized society protects him from the worst effects of his own incompetence; allows him to be ignorant of all the useful arts and yet to live. So far as immediate physical disaster is concerned, he can be unwhole with impunity. But there are also psychological disasters — the gradual disasters of atrophy and decay. Our admirably efficient organization has no power to save a man from these. Indeed its very perfection is the cause of these individual disasters. All civilization, and especially industrial civilization, tends to turn human beings into the mere embodiments of particular social functions. The community gains in efficiency; but the individual is maimed.

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