Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?

Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.

Exchange between Bernard Marx and Lenina
Aldoux Huxley, Brave New World


Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?

Heavy handed? Yes, but it makes the point. This is why I’m a minimalist. I want the freedom and flexibility to pursue my own definition of happiness. To like what I like, to live as I choose to live, and not be pressured to conform. To not do things because everyone else does, to buy things because everyone else has them, to pretend to be happy because I’m expected to act like I’m happy.

Brave New World is always worth a re-read. No, it did not literally predict the future, but I think metaphorically a lot of the themes still resonate with the things that have gone off the rails in modern society.

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BerinKinsman.com

Education must transform itself into sociology

All political instruction finally should be centered upon the idea that Auschwitz should never happen again… This would be possible only when it devotes itself openly, without fear of offending any authorities, to this most important of problems. To do this, education must transform itself into sociology, that is, it must teach about the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms.”

Theodor Adorno, Education After Auschwitz


There are more things affecting society than which political party is in power. Things like systemic racism and income inequality aren’t a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, they’re a cultural issue. “The societal play of forces the operate beneath the surface of political forms”. That’s the content of the entertainment we consume. It’s the attitudes on social media we put up with. They’re things we accept as normative because they’re pervasive and seemingly always have been.

Critical thinking must be taught. Question authority at every turn. Not just political authority but cultural authority. The sitcom plotlines and the thing the influencer did and the stories that the news chooses to cover. We need to be able to see not just the way things really are, but to imagine where they may lead. And then we need to take action when that scares the hell out of us.

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Education must transform itself into sociology

When the most valued skill is the ability to entertain

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used either to bolster illusion and give it credibility, or discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes—the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment sky-rocket—the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe.”

Chris Hedges,
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle


Hedges wrote this book in 2009. Allow that to sink in.

I don’t know what else to say about this. I’m not sure what else there is to say. You can look at current events and draw a through line, I hope. Conspiracy theories spread by memes on message boards. Lies on the sides of buses. Populist politicians who get over with snarky sound bites and typo-riddled tweets. Much as we have killed the climate, we’ve killed literacy and allowed critical thinking to whither on the vine. We did not value it, and took it for granted, and ignored it. Now we’re reaping what we’ve sown.

When the most valued skill is the ability to entertain…

We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image

We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality. We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image. Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a ten-year-old child or an adult with a sixth-grade reading level. Most of us speak at this level, are entertained and think at this level. We have transformed our culture into a vast replica of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, where boys were lured with the promise of no school and endless fun. They were all, however, turned into donkeys — a symbol, in Italian culture, of ignorance and stupidity.”

Chris Hedges,
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle


Currently reading this book, and it gives voice to a lot of my own thoughts about pop culture, the failure of critical thinking, and the current state of the world. We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image – memes, gifs, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, streaming services. No long diatribe here. I just wanted to share this quote. I encourage you to consider reading this book and taking what it says to heart.

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