Aldous Huxley draws a none too subtle parallel between the conditioning techniques of “social predestination” and “hypnopaedia” and the methods of political propaganda and advertising in our world. As in 1984, Super Sad True Love Story and so many other dystopian novels, Brave New World makes a lot of the power of language. Whether totalitarian or consumerist (or, of course, both), governments in these novels strive to strip down their citizens’ linguistic resources. In Huxley’s novel, children grow up hearing endless repetitions of catchy slogans and jingles, which eventually become their opinions and represent much of their mental range. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is clear on this point:
The sum of suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too–all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides–made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions. (23).
Slogans like “Everybody’s happy nowadays” (79) and “Everyone belongs to everyone else” (40) sound somewhat silly to 21st-century ears. Gary Shteyngart offers some alternatives, geared for the age of IM, in Super Sad True Love Story–usually slogans packed with typo–as we’ll see in a few weeks. My favourite from that novel is the slogan of the “American Restoration Authority” (the government of the US in its final decline): “Together We’ll Surprise the World!” (43).
In the meantime, imagine you had Helmholtz Watson’s job, but here and now. What slogans might you come up with to indoctrinate our future citizens? These slogans can’t simply state the orthodox position: they must also be catchy and pithy. Give ’em a shot. It’s harder than it seems. My attempts so far? “My body, your GIF” & “I’d love you to ‘like’ me” & “I’m only as smart as I feel” & “Let’s talk phones!”
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Toronto: Vintage, 2007 .
Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. Toronto: Random House, 2011.