If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever.—O’Brien, Member of the Inner Party, 1984
All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.—The Director, Brave New World
The fictional worlds created by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell in their novels Brave New World and 1984, respectively, have the ideological themes of power and control intricately woven throughout their unsettling narratives of negative utopia that have an all too familiar feel and relevance to the present day story of Monsanto. In both works, the ultimate ends pursued by society’s overseers aimed at just that: complete control and the consolidation of power; however, the means each set of overseers utilized to achieve that goal was where their literary ventures diverged. Society in Huxley’s Brave New World was conditioned to revel in their servitude, while in Orwell’s 1984 they were cowed by fear and coercion. As we shall see, Monsanto’s narrative seems to be directly plagiarized from both classics of modern literature.
In a letter written to George Orwell, dated October 21, 1949, Aldous Huxley expressed his belief that the cold, brutish, totalitarian world of 1984 – where suspicion, fear, and the threat of violence were commonplace – would eventually evolve into one more resembling that found in Brave New World, a drug-laden, technologically engineered totalitarian world filled with blissfully ignorant, subservient subjects. In other words, he saw their creations as existing upon a continuum; where the social situation could effortlessly evolve or devolve from one form to the other given the proper circumstances. Huxley saw his imagined world as being preferred by the world’s power brokers; chosen for the sake of managerial efficiency. When viewing the issue of social control from “on high,” it makes perfect sense to want the people to “love” their lot in life as it avoids the risk of rebellions that comes from using overly punitive measures.
Before we can proceed any further, a distinction needs to be made for reasons of clarity.
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Though it is easy to discern the many parallels that exist between Huxley and Orwell’s worlds, especially if one is familiar with their texts, for our purposes here, we will differentiate the two methods towards realizing power and control as such:
Huxleyan Method: Use of Propaganda
Orwellian Method: Use of Power
It should be known that these two approaches are NOT mutually exclusive and oftentimes work in conjunction, but for the sake of simplicity and in showing how Monsanto’s narrative is in transition, we will leave them as they are.
Within the story of Monsanto, the multinational, agricultural giant hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, we can find the same ideological themes that figure so prominently in Brave New World and 1984. Much like the overseers of Huxley and Orwell, Monsanto’s ultimate ends are geared towards power and control – elements which form the impetus behind the corporate mindset – while their means, as we shall see, have involved a transition in approach from one of Huxleyan origins to one more resembling an Orwellian manner of operations. The company, along with its coterie of public relations specialists, has attempted to “condition” the populace – wielding the weapon that language can become with the same deftness of their Huxleyan counterparts – in the hopes of severing all ties to the realms of reality and intellectuality, while always retaining the Orwellian “boot” should things go awry.
At the epicenter of Monsanto’s story and the primary object of contention amongst the public and scientists alike, is their flagship product the genetically modified seed (from here on out referred to as GMOs, an abbreviation for the term genetically modified organism). Since the commercial arrival of the first GMO, in 1997, the task of gaining public acceptance for their new product has been one of the company’s primary goals. It is the pursuit of power and market share that places the narrative of Monsanto firmly upon Huxley’s continuum, and for the sake of “managerial efficiency,” it should come as no surprise that Monsanto’s executives would wish to start the company’s endeavors for their GMO products from the Huxleyan perspective. Remember, it is desired by the world’s power brokers that the people “like their inescapable destiny,” but with H.R. 1599, known amongst activist groups as the “Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act,” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, looming within the legislative pipelines, the company’s narrative is certainly transitioning into the Orwellian “boot on the face of humanity” while shedding the “Friendly Fascism” of Huxley.
As we continue with the stories of Monsanto, Huxley and Orwell, there is one disturbing fact that we must always keep in mind: while we can always close the book and walk away from the horrors of Brave New World and 1984 – an act of defiance against the author which grants us a temporary reprieve should the story ever become too intense, too uncomfortable – we have no such luxury with the story of Monsanto. It is very real. It is a living, breathing nightmare that must be faced collectively if we are to retain any shred of dignity, as a people, or hopes in a decent future for our planet. Aldous Huxley and George Orwell wrote their stories to serve as a warning against the coming forms of totalitarianism which they saw amassing upon the horizon, poised to strike against humanity. It would be a travesty on the grandest scale not to heed their prescient words and prevent the story of Monsanto from ever reaching its denouement.
So, let’s see how Monsanto has operated for the past 18 years while taking the Huxleyan approach.
Distorted Notions, Convenient Omissions and the Echo Chamber (The Huxleyan Approach)
Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth.—Bernard Marx, Brave New World
Aldous Huxley was fixated with propaganda. He was intrigued with how language – a medium through which we convey meaning and impart knowledge of the world we live in – could, in conjunction with certain techniques, be so easily perverted and manipulated as to be used as a means to subjugate.This was precisely what he decried against in Brave New World and expounded upon in Brave New World Revisited (1958); the techniques that convert language into a weapon and the mind into a prison.
The predominant technique used by Huxley’s controllers was inculcation, the teaching of a belief through constant repetition. To further crystallize their chosen doctrines within the public mind they added hypnopedia, or sleep teaching, and the prolific use of drugs; a program of indoctrination by all accounts. While engaging the subconscious through sleep and narcotization is far outside the realm of possibility for Monsanto, they, along with the help of their public relations specialists, have taken the premise of Huxley’s controllers and constructed their own program of indoctrination intent on conditioning people all across the globe into loving the company’s GMO products.
In initiating their program, Monsanto’s first order of business is to link its GMO products to the popular notions of coexistence, equivalence (in product and method in obtaining the product), stewardship, beneficence and consensus. These particular words were chosen because when they are heard they evoke a notion, grounded in semantics, within the recipient’s mind; and it is precisely those “evocations of mind” that the company wishes to capitalize on to propagate acceptance for their GMO products. But, in order to avoid any contradictions between those notions and reality – to maintain the appearance of truthfulness – certain omissions regarding the company’s products must be made and never recalled; lest the trick be revealed.
But the precarious air of truthfulness granted by the product-notion link is simply not enough, so Monsanto’s next task is to establish credibility for their GMOs by running them through an elaborately constructed echo-chamber. By channeling their pro-GMO message through various journalists, academicians, celebrity scientists and even entire governmental agencies, the public is conned into believing that the fantasy surrounding GMOs is an actuality. Where Monsanto’s singular voice cannot create resonance within the public’s mind, a far flung chorus of hired hands can be far more convincing; and like the funhouse mirrors the illusion of depth is created.
As sophisticated an indoctrination program as Monsanto has built around their GMOs, it belies the fact that it has largely been a failure; as poll after poll has consistently shown that the American people are incredibly leery of the company’s claims about their genetically modified products. So, in the face of an obstinate public, unwilling to submit to the more congenial methods of persuasion, Monsanto is forced to shed it sheep’s clothing and reveal the wolf within.
It is with this metaphorical unveiling that Monsanto plunges their narrative from the shores of Huxley and headlong into the Orwellian realm.
Legislative Monstrosities: The Revealing of the Taboo and the Crux (The Orwellian Approach)
The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?—O’Brien, Member of the Inner Party, 1984
In 1984, George Orwell showed that he understood very well the dynamics and corrosive effects of power. His knowledge on its intricacies was most likely gained from his time spent with the Spanish anarchists, in which he fought alongside in the Spanish Revolution and wrote lovingly about in his Homage to Catalonia (1938). In Orwell’s story, the controlling “Party” and all its abuses, were the inevitable result when an individual, or group, assumes the reins of power. He recognized the inherent ability that power has to consume and transform all that it touches; how it can become an unquenchable force utilized solely to perpetuate itself. What Orwell saw was the cyclical nature of power. Moreover, he understood that power knows no moral boundaries. History is replete with examples demonstrating this fact.
It is in viewing the texts of the heavily lobbied for H.R. 1599 and TPP – currently sitting in the legislative pipelines, waiting for their final blessings before becoming law – that unveils both the crux (patentability) and the taboo (profitability) regarding GMOs. It is these two aspects, patentability and profitability, that are often left out of the GMO debate being waged in the media circuit, but they speak more to Monsanto’s real intentions for wanting complete freedom for their GMO products. Patentability is the crux simply because without it Monsanto would have no means with which to enter the cycle of power, while profitability is the taboo due to its unmentionable status in “civil” discussion; odd, given that we currently live in an age where greed and selfishness are glorified. Best not to think about these things as it tends to spoil the game.
For Monsanto, GMOs and the various technology assisted processes they use represent patentable “things” and patents are a pathway to power – via the profits they generate. The company, in turn, utilizes the power inherent in those patents to devise ways to acquire more and more patents; thereby gaining more and more power. It is an insidious cycle that will ultimately consume the entire food chain and lock it behind a paywall to which only Monsanto, and their biotech cohorts, will hold the key. Orwell’s “Party” would be proud.
But power is only an end, and our primary concern is with the means that tie into 1984’s narrative, so that is why we turn to the coercive forces that H.R. 1599 and the TPP represent.
These two legislative monstrosities are the quintessential Orwellian “boot.” In H.R. 1599, Monsanto hopes to make illegal in the US, “any requirement respecting, prohibition against, or restriction on, the sale, distribution, or marketing of – food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organisms.”
Within the TPP’s Intellectual Property Chapter (18), which pertains to entire countries, we can find similar language as it calls for “criminal procedures” against any act which “has a prejudicial impact on the interests” of patent holders and also calls for penalties so severe as to “deter future infringements.”
With H.R. 1599 Monsanto hopes to place itself above the states; and through the TPP the company hopes to place itself above sovereign nations. If actually passed into law – which they are currently on the fast track for – they will become, in effect, Monsanto’s agricultural, biological and ecological coup d’état. The courtroom could very well become the new environment to which farmers and gardeners of all sizes become most acquainted with.
These two documents can and should be taken as Monsanto’s tacit admission that since they couldn’t make us love their GMOs, they now plan on shoving them down our throats.
Before moving on, we must ask ourselves this question: If GMOs are to be the greatest benefit humanity has ever known – a claim Monsanto repeats ad nauseum – would such draconian measures be necessary?
I myself believe, perhaps on insufficient grounds, that the common man will win his fight sooner or later, but I want it to be sooner and not later.—George Orwell, Looking Back on the Spanish War (1943)
There was a personal point of commonality between Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, a point which often goes unmentioned, and is far more inspirational in spirit than either of their novels ever were; both authors believed in the ability of “people” to control their own destinies and break free from coercion in all its forms. Yet, the infinitely difficult part in accomplishing this feat is to first recognize that we are not free; to open our minds and our eyes; to be able to perceive the prisons being built within and around us.
In concluding Brave New World Revisited, Huxley opined:
Some of us believe that that without freedom, human beings cannot fully become human and that freedom is therefore supremely valuable. Perhaps the forces that now menace freedom are too strong to be resisted for very long. It is our duty to do whatever we can to resist them.
Monsanto and their GMOs represent the force that is currently menacing our food freedom – which is but one of the many freedoms we have that are currently under attack – and we do not have long before that force coalesces and descends upon us.
It would be easy to succumb to the seeming inevitability of Monsanto’s narrative, but that is yet another illusion.
The ability to change that narrative lies with us. We must move beyond the passivity and complacency that has allowed Monsanto to be in a position it should have never acquired in the first place; especially given their disastrous legacy. It’s time to toss aside our apathetic ways and emerge ready to do whatever we can, however we can do it. It is our duty!
With the great lengths that Aldous Huxley and George Orwell took in alerting us to the tyrannical forces of our world, it is a moral imperative that we not let their efforts have been made in vain.
We cannot afford to fail them, just as we shouldn’t want to fail them.
We have a choice to make: do we want live in Monsanto’s world, or do we want to live in a world of our own devising?