"...for there is a well-attested correlation between depressed mood and low social status. The manifestations of melancholic depression and, conversely, euphoric mania are also uncannily typical of social animals occupying omega and alpha status-roles. Evolutionary psychology suggests that depression is part of a genetically adaptive coping process. Depressive behaviour involves the passive submission to a prolonged or uncontrollable stress. The persistence into the post-hunter-gatherer era of depressive states continues to foster (relatively) stable hierarchies of social dominance of our hominid ancestors. Yet pecking orders aren't an immutable law of nature. In this sense at least, Aldous Huxley got it wrong. The project of radically enhancing everyone's mood and motivation is likely to be subversive of authority. Enhanced well-being will leave people less, not more, vulnerable to exploitation by a power elite. In Brave New World, members of the populace are (effectively) the opiated dupes of the ruling elites. Soma is used as a pacifying agent of social control. The social consequences of genetically pre-programmed happiness, however, will be very different. This is because everyday mental super-health promises to undermine the biological underpinnings of the dominance- and submission-relationships characteristic of humanity's ancestral environment. Happiness, and an enhanced responsiveness to a wider range of rewards, is empowering. Happiness, and a pharmacologically or genetically enhanced capacity to anticipate happiness, potentially enables people to take greater control of their own lives. This sense of empowerment is in striking contrast to the spectrum of "learned helplesness" and "behavioural despair" so typical of depressive disorders. Boosting the efficiency of tyrosine hydroxylase, for instance, doesn't act merely to elevate mood. The consequent enhanced noradrenaline function in the locus coeruleus tends to diminish subordinate behaviour. Super-well people don't let themselves be bossed around. Contrary to a thousand-and-one sci-fi dramas, our post-human descendants aren't doomed perpetually to re-enact the power-plays of the African savannah..."
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The Abolitionist Project
Critique of Brave New World E-mail Dave