Perhaps it’s true that human beings have always had a tendency to prefer delusions to reality. It seems to be more true today than ever. One of the saddest of modern delusions is the idea that happiness can be obtained by taking a pill.
It does of course fit in quite well with the modern obsession with entitlement. Nothing has to be paid for and no-one ever has to face the consequences of their actions. If someone is unhappy than that is intrinsically unfair; it’s a violation of their human rights. They can’t possibly be unhappy because they’ve made bad life choices or because their only belief systems are a confused tangle of hedonism and nihilism. No, it can’t be anything like that. It must be a malfunction of the brain. They must be sick. And if you’re sick you go to a doctor.
So unhappy people no longer try to work out what they may have done wrong with their lives. They no longer examine their belief systems to find out if they are actually viable or not. They simply go to their doctor, announce that they are unhappy, and wait patiently while the doctor writes them a prescription for happiness.
Of course we don’t call it unhappiness any longer. We call it depression, which sounds more like an illness. An illness can’t possibly be the fault of the individual. We don’t blame a person for coming into contact with a virus that gives them a cold. Depression works the same way. Somehow or other we catch this illness, possibly from sharing a crowded train with someone who has the illness and is breathing the virus into the air. Then we go to the doctor to get it cured.
Aldous Huxley predicted all this in Brave New World back in 1931 (except that he called it soma and we call it Prozac), and he also predicted the social consequences. It’s one of the many ways in which Huxley turned out to be far more accurate in his predictions than Orwell. Huxley understood that the totalitarianism you have to fear is not the hard totalitarianism of Stalin, Hitler and Mao but the soft totalitarianism in which the state becomes a warm caring mother substitute. It’s not Big Brother we have to fear but Nanny who will make everything safe for us as long as we’re good children. It was one of Huxley’s most brilliant insights that social control is exercised much more effectively when a population is infantilised rather than terrorised. And a pill that makes us happy is one of the most potent tools to bring about the infantilisation of the population.
Happiness pills have not been a government conspiracy. They are a result of the medical profession’s desire to extend its empire into every aspect of our lives. For the Left this has been a happy accident. When everything from unhappiness to gambling is an illness then no-one has to take any responsibility for anything. Which inevitably means that the government steps in and takes the responsibility for us. Nanny has no need to rule us with terror because everyone understands that Nanny knows best and that everything Nanny does is for our own good.
If we still feel that there is something wrong somewhere we just need to take another soma tablet.