Madness, badness, sadness – Aldous Huxley

Goering and Hitler displayed an almost maudlin concern for the welfare of animals; Stalin’s favorite work of art was a celluloid musical about Old Vienna, called The Great Waltz. And it is not only dictators who divide their thoughts and feelings into unconnected, logic-tight compartments; the whole world lives in a state of chronic and almost systematic inconsistency. Every society is a case of multiple personality and modulates, without a qualm, without even being aware of what it is up to, from Jekyll to Hyde, from the scientist to the magician, from the hardheaded man of affairs to the village idiot. Ours, for example, is the age of unlimited violence; but it is also the age of the welfare state, of bird sanctuaries, of progressive education, of a growing concern for the old, the physically handicapped, the mentally sick. We build orphanages, and at the same time we stockpile the bombs that will be dropped on orphanages. “A foolish consistency,” says Emerson, “is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers and divines.” In that case, we must be very great indeed.
That all, or even most, human beings will ever be consistently humane seems very unlikely. We must be content with the smaller mercies of unemployment benefits and school lunches in the midst and in spite of an armament race. We must console ourselves with the thought that our inky darks are relieved by quite a number of lights. Between Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, there stands a mental hospital which admirably illustrates our blessed inconsistency. Bomber plants and guided-missile laboratories surround it on every side, but have not succeeded in obliterating this oasis of organized and instructed benevolence. With their wide lawns, their tree-lined walks, their scattering of nondescript buildings, the hospital grounds look like the campus of an unpretentious college. The inmates, unfortunately, could never be mistaken for undergraduates and co-eds. The mind is its own place, and their gait, their posture, the distressed or remotely preoccupied expression of their faces reveal them as the inhabitants of dark worlds, full of confusion, fertile in private terrors. But at least nothing is being done in this green oasis among the jets and the rockets to deepen the confusion or intensify the terrors. On the contrary, much good will and intelligence, much knowledge and skill are going into a concerted effort to transform their isolated, purgatorial universes into something happier and more accessible.


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