فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter two

State Conditioning

Mr Foster left them at the door of the Unbottling Room, where the embryos were taken from their bottles to go through the all- important process of passing into the condition of babies, the first real stage on their way through life as human beings. The DHC and his students took the nearest lift and were carried up to the fifth floor.

INFANT NURSERIES. CONDITIONING ROOMS, said the sign.

The Director opened a door. They were in a large empty room, very bright and sunny. The whole of the southern wall was a single window. Half a dozen nurses, wearing the official uniform of white coat and trousers, with their hair hidden under white caps, were putting out big bowls of roses in a long row across the floor.

The nurses stood still as a mark of respect when the DHC came in.

‘Put out the books,’ he said.

In silence the nurses did as he had ordered. The books were put out between the rose bowls - a row of attractive children’s books, each open at some brightly coloured picture of an animal or a fish or a bird.

‘Now bring in the children.’

The nurses hurried out of the room and returned in a minute or two, each pushing a set of four shelves on wheels. Each shelf, protected with wire nets, was loaded with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since they were Deltas) dressed in light brown clothes.

‘Put them down on the floor.’

The infants were unloaded.

‘Now turn them round so that they can see the flowers and books.’

The babies were turned round. At once they began to move towards the books, attracted by the bright colours and pretty shapes. As they moved, the sun came out from behind a passing cloud. It shone on the roses and on the pictures, lighting them up and making them even more beautiful. The babies cried out loud with pleasure and excitement.

The Director rubbed his hands with satisfaction. ‘Excellent,’ he said. ‘It might have been done on purpose.’

Some of the babies were already at their goal. Their little hands reached out uncertainly, touching the roses and the brightly coloured pages. The Director waited till they were all happily busy. ‘Watch carefully,’ he said. And lifting his hand, he gave the signal.

The Head Nurse, who was standing at the other end of the room, pressed a switch.

There was a violent explosion. Alarm bells sounded.

The children screamed. Their faces were ugly and twisted with fear.

‘And now,’ the Director shouted, making himself heard above the noise, ‘now we will make the lesson clearer with a small electric shock.’

He waved his hand again and the Head Nurse pressed a second switch. The screams of the babies became desperate. Their little bodies stiffened. Their little arms and legs made sudden movements as if they were being pulled by hidden wires.

‘We can send electric shocks all the way through that part of the floor,’ shouted the Director in explanation. ‘But that’s enough,’ he signalled to the nurse.

The explosions ceased, the bells were silent, the little arms and legs stopped moving and the screams grew less desperate.

‘Offer them the flowers and books again.’

The nurses obeyed; but at the mere sight of the roses and of those pretty pictures of pet animals, the infants drew back in horror and began to cry louder than ever.

‘Notice that,’ said the Director with an air of great satisfaction, ‘notice that.’

Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks; already in the minds of the babies these pairs of things were connected, and repeated lessons would make the connection permanent.

‘They’ll grow up with what at one time would have been called a “natural” hatred of books and flowers. They’ll be safe from books and flowers all their lives.’ The Director turned to his nurses. ‘Take them away again.’

Still screaming, the babies in brown were loaded on to their shelves again and wheeled out, leaving behind them the smell of sour milk and a very welcome silence.

One of the students held up his hand to ask a question. He could see quite clearly why you couldn’t have low-grade people wasting the Community’s time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something that might upset their conditioning in some way, but he couldn’t understand about the flowers. Why go to the trouble of making it impossible for Deltas to like flowers?

Patiently the DHC explained. If the children were made to scream at the sight of a rose, there were good economic reasons for this. Not so very long ago (about a century) Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons had been conditioned to like flowers in particular and wild nature in general. The idea was to make them want to be out in the country at every opportunity and so force them to use transport.

‘And didn’t they use transport?’ asked the student.

‘Quite a lot,’ the DHC replied. ‘But nothing else.’

Flowers and scenery, he pointed out, have one great fault; they are free. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to take away the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes; to take away the love of nature, but not the need for transport. For of course it was necessary that they should keep on going to the country, even though they hated it. The problem was to make them use transport for a reason which was economically better than a mere affection for flowers and scenery. It was solved.

‘We condition the lower classes to hate the country,’ ended the Director. ‘But at the same time we condition them to love all country sports. Then we make sure that country sports require expensive equipment. So they buy and use manufactured articles as well as transport. That is the reason for those electric shocks.’

‘I see,’ said the student, full of admiration.

‘Once upon a time,’ the Director began speaking again, ‘once upon a time, while Our Ford was still on earth, there was a little boy called Reuben Rabinovitch. He was the child of Polish-speaking parents. You know what Polish is, I suppose?’

‘A dead language, like French and German.’

‘And “parent”?’

There was an awkward silence. Several of the boys turned red in the face. They had not yet learned the difficult art of distinguishing between immorality and pure science. One, at last, had the courage to raise a hand.

‘Human beings used…’ he paused. The blood rushed to his cheeks. ‘Well, they used to give birth to their own babies.’

‘Quite right.’ The Director nodded.

‘And when the babies were unbottled ‘“Born”,’ came the correction.

‘Well, then they were the parents - I mean, not the babies, of course; the other ones.’ The boy fell silent, covered with confusion.

‘In short,’ the Director said, ‘the parents were the father and mother.’ This was really strong language, even if it was science and not just dirty talk. The words fell with a crash into the awkward silence. ‘Mother,’ he repeated loudly, rubbing in the science. He leant back in his chair. ‘These,’ he said, ‘are unpleasant facts; I know it. But then most historical facts arc unpleasant.’

He returned to Little Reuben. ‘One night his father and mother (crash! crash!) forgot to turn off the radio in his room. (For you must remember that in those days children were brought up by their parents and not in State Conditioning Centres.) While he was asleep, a radio programme was broadcast from London. Next morning Little Reuben woke up and repeated word for word a long lecture by that strange old writer George Bernard Shaw. His (crash!) and (crash!) could not understand a word of it, of course. They thought their child had suddenly gone mad and sent for a doctor. He, fortunately, understood English, recognized the speech which he had also listened to on the previous evening, realized the importance of what had happened and sent a letter to a medical journal about it.

‘The principle of sleep-teaching had been discovered,’ said the Director. ‘Now come with me.’

The students followed him to another lift, from which they stepped out at the fourteenth floor.

‘Silence, silence,’ whispered a loudspeaker. ‘Silence, silence,’ repeated other loudspeakers at intervals along the corridor. The students and even the Director himself, without thinking, obeyed the voices and walked on the tips of their toes. They were Alphas, of course, but even Alphas have been well conditioned. ‘Silence, silence.’ The air of the fourteenth floor was heavy with the whispered command.

The Director carefully opened a door. They entered a room where the light was very low. Eighty little beds stood in a row against the wall. All that could be heard was light regular breathing and a continuous hum like the sound of very faint voices speaking softly at a great distance.

A nurse stood up as they entered.

‘What’s the lesson this afternoon?’ the Director asked quietly.

‘We had Elementary s@x for the first 40 minutes,’ she said, ‘but now it’s gone over to Elementary Class Consciousness.’

The Director walked slowly down the long line of beds. In each one lay a child asleep. Eighty little boys and girls with pink, healthy faces lay there softly breathing. There was a whisper under every bedcover.

‘Elementary Class Consciousness, did you say? Let’s have it

repeated a little louder by the loudspeaker.’

At the end of the room a loudspeaker hung on the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.

‘…all wear green,’ said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, ‘and Delta children all wear light brown. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are even worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides, they wear black, which is such an ugly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.’

There was a pause, then the voice began again.

‘Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so clever. I’m really very glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children all wear light brown. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are even worse.’

The Director pushed back the switch. The voice sank to the faintest of whispers which could just be heard from beneath the 80 bedcovers.

‘They’ll have that repeated a hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months while they are sleeping, then they go on to a more advanced lesson. Sleep-teaching is the most powerful force of all time in social education. The child’s mind becomes these suggestions and the total of these suggestions is the child’s mind. And not only the child’s mind. The adult’s mind too, all his life long. The mind that thinks and desires and decides. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!’ The Director almost shouted in his enthusiasm. ‘Suggestions from the State.’

A noise made him turn round.

‘Oh, Ford!’ he said in another tone, ‘I’ve woken the children.’

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