[The Savage] What about self-denial, then? If you had a God, you’d have a reason for self-denial.
[Mustapha Mond] But industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning.
[The Savage] You’d have a reason for chastity!
[Mustapha Mond] But chastity means passion, chastity means neurasthenia. And passion and neurasthenia mean instability. And instability means the end of civilization. You can’t have a lasting civilization without plenty of pleasant vices.
[The Savage] But God’s the reason for everything noble and fine and heroic. If you had a God…
[Mustapha Mond] My dear young friend, civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have go to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended–there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense. But there aren’t any wars nowadays.
The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much. There’s no such thing as divided allegiance; you’re so conditioned that you can’t help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there aren’t any temptations to resist.
And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears–that’s what soma is.
~Aldous Huxley, 1932, A Brave New World
If after every tempest came such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death…
~William Shakespear, 1603, Othello