July 26, 2006
Brave New World
Read one of those books I “should have read but never got round to” over the weekend: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Written in 1932, it had an insight too deep for its time. Predicting that humanity would be reduced to merely that of continuous pleasures. In order to maintain a socially stable society, it was necessary to remove all possible barriers to pain and sorrow. This included pregnancy, parenthood, love, monogamy, individual opinion, personal feelings.
And in its place you had an order all too perfect and complete: the breeding of babies in test tubes, altered according to the purposes for which they would eventually serve: the Alphas, Epsilons and Betas and so on. Each class of infants would be socially conditioned into believing this was the caste for them – there was no way out.
And if ever there was the feeling of restlessness or being disturbed at anything in this Order, you would pop a pill of soma in, or a number of them, depending on how long you would like to escape into another world. Soma relieves you from depression, pain and suffering on this earth – instead transports you into a paradise, an ethereal world inside your head.
How far are we from this, really, 74 years after Huxley had that brilliant idea? Let’s think about it. You have a pill-popping nation. Think Prozac Nation. Think all sorts of medication that allow one to transcend the painful, real world – which eventually can kill, if not your body, your mind, your heart.
Social conditioning. What really has society been socially conditioned to believe? That certain things are necessary in order to keep society in its comfortable place and position? That anything out of the ordinary will ruffle feathers, step on the growling lion’s toes so an implosion is bound to take place?
And then of course you have the Savage, named so because of his believed and presumed position – uncivilised. But oh how much more civilised this creature is! Because of his knowledge of Shakespeare and how this means the world. The question of what reality is arises. Where from do we draw inspiration? The perfect squeaky clean sterile environment? What is a perfect society? Is it really necessary to impose regulations such that all and all alike behave the same way, subscribe to the same teachings? (Huxley goes the extent, proving that the most ridiculous of beliefs can be imposed upon us – something to think about.)
In the end, the book (like Orwell’s 1984) provokes questions that are applicable in both the political and spiritual realm. Politically, what level of control is leveraged upon a nation and citizens to achieve social stability but giving up individuality? Spiritually, what sort of happiness is false happiness? If it is imagined and imposed, does it become genuine? Is perceived happiness truly happiness? Personally, I choose pain and gore. Give me the fight, the furious battles of suffering and blood. Also give me emotion, happiness, elation, frustration, love, truth and freedom. O Brave New World is not so brave and not so new after all…