A Brave New World
Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" would never leave one questioning whether or not his mystical, seemingly ludicrous, and fictional world could in any way ever apply to today's society. That is, a real society. However, for the sake of silly and pointless argument, I will attempt to go out on a limb and put together some sort of seeming similarity between the real and the fake worlds so that I don't point out the poor souls who've managed to make fools of themselves by comparing the two. For this reason and this reason alone, I will compare and contrast today's society with Huxley's physiological problems for the sake of entertainment. While Huxley's invented society may seem feasible in some respects, there are hard facts why it will never work. More importantly, there are hard facts for why it would not be wanted despite its title of a universally happy society.
The story is written 632 years into the future in a negative utopia society where humans are simply dehumanized. The inventions that man has made, mainly technology, have become the controller of humans instead of a tool for humans. In other words, society has become completely inverted from what it is now and humans are now simply controlled by their own inventions. Bear with me here and try to at least make as much possible sense of this as I have. The idea here is that technology has become too relied on and the result of it is simply amorality. Or more centrally, the lack of need for morality. This basically means that morals are no longer a part of regular human interaction and instead a moraless technological interaction is used.
Huxley's society is one in which humans basically become technology. He states that nature is replaced by science, morality by drugs, and individuality by conformity. They become a result of science and technology similar to a robot or a computer. There are simply too many variables, chemicals mixing in the brain, and too many senses for humans to ever come to that state. Granted, it does seem as though humans are becoming less moral and less interested in marriage and more interested in abstract sexual encounters.
In order to make this work technically, Huxley had to solve the inevitable pain that humans feel. He easily quenched this problem with the use of drugs and so fourth. He gets rid of human pain by using some sort of biotechnology. This almost implies that humans need to feel pain in order to be human. However, I think the biggest pain that needs to be hidden in his society, is the lack of self identity which I will continue to elaborate. Anyhow, he used a drug called soma that gives sort of a high that's like a tranquillizer and most likely genetic engineering of the test tube babies.
In Huxley's predicted society, women are basically treated like meat. There are several reasons why this will never happen and it hasn't happened. For starters, as long as we have crazed feminists, they will never let it happen. However, more importantly, it would be useless to treat women like meat because then women would have no value. I know this is a deep concept, but hear me out. If you don't have to fight for a woman whether it be fighting to win her over or fighting with another man for a woman in even the smallest sense, then there is absolutely no point. A man will never feel good about himself and his win and it would be pointless to have any type of encounter with a woman unless it paid off. Secondly, it would not be economical like it was in Huxley's society. The way STD's are spread these days makes it simply silly.
Bernard and Lenina, two of the main characters, are used to show how a relationship should be in Huxley's society by giving an example of one that is headed the wrong way. Lenina is an emotionless robot female that conforms to Huxley's society and pictures things like marriage a disgusting idea. She simply wants to mate with him and nothing else. He, on the other hand is an outcast and he has this thing called a mother who he cares about and he wants to have a monogamous relationship with Lenina instead of sharing her with society. However, I don't see this type of relationship ever panning out. I think that females have this innate need to make relationships complicated and to make a struggle. To prevent myself from sounding sexist, I'll argue that men do the same thing just in different ways. Basically, the idea of a monogamous relationship will always exist, but I won't disagree it will change in some respects. For instance, marriage these days is basically less used than divorce. I know it didn't used to be like this 100 years ago and I can only guess it will be worse in another hundred years.
The love of nature is not economical in Huxley's society. Seeing that the whole society is based on what is economical, it throws out all the small talk, the pretty drives on the parkway, and the pretty painting of the sunset. I really do like this idea myself and this may be one of those points that I agree with, but still, these things serve a direct purpose in the interaction between humans and they will not survive without it. People need people, but even more, people need people to be different from themselves. Bernard took Lenina on a date and he went out to fly over the water in his helicopter and he stated to Lenina, "it makes me feel as though, as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn't it make you feel that way Lenina?" (Coughlin). Of course she would have no part of such a feeling. People need nature. To make them value nature (this thing that they need for things like water and air to survive) they must find it appealing in a direct sense. For some strange reason some people think a pond is pretty and a drive on the parkway is fun. If that's what it takes to make them love nature then so be it- it's required.
Huxley came up with a rather interesting method of instilling ideas into the people. Admiringly, there were many ways in which this was done, but I found the sleep teaching rather interesting. His point for it was to teach people to love their future. However, I simply find that rather hard to believe. A future without having to struggle, and a future where you know what is going to happen, isn't a future at all. It's simply passing time with no value. How can that be fun and happy? Again, this is yet another reason why this type of society can never actually be real. People will always need an unknown and a reason to strive to keep going. I've argued that they can never be in a robot state- a state where they wouldn't know the difference (like a vegetable). So, they would have no reason to live if there was no future.
There are many reasons why Huxley's society would never work. However, I think the biggest reason it would never work is people would have no self worth. People that have no self worth, and ultimately some sort of self identity have no reason to live. People could never be happy without some sort of self worth. People need a purpose and a reason for living and it has to be in their own self interest. Without a sense of self, a society won't work simply because there will be no individual.
Despite the fact that Huxley's society was always happy, people will never be happy unless they have to struggle. This is something inherent of humans and I think it is a property humans will always possess. The fact is, without sin, bad, evil and loss, there can be no good, fun, excitement, winning. To say the least, without the latter list of things, people will never be happy and they will never have a self worth and therefore they will have no reason to live. I think there is probably a hint of creating some sort of happiness using drugs, but I don't ever see this working. There is a difference between happiness that's created by drugs and happiness that a person feels when they have achieved something through a struggle. Besides, a constant happiness all the time is not happiness at all as I stated before. I see no argument for allowing this to even work.
Near the end of the story, after Huxley has laid out how this society would work, he uses Bernard to compare it to our current society. Bernard wants the right to sin and right to be unhappy. He ultimately wants this freedom that is only limited by nature and by no other human. I think that when another human limits another human, there is an inherent need to fight that simply to survive. It's basically like an instinct to always try and be free from the bounds of any other human. Of course, the one exception is if one is too ignorant to even know that another human is controlling oneself. However in the end, John is given the choice of insanity or lunacy. Huxley admits that this was a flaw in his story and he would have rather given John the choice of a society that constantly struggles for sanity as another option (ClassicNote). Basically, in all of the choices a person never really comes up with anything ultimately good, but still enjoys himself.
In conclusion, I simply don't want this type of society to happen. I can argue that it won't ever happen, but only time will tell what will actually happen. In some ways the idea of a "happy" and perfect society just sounds so great. The idea of not being judged and put down is something we strive for on a daily basis today. But, I feel that it is a huge misconception. In Huxley's society, people are simply hardened to the very facts of life and nothing has any value. Just like society will harden itself to things like death and consider it just a simple fact of life not even worth crying over, society will also harden to the very things that it loves and lives for.
1. Coughlin, John. "Shadows of an Invisible Man" Winter 1997. November 23, 2003. <http://www.oakland.edu/%7Ejcoughli/distopia.htm>.
2. "Brave New World" ClassicNote. November 23, 2003. <http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/BraveNewWorld/authornotes.html>.
3. Huxley, Aldous. "Brave New World" November 23, 2003. <http://huxley.net/bnw/index.html>.