Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brave New World

Reading Brave New World today, in 2016, compels me to believe that Aldous Huxley was visionary and maybe even a prophet. Some aspects of the book didn’t exist when he wrote it in 1932. For example, genetic testing or conceiving a child in a lab was not even considered possible at the time that he wrote the book. Humans didn’t even know about DNA and that there is a specific genetic makeup that controls who you are. Huxley didn’t know the term DNA or its specifics but he did in some way prophesize what we know today by describing a society that believes there is something during conception that makes the human characteristics visible as an adult. By noticing his creativity, I found it curious as to what his inspirations for the utopia he sets up in his book. Understanding what the social climate was when he wrote the book, can shed light on how we are to interpret it.
Four major events that influenced Huxley work was The Great Depression, World War One, Influenza and a “technology boom”. The first three inspired his perfect place while the last inspired the conditioning factor of the “brave new world”. The Great Depression was a traumatic event in that there was worldwide economic downfall and many people were starving. Although the depression originated in the United States because of the Stock Market Crash, the effects lingered around the world. Seeing these starving people made people think of a world without hunger. It’s a Utopian ideal in that everyone is satisfied and a world with no hungry people. As a conscious adult in this time, Huxley experienced the despair of The Great Depression therefore his utopia had to include a society where that concern no longer holds.
In Huxley's utopia, he also noted that there was peace and no wars because he was appalled by the nightmare World War One inflicted. It was the first war where all major powers were involved and there was such a high casualty rate unlike any war before it.  It was then a normal progression for Huxley to create a Utopia without wars which sounds like a pretty good society to me.
A society without disease cannot be argued as a bad thing as well. Influenza, a deadly virus that raged through the world, is estimated, by BBC News, to have killed more than World War One. These three descriptions of Huxley’s utopia was probably a dream to people suffering of such traumatic events. It was as if Huxley was writing to the people of his time granting them hope. But having read the whole book, it is clear that wasn’t the case. So where did things go wrong? Huxley's fear of technology. Huxley's time experienced a rapid technology boom that introduced new ways of life. One way would be consumerism which arises in the late 1800s because of mass production that is possible because of the new technology. At his time, consumerism was probably seen as a good thing because it increased the quality of life. But Huxley, the visionary that he is, pointed out how it can be disastrous by creating a society that conditions their people to consume to such an exaggerated point and a society which values consumerism over morals. This demonstrated his fear the future held as the economy becomes more and more reliant on consumerism.  What is worrisome is that I cannot say that his fear hasn’t become a reality.
We squirm at the thought of being genetically condition and to live in a society like the one of the brave new world but the reality is we are always being conditioned. The home we are raised in instill within us rules they hold as moral, the society which we live judge our actions and condition us to follow their directives. Ever walked out of you home without seeing an advertisement for a service or product? We ride on a bus, drive a car or simply open our email and we are bombarded with advertisements to a point that it’s as if companies are conditioning us to consume consume consume. Companies are out to sell the most and make the biggest profit putting aside humanity. The characteristics of Huxley's utopia was certainly relevant to the concerns of his time as his warnings, that couldn’t be clearer, are a problem of ours.

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