Response to Brave New World
Brave New World is most certainly a novel ahead of its time. Written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley, the novel provides very interesting insight on what our future may look like. It acknowledges the threat of technology, and humanity’s strife against civilization.
In Huxley’s dystopia, there are no problems. There are no hungry, no elderly, no sick, and everybody is accounted for. Citizens don’t challenge authority, because enforcement takes place through genetic engineering, hypnopædia, and soma - the ultimate of euphoric drugs. Everyone has their “perfect” role in society and is happy doing it. Even though certain alphas intellectual autonomy didn’t conform to societal standards, they were cast out and sent to islands far away from civilization. Worshipping the king of the production era, Henry Ford, and adopting the production era mentality, society ran as a well-oiled machine. Even Bernard Marx, the seeming challenger of society, was accounted for. While Bernard and Helmholtz didn’t believe they were totally happy, they were both doing exactly what they were conditioned for, and then were cast out before they could significantly disrupt society. The only true opposition came when John Savage was introduced.
Savage was originally in awe at civilization, at its efficiency and wonder; however, once he learned of the social interactions between people and the artificial happiness they were given, John simply couldn’t acclimate and challenged the norms. One of the main ways we see John challenge the status quo is by his rejection of Lenina; he disagreed so strongly with civilization’s ‘hook-up culture’ that he turned down an opportunity to be with a girl he desired so strongly. Ultimately, he argued with Mustapha Mond, and this is where we see the conflicts between civilization and humanity.
John starts off the argument by arguing the need for a God, for a Godless society is misled and unjust. Mond claims there is a God, just not the same as John’s, and argues that God changes with mankind. On this point, I agree with Mond. It is factual that God cannot be proven and is an abstract idea, and looking back on our own history, people most certainly feel differently about God now than they did during the crusades. John then argues that Christian values are needed in a society to maintain order and bring about love, while arguing that God is the reason for everything fine, noble, and heroic. Mond counters with one of my favorite quotes from the book, “Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.” (238, Brave New World) He explains that there is no place for nobility and heroism when there are no divided allegiances, and they’ve obtained this in civilization through proper politics. Also, soma promotes love and kindness much like Christianity does, minus the orgies. Ultimately throughout the argument, Mond has a strong counter argument for all claims made for humanity by John, and they conclude that Savage simply wants to reserve the right to be unhappy—a very unappealing stance.
The reason Huxley’s utopia has eliminated wars and has no divided allegiances is because Huxley wrote this during the precursor to WWII. He witnessed the great depression and WWI, and saw how devastating these were on society. In the novel, his dystopia was formed after a great war and this absolutist society was formed. This was Huxley’s way of saying that war is destructive, and will result in a world that people wouldn’t want to live in.
Mond and Savage’s argument makes me wonder if the elimination of all troubles would truly remedy all troubles. If we are able to successfully eliminate all things that bother us today, would we just find something new to bother us tomorrow, or would we truly be freed? While there are objective troubles such as hunger and disease, there are many subjective troubles like loneliness, and I wonder if these would adapt beyond the ‘elimination of troubles.’
Since Mond won the argument, it is apparent that Brave New World’s civilization is quite a powerful dystopia. It simply has as answer for everything, unlike the other utopias/dystopias we’ve read in the past. However, one thing this society relies heavily on is technology, and this worries me. We are in an age where technology is rapidly advancing, much more so than during the Industrial Revolution. New and innovative technologies are becoming available to the public to make life easier, such as the iPhone and the rise of computers. We even have self-operating vacuums now in the form of the Roomba. It is obvious that technology is advancing rapidly, but will it get to the point to which human work isn’t needed? Are apps like Tinder the beginning of the ‘hook-up culture’ seen in the novel? Will technology actually be able to do all the work humans do now, so that humans can live a life of pure leisure and little purpose, similar to those in Brave New World?
I don’t believe so. I don’t believe people would allow technology to reach the level it was in Brave New World. Although technology is rapidly advancing, we aren’t necessarily seeing a decline in humanity, only an adaptation of it. While humans love their leisure time, I can’t imagine the majority wanting to do nothing all-day and relying on technology to do what needs to be done. Also, who would fix the machines? The ultimate limit of computers is that they cannot fix themselves.
This novel was a great read, and brought up many philosophical issues to which I’ve found myself discussing with friends. Would you reserve the right to be unhappy?
- Stephan DiGiacomo