Today there are strong debates and questions about the extraordinary breakthroughs in science such as cloning, in communications through the Internet with its never ending pool of knowledge, and the increasing level of immersion in entertainment. People facing the 21st century are trying to determine whether these new realities of life will enhance it and bring life as they know it to a great unprecedented level, or if these new products will contribute and perhaps even cause the destruction of society and life. To many cloning, censoring, and total immersion entertainment are new, but to those who have read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the topics are reminiscent of the horror that is found in Huxley’s fictional utopian world where the dehumanizing of man is achieved in the interests of “Community, Identity, Stability,” the world state’s motto.
The novel Brave New World shows that in order for a utopian society to achieve a state of stability, a loss of individuality, and the undoing of Mother Nature must occur. Successfully engineering these conditions produces a world where people are finally living “happily ever after,” but at a great cost.
The time of Brave New World is in the future on the planet earth and it is, a pessimistic accounting of the shape a scientifically planned community would take, of its sterility and human emptiness. Ten controllers of the world states determine all aspects of society. Children are born in state hatcheries where according to what social class they will be, they are given or denied certain elements that are critical to proper development. The citizens are happy and content with their simple lives as it is shown in the novel when it is stated, “We don’t want to change. Every change is a menace to stability,” therein lies the problem.
The key ingredient to stability that the novel implies is that individuality must be absent. The government in Brave New World understands that fact and in the worlds of one of the ten controllers of the world states, “there is no civilization without social stability. No social stability without individual stability.” The need for stability creates a government which believes that stability can be achieved if people think and look the same. Stability, in effect, demands robots, not people.
The main element of what makes a person human and unique are the emotions that inhabit their minds, which they can control to some degree. Emotions are the fuel that drives man to act on a belief or a dream, to become a better person, to grow and learn and to love. Emotions are such a personal, intimate feeling of such overwhelming individual influence it is to no amazement that the government in Brave New World discourages these intense human characteristics.
Emotions are thus controlled in Brave New World, control and stability can best be achieved when everyone is happy. The government does its best to eliminate any painful emotion, which means every deep feeling, every passion, is gone. Huxley shows that the government recognizes the dangers of negative emotions when the controller states,
“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery.
Once individuality and emotions have been eliminated in Brave New World, the chain of dehumanization next enters into the field of art and personal expression. Since no one in Brave New World can create or express emotions, individual expression is retarded. The lack of a cultural environment adds to the artistic wasteland and tragedy does not arise form man’s situation; it once arose from the instability of a particular situation-one that in the new society has been erased. Without literature, people will never think and learn, of course they will live in a stable society where nothing will ever change, but people pay the price of creativity and the ability to think. The leaders in Brave New World suggest that “you’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art”. The citizens of Brave New World see the purpose of life as just maintenance of well being, not as “some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge” as Huxley writes.
Religion, a product of an individual’s thinking of creation, is gone. People in the Brave New World are never taught religion, and are conditioned so they’ll never be alone and think about the possibility of God. The creation of a religion is almost akin to an act of artistic expression, as it requires an enormous amount of emotion and individual belief. With an idea of a higher being and consequently an idea of a more important aspect of life than just remaining stable would be detrimental to the utopian world. Instead of pondering an afterlife, the citizens remain true to their society which is shown when Bernard Marx states,
Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead.
The importance of the individual is zero in the Brave New World. The people of Brave New World are refused any opportunity to plan their own property, change their role, rank or employment in society, or even live permanently with another person of their choice. In the end, the society has erased the individual and at the same time ceased human growth, even while they themselves think they are expanding humanity.
Loss of identity is in large part the result of genetic engineering. Tampering with Mother Nature and the miracle of life ensures that early off in life there are few, if any emotional ties. The people of Brave New World are not born to a mother or father, instead a single fertilized egg is cloned repeatedly until ninety-six separate embryos are present. From the cloning process the identical embryos are put in tubes and then grow until they are ready to be born. The implications of this engineering are tremendous. Everyone in the Brave New World is essentially parentless and the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ have become the ultimate in unmentionable obscenity. With the destruction of the family, the government has single handedly prevented the largest source of human emotion: family love. There are no mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, or grandparents. Everyone seemingly melts into a giant generic mass, all in the name of stability and progress.
To further stabilize the society, “sexual freedom is legalized.” Free sexual relations are encouraged for all, especially for the young, to discourage any sense of love. With sexual relations starting so early, the citizens can never fully appreciate the act of love and the feelings that go with it. This emotional engineering shows the clever ways in which the reigning government body can sugar coat a loss of basic human feelings. In this Utopia, what would be considered true love for one person in today’s world would lead to neurotic passions and the establishment of family life, both of which would interfere with the community and stability.
In the Brave New World people embrace their oppression willingly, this is due to the teaching of the young. Through controlling birth and numbing emotion while experimenting with sex at young ages, the new “person” is educated. The teaching the inhabitants of Brave New World receive is more of a method of programming than a process of learning, thinking and discovery. This in turn produces a society that adores the technologies that undo their capacities to think. Every human being in Brave New World is conditioned to fit society’s needs, to like the work he will have to do. The government uses hypnopaedia, or sleep teaching, and also shock therapy as the main means of education for they see that the vulnerability of the human mind can be put to some practical purpose. Huxley shows an example early in Brave New World of the method of education as a Director of a Hatchery explains to a group of students:
Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks-already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly liked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissoluble. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.
The government takes advantage of the innocence of children and uses it to further fuel their carefully tweaked machine that they call society.
Entertainment in the society is no more than blinds created by the government to hide the cultural and emotional emptiness. Non-stop distraction of the most fascinating nature are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation.
In addition to the entertainment created by the government, there is a powerful drug called soma. Soma use is encouraged by the government to be consumed by the citizens. The main reason for this is that soma puts the person into a deep numbness, void of all feeling. In the novel, a character that is feeling too emotional takes a dose of soma to rid herself of those odd sensations. Huxley shows that when the citizens were either alone or had a moment of free time, creative forces tended to creep out. This is when it was most opportune to take soma tablets, when the individual is conscience of being an individual.
The society in Brave New World does have a good side: there is no war or suffering, little disease or social conflict, but for those few highlights, the society pays a very high price. There is no love, family, science, art, religion, and history, the most hallowed shibboleths of our culture.
For a book that was published in 1932, Brave New World has remarkable meaning in today’s world. It even visits one of the many Areas of Interaction: Homo Faber, Latin for man-made. The entire commonwealth of the Brave New World is a man-made scientific triumph, a chemically driven utopia. Not one single ingredient of this futuristic world was left the natural laws of society; the entire civilization was a controlled experiment, thus being completely fabricated.
Personally, I believed that the entire notion of the Brave New World and its regime to be on of the most interesting topics Ive read about in ages. It stuck a chord in me and forced me to think of todays society, versus the enviably sheltered lives of the Brave New World populace. As entertainment becomes more and more extreme and cutting edge in our time, I wonder if virtual reality will take the audience on a soma-like trip into its deep unconscious? Can a new medium with even more bells and whistles than television waste even more of an individual’s time? One can already see the wasting of the individual in our near future.