A dystopian novel predicting the future under the extreme dehumanizing effects of scientific and mass-production “progress”. And I must begin by saying that, as a work of literature (for me at least) it’s extremely hard to dissect! Like many great thinkers, far ahead of their time, Huxley novel received nearly universal criticism from his contemporary critics. Now, it is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
632 years after Henry Ford first mass-produced the Model T, begins Huxley’s story. Stability of the State (called the World State in the novel) is maintained though biological engineering and psychological conditional. Citizens are not born, they’re “hatched” to fill specific societal roles. Everything and everyone is planned, controlled, and exploited as a form of State utility.
Here’s Mustapha Mond, the “Controller” of the Western European zone, describing the World State:
“In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. When there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended – there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense. But there aren’t any wars nowadays. The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving anyone too much. There’s no such thing as a divided allegiance; you’re so conditioned that you can’t help doing what you ought to do.
Beyond the confines of the World State, exists reservations with populations of “savages” – those few whom still engage in love, child birth, and die of old age. At its core, Brave New World, is a tale of one Savage, named John, that is brought back into the World State and becomes deeply disillusioned. Both a satirical look and a blueprint of a possible future, we a made witness to a world run amuck with totalitarianism and scientific propaganda.
Take this passage, for example, where the Savage is speaking to a Controller:
“Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”
“There’s a great deal in it,” the Controller replied. “Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.”
“What?” questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.
“It’s one of the conditions of perfect health. That’s why we’ve made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.”
“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.”
“But I like the inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
I find Brave New World fascinating perhaps because Huxley is a such deeply pessimistic man and I am such the optimist. His morbid fixation with the economic realities of his time (1930s) and he deep rejection of the theories of J.M. Keynes makes for an incredibly thought provoking view of future societies. Especially for somebody like myself, who would be a contributor to his dim view of the future. But what exactly his view of the future is, after reading this book, I feel is quite ambiguous. Satire and political commentary are simply woven so tightly together that I struggle to unwind the difference. But that’s exactly why the book is so powerful and exiting to read!
If any of this interests you, and you would like to read this book, tell three people about my company’s latest project, WikiReader, and then send me an email. Before next week, I’ll chose a name from random, and send the winner my book.
Shipping, anywhere in the world, is on me.
Winner: Mark McClellan. Congrats! You’ll receive an email from me shortly… enjoy your new book!