January 30, 2012
I'm usually not one for fictional books because they always seem so elementary to me, especially when juxtaposed with the plethora of riveting nonfiction books available in this day and age generally anywhere. That's not to say they don't have their place, but I'm not a fan of them. I'd much rather have a nonfiction book with information that is new (to me, anyways). With that being said, I picked this book up with the knowledge that it was an allegorical & classic novel; it's subtle message hinting at society, science and life at large (or whatever you interpret it to be). Moreover, it seems to be a common name for those interested in society & history. I gave in somewhat reluctantly and somewhat curiously, and read Mr Huxley's novel.
The futuristic society described in this novel seems like a trip to opposite day in a spongebob episode - viviparous birth is a laughable event whereas systematic & controlled birth(s) via vials are preferred, children are (literally) brainwashed in their sleep, and individualism is discouraged in favor of (somewhat) humans which are all copies of each other. These people were taught to put society before self and were coerced to love exactly what they were created to do. They were bred by occupation, so choice and freedom were a thing of the past. Needless to say this is also a dystopian novel.
The above picture depicts the advanced technology & science of the age, along with the unchanging influence to conform to the society around you. Unlike our society today, it wasn't a subliminal message or anything of the like. It was an openly spoken & enforced rule. One of the main characters in the novel is ostracized for not conforming to the society in which he is born & is ultimately isolated and removed for this.
One notable occurrence in this novel is the use of drugs. In today's world, drugs are quite popular. In this case, I am referring to any drug that is used in a form of escapism, natural or man-made. They happen to have created a 'perfect drug' which one consumes quite regularly to control their behavior, restrain their emotions & ultimately escape from reality called soma.
What makes it perfect? No side effects. This soma becomes so important that workers are payed in currencies of soma. Is that a hint towards our drug usage today or a clever metaphor? Your interpretation says it all.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel's depiction of the future because it cautions us about advances in technology without the morality and/or reasoning to use it with caution. It reminds us that what we do in this world truly carries through - there's no restarts.
One major thing that I didn't mention above is that in sacrificing so many of their worldly traditions such as monogamy, love, reading, overall emotions and freedom, they got one thing. Happiness. Probably not what you and I would consider happiness, but they were none the smarter. They were conditioned to be happy with their lives, from the janitors to the elites. I couldn't help but think of Buddhists who detach themselves from society in order to reduce pain & suffering. It was a sort of cheap crappy happiness from our perspective today but they knew nothing else. They had been programmed so. This reminds us that if we truly want the things we say we do - love, happiness, achievement and so on.. it comes at a price. There are also the corresponding hatred, disappointment and failure that stare us equally in the face. In their society the latter were artificially removed and a world where a completely different definition of happy was created. Happy with your drugs, society & your day to day sexual partners until you die. You work for society, not yourself.
Let's hope this Brave New World remains true only on the pages it's printed on!