Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A colleague of mine who is a philosopher recommended I read Brave New World, a book written in 1931 by English author Aldous Huxley.
I have read several dystopian novels including 1984 by George Orwell, Anthem by Ayn Rand, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, but this one disturbed me the most.
In all other dystopian novels I’ve read, compliance with the despotic authoritarian regimes that demand the surrender of knowledge, creativity, and individuality are enforced by strict control over the behaviour and actions of all people and the maintenance of power through force, intimidation, and torture.
In Brave New World, the freedom of choice of individuals is taken away by the removal of the normal human reproductive system, family units, and relationships. Reproduction is replaced with a state-controlled artificial system whereby babies are grown in test tubes and the developing foetuses are ‘interfered with’ so that the babies are suited to their pre-designated status in life.
Once the babies are decanted, they are conditioned by repetitive mantras during their sleeping hours which condition their behaviour towards each other, the different societal castes, and their leisure and consumption behaviour. Everyone is conditioned to accept everyone else and appreciate their contribution to the smooth functioning of society. They are also conditioned to accept death and to not have any strong emotions or feelings. There are no human attachments through love or a sense of belonging.
In this manner, everyone is happy as their physical human needs are met and even exceeded, as they are kept entertained as well as fed, clothed, and employed. All people are also provided with a soothing happiness-maintaining drug called Soma to take the edge off any mild emotional upsets they might experience.
The society in Brave New World is that of a rigid caste system where status, intelligence and worth, all of which are designated from conception through the method of development of the foetuses, is prescribed equally for males and females from almost all population groups on earth.
The Alphas are the intellectuals of the World State and take all academic jobs such as college professors, scientists, and leadership roles. They wear gray and have a lot more freedom provided the do not stray outside of the societal norms of ‘everyone is for everyone’ and they do not try to push the boundaries of the search for freedom, truth, or science. They do not have relationships but engage in numerous sexual encounters with many different people. The maintenance of their status costs them their individual thoughts and ideas. They are dedicated to maintaining the system and thus the happiness of the masses.
The Betas wear mulberry or maroon and are one level below Alphas. They are more ‘regular’ than Alphas as they don’t have the accelerated intelligence or physiques gifted to Alphas during their foetal development.
The Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the workers, and their intelligences are artificially impaired. This impairment increases as you go down the castes with Epsilons being mentally incapacitated in their artificial wombs through depriving the developing foetuses of oxygen for limited periods.
The purpose of this intellectual impairment is to ensure the workers are happy in their repetitive and boring jobs and do not become unsettled or dissatisfied due to unfulfilled higher purposes and ambitions by the workers.
The Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the majority and wear green, khaki, and black, respectively. Many of the work groups are grown from the same embryos so they share common features and are in effectively all ‘twins’ and related.
Lenina Crowne, an Alpha female who works in the hatcheries (baby production factories) is a little unsettled when the book starts. She is looking for a mysterious little something more than what she currently has in life. She is interested in an Alpha male called Bernard Marx who has offered to take her with him to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico. Very few Alphas can travel to the Savage Reservation and observe natural-born people who are not part of the new world order and who have relationships, suffer from aging and diseases, and still have their religion. They also have babies.
At the Savage Reservation, the pair meet Linda, a woman originally from the World State, and her natural born son, John. The story moves on from there drawing parallels between the two worlds and the lifestyles, wants, and desires of the inhabitants.
Why is this book important?
Although some aspects of this book are dated due to modern technology, there is much in the concept of the World State that is applicable and quite possible. The technology for genetic engineering and the creation of designer babies already exists, as does the future elimination of diseases and slowing down of the aging process. It seems likely, given our money-orientated society, that those with greater means would have access to these new technologies.
Controlling people through drugs and consumerism is already a known concept and the idea of a world benefits system has already been posed. The impact of over population is making itself felt and the idea of a set number of life years for people as presented in this book, seems possible.
It seems a valid theory that the removal of human relationships, together with the satisfaction of all physical needs, would drastically reduce conflict situations in the world. Conflict is driven by strong emotions of want, greed, desire, revenge, and others and it is reasonable to think that these emotions would be less likely to present themselves in such a placid and unchallenging environment.
This is a book that needs to be preserved so that we can be reminded that constant happiness comes at a price and would be likely to diminish, or even destroy, creativity, innovation, and further progress, as well as our freedom of choice. The question to ask ourselves whether constant happiness is worth sacrificing our freedom of choice for, especially as that happiness restrains further human development and restricts knowledge and reading.
We also need to ensure that no single world power gains absolute control over all of humanity thereby allowing it to make all decisions, unopposed, about the welfare and future of all people. Keeping people satisfied in their work by reducing or limiting their brain growth sounds so horribly viable in the author’s context of peace and happiness, but is a gross violation of human rights.
Some interesting quotes
“Social stability. Standard men and women, all exactly the same. The staff for the whole of a small factory from one single bokanovskified egg.” Relates to the mass production of identical twins who all look the same and who all have an artificially generated low IQ.
“Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks; already in the minds of the babies these pairs of things were connected, and repeated lessons would make the connection permanent.” Relates to conditioning during baby and toddlerhood.
“”I want to know what passion is,” he said. “I want to feel something strongly. “We are all grown-up intellectually and during working hours,” he went on, but we are infants where feeling and desire are concerned.” Relates to the removal of emotional stimulus.
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Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!