March 14, 2021
#6 A Brave New World
Hello curious people.
We are living in a brave new world. Or as the popular phrase goes that we’ve heard for the past year, we are learning to adapt to “the new normal”.
The book Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley and released in 1932, was a warning of what a future dystopian society may look like. While some people may draw comparisons to our world today with the other more well known dystopian book 1984 (by George Orwell) with good argument, I think it’s important to recognize the parallels of our world today and Huxley’s Brave New World.
Brave New World is one of the few books I can say I read in school that really impacted me. I’m thankfully that I had a really great English teacher in grade 12 and I believe her teachings along with reading Brave New World is what first started to challenge me to see the world differently. I read 1984 later after I was done with school.
I think Neil Postman compares the two books better than I ever could when he wrote in his own book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
I believe the world we live in today is a terrifying mix of both these two men’s worst fears, and perhaps the most terrifying thing is that most of the population is oblivious.
In 1958, Huxley followed up his book nearly 30 years later with an essay called Brave New World Revisited in which he concluded that society was progressing towards a world like in Brave New World much faster than he anticipated. And now we are 63 years later since he wrote that essay. Do you think in that time we have progressed even closer to a Brave New World, or not?
While in physical appearance we may not quite yet resemble Brave New World, the systems we have in place are leading us there. The foundation of the Brave New World society is its use of hypnopedia, that is hypnotic slogans, to condition its citizens to behave the way society deemed proper. Examples of these hypnopedia sayings are:
“History is bunk.”
“Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches.”
"Everyone belongs to everyone else.”
"Progress is lovely.”
"Everybody's happy nowadays.”
Citizens of the World State were indoctrinated with these hypnotic slogans starting in their artificial machine wombs. By the time babies had become adults, they constantly spoke these mantras to fellow citizens and behaved exactly how their programming dictated because of how deeply ingrained the words had become in their psyche.
“Years of intensive hypnopaedia… had made the taking of the precautions almost as automatic and inevitable as blinking.” (Brave New World, 69)
Regardless of the validity of the slogan, the power of “sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth” (Brave New World, 43). Can you think of some hypnopaedic slogans that we have in our own society?
Other hypnopaedic slogans used in Brave New World include “one cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments,” and “a gramme is better than a damn” which were used to encourage people to use the drug “Soma” to enter a state of blissful ignorance. Because don’t forget, “Everybody’s happy nowadays.” That’s because everyone was induced into a false sense of happiness.
In Brave New World Revisited, Huxley said, “The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. "Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does." They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”
This has not been a normal year. It’s not normal to be quarantined in our homes. It’s not normal to cover our faces with masks. It’s not normal for the government to be dictating so much how we live our lives. I just hope that this isn’t really the new normal because in a society where these things are normal, in the words of Huxley, “most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”
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