(The Library: Book Review) Recently I reviewed a few books to let my readers know what I think about them. Some books are more important to my eyes than others. Siddhartha is such a book. But some books offer us a dystopian perspective of the future that is so shocking and so imaginative that reading its conceptualisation by an author like Huxley, is a pleasure. Often, there is much to extract from those works of fiction. Brave New World is no exception. Pros and cons:
- Explores and warns about dystopian aspects of our possible future
- A well written, emotionally driven tale
- Inspired a genre on its own
Not too long, not too short
More modern takes on the subjects offer a fresher perspective
That Brave New World!, as well as the title of this review, is taken from a line of William Shakespeare. The one we are all building together, here on planet Earth. Many authors have pondered, over the millenniums, at what dangers could lie in wait for humanity's future. Countless philosophers, thinkers and public figures have over time explored dystopian futures, or the inverse of Utopias. Futures that don't necessarily look like Hell, but often feel like it. One example that comes to mind of such a modern criticism is what you can find in the series Black Mirror. If you never realised it, the black mirror is your TV screen, monitor or cell phone. Often, the episodes of that series would present a world that seems too perfect. But of course, the episodes would always show you the dangers that lie within.
Today's society often approaches some of those dystopian aspects. China and North Korea, for instance, have been criticised for having a unique vision and/or social credit systems. Those nations wish to maintain their integrity, as is normal but the dystopian consequences of controlling thoughts and keeping a history of everything on everyone must be weighted carefully. Many other nations, including the USA, could be criticised as having a single real political system, even with the apparent "choices" offered to populations. It is the worst when people think they have a choice, or think they are free, when in fact they are not. Because then the people just go along with it and stop fighting. Soma helps everything... (more on that below).
Aldous Huxley wrote this book in 1931 and it was published in 1932. Some of the dystopian ideas he presents are inspired by eugenics, or the attempt to guide mankind's genetic evolution by means of selective reproduction. That was somewhat attempted, and luckily failed, in Nazi Germany. The Brave New World we are presented here also segregates society into the rich and the poor, the Alphas and other less important members of society. That parallel has been picked up in recent years by Richard K. Morgan in his sci-fi novel, Altered Carbon. The elite society has plenty of sleeves (clones of themselves) to live forever. The lower castes of society are useful idiots and they are plentiful and disposable.
In fact, life is increasingly regarded as something almost dirty by itself in the novel. Females getting pregnant and giving birth naturally is regarded as gross and disgusting. In this brave new world, all babies are made in labs. Similar observations will also be shown years later in the excellent movie Gattaca in 1997, where individuals are assigned roles in society based on their genetic score.
Will we go there as societies? Will we invent soma to cope with everyday life emotions? Just select the emoticon or meme on your device to get the proper dosage... And just to clarify what I am saying, imagine this future:
"Select the emoticon on your phone or device, which most closely matches your current state. Do you feel happy? Frustrated by someone? Tired? You selected the angry face? Ok, just take 3 or 4 soma pills. Problem solved! "
I am being cynical. We should not end up there as a society. This ties-in with the criticism I was expressing recently regarding society in my review of Siddhartha. Soma here is the perfect escape for unwanted emotions. The emotions are not lived through and digested but instead buried behind a wall of scientific rationality.
Soma as the Perfect Drug
Soma is the drug to take in Brave New World. There are alternatives but everyone does soma. It replaces alcohol and soft drugs of our world for the Perfect Drug. It reminds immediately of today's massive biotech-pharma industry, which also is seeking the Perfect Drug. The association with Nine-Inch-Nails is because of the song title and the lyrics of course!
"When negative emotions surface or emotions that you don't like to have right now, just take soma" That expresses well the grip this drug has on that society as some form of magical working oil for the cohesion of society. Dissent is just a bad emotion. Here's an actual quote:
Lenina felt herself entitled, after this day of queerness and horror, to a complete and absolute holiday. As soon as they got back to the rest-house, she swallowed six half-gramme tablets of soma, lay down on her bed, and within ten minutes had embarked for lunar eternity. It would be eighteen hours at the least before she was in time again. --Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
The tasks of the elite are somewhat similar to many that we find today. Individuals occupy their important roles in society through work but seem to have forgotten that certain things are morally wrong. They are genetic technicians working on identifying defects in living organisms to delete them. It is called genetic segregation.
Sleep learning can be a good means to improve learning but establishing it at large, by default to bring the in-vitro babies up to speed in their Brave New World is not something we should seek to implement. The Clones Wars in Star Wars have shown us what manufacturing humans looks like and it looks all neat but beware the dangers of playing God.
Sex is an entertainment at best. Death is to be cheered upon! Bodies are being recycled and that means a better world! Things are so upside down and sideways that sometimes we question whether it is we, the individual, that is wrong.
The Savage in the story is the one that represents you, thrown into this world. He is regarded as a savage, uncivilised man. His role can be compared to that of Winston Smith in 1984. Huxley wrote to Georges Orwell, the author of 1984. It is interesting to read what he wrote:
Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World
The "Boot-on-the-face", we you probably know, is a reference to 1984, another book which shall be explored shorty by The Library. Because the stakes are just too important here. Brave New World and 1984 were not models to follow! We must fight the Ministry of Truth that is seeping into our societies.
Thanks for reading!