Continuing with the themes of Huxley’s Brave New World:
Adults in the Brave New World live immaturely, with a lack of seriousness and an appetite for endless fun. There is no need for initiative. Work is routine. Everyone is expected to cooperate mindlessly.
How does this compare to the real world we live in now?
Unlike everyone else, Bernard, the main hero (sort of) of the story, is frustrated by his own inclination to be an “adult all the time” and to delay gratification of his desires (p. 84).
Value of Human Life / Individual vs. Society
Collective society in Brave New World dominates over the individual and erases the will and significance of the individual. Our present day world seems to be parallel to the fictional world described in the novel. As ethics and morality have been gradually “altered” using propaganda, our real world has “progressed” so that we now live in a society of “human resources”, in which human embryos and fetal tissue are stockpiled.
Illustrating how human life is just another commodity, one of the officials, explains from his point of view, why Bernard’s unorthodoxy is a worse crime than murder:
“Murder kills only the individual–and, after all, what is an individual?” With a sweeping gesture he indicated the rows of microscopes, the test-tubes, the incubators. “We can make a new one with the greatest ease–as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself . . . (p. 133).”
Human Life: Death and Aging, Warehousing the Dying
Human life is not seen as sacred in Brave New World. For instance, phosphorus is recovered from human bodies to grow plants. The propaganda conditioning we are facing in the real world at this point in 2014 may have already made this sort of human recycling acceptable in the minds of many.
Human beings are kept youthful until they’re sixty, and then they are sent to die in institutions in which they are drugged into a stupor. They don’t reach what we consider to be old age. This is Brave New World’s system of euthanasia (the wonderful “right to die” people are told they should want so badly rather than demanding that they be healed by the “medical” services they pay for.) The so-called patients at the so-called hospitals are in the last stages of life. However, they are still youthful-looking and are in a type of second infancy, being senile (p. 181).
Linda, the mother of one of the main characters, John (the Savage), is sent to The Park Lane Hospital for the Dying (p. 180) where she continues to live in her fantasy world, constantly listening to music and watching television. Sounds familiar. Doesn’t sound like science fiction to me.
By the way, do constant drugs, entertainment, and escapism sap our will to live in reality?
Linda had been lost on a “savage” “reservation” when young and had aged naturally. Bernard found Linda and her son John in the reservation, which was an area set aside for people who lived according to a mixture of old customs, supposedly a more natural lifestyle, or at least the picture that Huxley paints of a more natural lifestyle.
Huxley does not describe the “savage” reservation lifestyle positively. John is not portrayed as a well-balanced person, and his mother Linda does not seem to take anything good away from her years spent living in the reservation–even though she had given birth to a child of her own.
Linda was thrilled to come back to Brave New World, and she immersed herself in drugs and entertainment. She was allowed to constantly drug herself with “soma” (a fictional substance in the novel) (p. 139). “And a good thing too . . .” (p. 139), says the “doctor”. It was fine with him because “she hasn’t got any serious work” to do (p. 139).
When John asked the nurse about his mother, “Is there any hope?”, the nurse answers “You mean, of her not dying?” Which attitude towards life is more prevalent in 2014 as we are buried under population control propaganda? Readers should do their own poll.
This parallels the doctrine of Huxley’s fellow Fabian socialist, George Bernard Shaw who spoke the following words in a film clip included in the documentary The Soviet Story:
You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight, if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself.
And for those who get defensive about criticism of socialism, socialism is just the flip side of so-called capitalism. They’re two sides of the same coin. Those who control the money fund organizations on both “sides” who collect many useful, idealistic, and misguided followers. On both sides, people project their own ideals–possibly very valid and natural in some respects–onto the party or movement they have chosen to follow. And both sides (or all sides) are just helping to construct and perfect the same slave system. Yes, “left” and “right” just prop up the ultimate work-in-progress system of total slavery and herd management, currently sugar-coated with loads of propaganda, credit cards, and entertainment.
Since Linda, who had aged naturally, is so physically repulsive to the attendants, they don’t understand why John wants to keep visiting her (p. 145). They don’t even have a concept of “mother” except as a kind of obscenity from the past. Nobody in Brave New World has actual parents.
The children who visit the institution also looked at Linda with disgust. The children are rude and bratty. John becomes angry at the level of disrespect the nurses permit. Normally nobody visits the hospital anyway. The nurse explains that the children are “being death-conditioned” (p. 184) so that they see death as nothing special.
She is horrified by John’s behavior when he is sobbing for his mother’s death:
. . . Undoing all their wholesome death-conditioning with this disgusting outcry–as thought death were something terrible, as though anyone mattered as much as all that!! It might give them the most disastrous ideas about the subject . . . (p. 188)
Erasing the Past and Old Ideas–Happiness and Emotions
As in George Orwell’s 1984, the ideas of the past are completely erased. Old books such as the works of Shakespeare are banned (p. 45).
The World Controller for Western Europe, Mustapha Mond, marked a scientific paper as “Not to be published”, because of its subversive contents. He could not allow people to think that life has a purpose outside of the “maintenance of well-being” (p. 161).
Please note again the use of this term “well-being” by the United nations in 2013.
Mustapha Mond says:
People are happy; they get what they want . . . blissfuly ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma” (p. 201).
Everyone’s lives are designed to be “emotionally easy” with minimal emotions (p. 39).
The art that’s promoted caters to base emotions, in order to promote “stability” (p. 201).
Mond declares that there is no “Right to be Unhappy” (p. 219).
He mentions also the “Violent Passion Surrogate” which involves the monthly use of adrenin(adrenalin) to induce fear and rage as a substitute for violent and dark emotions (p. 219).
“As for doing things – Ford forbid that he should get the idea into his head. It would upset the whole social order if men started doing things on their own” (p. 216).
The Brave New World society is based on eight compliant human drones for every member of the ruling class (Alphas) (ratio: 8/9 to 1/9). Huxley’s Mond character reviews a past experiment that was done in which upper class Alphas were placed on an island. The conclusion was that their society of thinking individuals collapsed (p. 203) into chaos. Huxley doesn’t counter this fictional thought experiment. It appears to be consistent with Huxley’s views of uncontrolled human beings being the authors of chaos (documented in the biographical introduction).
Also, in the stratified Brave New World, the lower classes need to be given a minimum amount of non-exhausting work–with drugs, sex and entertainment, and not thought (p. 204). Then they are “happy”.
And I believe this describes attitudes in our current situation in 2014. Most of us prefer that “important” people deal with serious thinking, ruling and planning. And so they do. So much for “democracy”.
Mustapha Mond admits that
all of our sciences is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook (p. 206).
But we’re taught that “science” is scientific and objective, and follows the scientific method. That’s how it “should” be, and just like everything else, we project make-believe honesty and integrity where there is none. And we see “should be” and “progress” instead of reality and fraud–because of the thick layer of propaganda projected into our heads. In the same way we see “freedom” instead of the reality of authoritarianism, monopoly control, and fear–of losing our jobs or worse.
Mustapha Mond explains how the Nine Years War finally made people ready to
have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We’ve gone on controlling ever since. . . . (p. 208).
So war is shown as an important mechanism of changing society towards “utopia”. War is the main globalist mechanism of making people accept policies they would otherwise not accept, on the road to total slavery–also called “progress”. Just keep pounding obedience into our heads with constant wars and death (sacrifice).
Mond also refers to a period of violent crackdown on dissidents that preceded Brave New World.
John (the “Savage”) and Mond discuss the idea of God and how the Brave New World doesn’t need God, because Society substitutes for God or nature or our own minds in every way (p. 213). And so we have our definition of globalist “humanism”. It means (world) government as God. Authoritarians just make up some laws, whatever occurs to them, pretend to have our best interests in mind, and proceed to brainwash us. Which is more make-believe? Which is more fictional? God, or “government” acting as God while we pretend it’s a good thing and controlled by us?
We know government is a man-made construct that we personally did not create, and none of us are involved in any of the laws that they come up with.
Religion also is about human beings ruling over others. But the point is that you, in your own mind, can discover ideals that are compatible with your nature, and you, if you are free to think for yourself, can have your own God or your own ideals and hold those ideals as higher than anything else.
Control freaks think of this as a problem, as a threat to their system of total slavery and obedience. And it is. And so the individual and his/her God or gods or ideals or critical thoughts are the threat to tyrants, to the oligarchy that Huxley so often referred to. And Brave New World is a portrayal of many of the techniques that are used to suppress dissenting thought and action from individuals and from groups who may follow those individuals.
It’s true that people have a perception that Aldous Huxley was opposed to this kind of world and was trying to warn us through his writings, lectures and interviews. Another interpretation of his work, however, including his promotion of psychedelic drugs, was that Huxley was running a publicity campaign–on behalf of the “corporatocracy”–in order to promote the apparent inevitability of Brave New World, and gradually conditioning the public to accept the changes that are part of it. Huxley’s novel still receives much attention today, and so do many science fiction movies in which the same dystopic themes are portrayed. But we should ask ourselves how much of the ideas in this novel we have already accepted.
I’ve made some points already about Huxley failing to provide strong counter-arguments in his novel against the scientific dictatorship. It seems to me that Mustapha Mond, when interacting with John, presents the very best arguments Huxley can think of in favor of the Brave New World totalitarian state. On the other hand, in my opinion, John (the “Savage”) presents emotionally meaningful but unconvincing arguments. On top of that, John’s way of life is conflicted and aesthetic–or self-blaming, guilt-ridden, and even masochistic.
I would never recommend Brave New World as an argument against a totalitarian world state. As a reader, I think John comes across as very unappealing, and he makes the old world and old ideas appear irrational. The old system (or systems) is presented in a way that is distorted, and not in an even-handed way. Instead of an alternative way of life, we have John’s dysfunctional behavior.
The heroes of the novel–Bernard the Beta, Helmholtz the genius Alpha, and John–are all basically defeated by Mustapha Mond. By the way, Helmholtz doesn’t have a high opinion of Bernard and his weaknesses, so their efforts at opposing the system seem hopeless from the start.
Bernard and Helmholtz are sent to live on an island, but John becomes a curiosity and public spectacle of the most bizarre kind, a kind of ticking time-bomb.
Sadism and Sadomasochism
One of the supposed heroes or rebels, the Alpha, Helmholtz, early on makes reference to the potential cultural appeal of madness and violence (p. 168) which foreshadows the end of the novel. To me, I find myself disliking Helmholtz for saying this, and I wonder if Huxley is projecting his own attitudes into this character.
At the end, John is allowed to live on his own, and goes over the edge and breaks down in a bout of intense self-flagellation.
Unfortunately for John, and the entire fictional world (and disappointed readers like myself), John’s house is under heavy secret surveillance from film crews and reporters in a way similar to the 1998 film, The Truman Show.
John’s brutal self-beating and his beating of unwanted visitors becomes part of the world’s entertainment. People are so fascinated that they come from all over to literally imitate his violence and make it part of their sex orgies. Readers might not see the logic of this. I never did, especially when I was twelve years old and first read the novel.
We don’t find out in the story what ends up happening. Will this sadism lead to the breakdown of Brave New World, as Helmholtz may have been hinting at? Would it lead to freedom(!), or would it just be a new aspect of horror added to the mix, finally putting an end to the boredom of the more perverted Alphas?
Remember Huxley’s statement about sadism and the “ultimate revolution” or “revolutionary revolution” in his letter to Orwell and in his Foreword:
Huxley writes (p. 5):
This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved, not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings. Living as he did in a revolutionary period, the Marquis de Sade very naturally made use of this theory of revolutions in order to rationalize his peculiar brand of insanity. . . . Sade regarded himself as the apostle of the truly revolutionary revolution, beyond mere politics and economics . . .
Is this a hint from Huxley? Is he admitting part of the truth behind the drive for control?
Isn’t this what Brave New World is all about–the ultimate tampering with the souls and flesh of human beings? And all that John did was to bring this sadism to the surface. Isn’t it a system of systematic “scientific” brutality towards human beings in order to turn most of them into something less than human, more controllable, soulless, trans-human biological machines?
Would this sadism and cruelty be the real underlying and hidden attitude of those control freaks who would create a Brave New World society that eliminated morality and independent thought?
At the same time, the ending is ambivalent. Is there also an insincere attempt to blame the old world and even human nature–John’s influence–for the sadism corrupting Mustapha Mond’s “perfect” world?
Is Huxley trying to build a picture of a scientific dictatorship that is as rational and gentle as possible (with the riot police putting people to sleep etc.)–and then he gives up in frustration?
I think the ending is completely disappointing and senseless. I don’t detect any hope in it and I’m not sure it makes sense to normal people. I am raising some questions about how to interpret the theme of sadism. Think about Huxley’s idea of the ultimate “revolution”, or the desire to change people so that they can be more easily ruled (always called “progress”). It seems to me that the perverse enjoyment of cruelty and indifference by a ruling oligarchy presents us with the main cause of suffering in this world–in ways that should be obvious–what they do and what they fail to do. But most of us are blind to it because of propaganda. We’d rather blame ourselves and continue to elevate those in power as superior, and “believe in” them like a religion rather than hold them accountable.