Lessons From: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

How Huxley showed that excess can cripple society

Aldous Huxley is one of the most intelligent authors the world has ever seen, and his ability to predict the way society and government would function in the future was pretty impressive. In Brave New World, society is completely post-scarcity and is controlled not by authoritarian repression, but by their own hedonistic desires which can be so easily manipulated.

"Every one belongs to every one else" was the society's motto, in which individuals were nothing more than a cog in the machine, genetically engineered to fit a specific function. Bokanovsky's process was used in order to ensure that embryos would eventually grow to be Gammas, Deltas, or Epsilons, by carefully administering alcohol and produce, which gave humans capable of work but not of independent thought, while Alphas and Betas are left to develop and socially interact with each other, but never the Gammas, Deltas or Epsilons for doing so would be social suicide.

Freedom to question the government or society itself is drowned through one of various methods. The first is consumption and commodification. When people love the material, they'll work to maintain it and have more, so they live their lives working without really giving much thought to what they're doing. Otherwise, they can blur the line between love and recreational sex with "Orgy-Porgy", for acknowledging an individual identity as one you cherish can put the stability in uniformity disbalanced. In this society you have the moral imperative to have sex with anyone who asks it of you. If that doesn't work, you can always take soma, a drug that works for practically anything, be it grief, pain, stress, boredom, disappointment, and you can even take a soma-holiday. With this drug, you aren't aware of your degradation, nor are you of individuality itself.

Nowadays, it's clear that his prediction is closer to the truth than what Orwell, his student, believed would happen. Of course, we're not at the stage where people are being genetically engineered for specific roles, nor the whole sexual freedom/responsibility deal, but there are worrying aspects like the extreme consumerism, inversion of public and private lives, for example with Facebook and Instagram, things that were only your business are suddenly known by everybody, and in the book, whatever happens in private might as well not have happened, in real life we seem to get closer to this every day (pic or it didn't happen), and with Facebook being able to read your private messages, as well as Twitter showing your thoughts to the world, which aren't kept private by people most of the time anyways, you have to wonder when it is that a social network's benefits will be outweight by the disadvantages that having your life broadcast will bring. At least in Mexico, people feared that they'd be kidnapped because of would-be criminals targeting through social media, and that's just one of probably many examples.

What frightens me most is the lack of critical thinking in the book, which I'm starting to see in real life, and it goes beyond "X politician is good and Y politician is bad". Tell someone to explain why they believe what they believe, and most of the times they won't be able to tell you why without falling into various fallacies or going on irrelevant tangents that have nothing to do with the idea that they should explain. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is an example of people telling you what you should think instead of you deciding for yourself.  That's pretty creepy, if you ask me, people can't even keep up with the narrative the media's pushing and you can even tell that Colbert's pretty damn nervous about it.

What can we learn from this?

As an individual it's pretty complicated to change a society's course, but people must resist power grabs whenever they can, otherwise, you'll get to the point where it's pretty much impossible to do anything without suffering consequences, or worse, not realize you're suffering them. In the book, when one character asked another to speak in private, she laughed at the idea because she didn't even have a conception of privacy. It's our responsibility to avoid reaching this point.

This also goes to show that hedonism isn't necessary the best course for an individual. If you're always keeping your mind busy with things that don't necessarily require your attention, you eventually reach a point of contentment and then lose any reason to actually improve yourself or your life. Always strive to be better, and always question yourself and everyone around you, otherwise, you might as well take the reigns of your life and hand them over to the government or a corporation.

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