Sunday, 24 November 2013

Brave Old World?

Katherine Lemieux asks whether, fifty years after his death on November 22nd 1963, Aldous Huxley's vision of the future in his dystopian novel, 'Brave New World', has become a reality. This article was originally published in the 'Great Expectations' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in June, 2012.
 
 
Aldous Huxley

 
Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, is a novel that gives an insight into what Huxley thought the future could hold for civilisation. He explores ideas considered miraculous and new at the time of writing, 1931, and develops them, creating a world full of amazement for the reader; a world like no other. Comparing this world to today’s world is interesting because there are many contrasts and similarities. There are signs that our world has developed along the lines that Huxley suggested and there are also many signs that suggest it has not.

One of the biggest differences between the two worlds is that the citizens of Brave New World are absolutely disgusted at the thought of giving birth. Instead, they have hatchery centres where babies are born in test-tubes. This allows control over population. In today’s world there is no control over population. There is one similarity however.  In Brave New World the egg is fertilised outside of the body. This does happen in today’s world and is known as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment. Although the egg is fertilised outside the body, it is then returned to the body. On the other hand, the eggs in Brave New World are left in the test-tubes until they are ready to be decanted. Nevertheless, it is possible that in future years we will be able to produce test-tube babies, following the lines that Huxley suggests. In Huxley’s world they do not have families and the word “mother” is thought of as an expletive. This is completely different from life today, in which families are at the heart of most people’s lives and the word mother is used freely. A mother, in Brave New World, would be extremely ashamed of having given birth in a natural way, completely opposite to how a mother of today's world would react.

In Brave New World there is a clear separation between the different classes of society. There are the Alphas at the top, down to the Epsilons at the bottom. It can be said that this is the same in today’s world. There is a definite division between classes. However, in Brave New World there is control over the social classes, their caste chosen by a “pre-destinator”, and people are conditioned to be happy in their caste and have no desire to belong to another caste. For example, Epsilons are conditioned to enjoy menial jobs, whereas Alphas would never dream of performing such a job. In today’s world no such conditioning takes place and many people are unhappy with their class and wish to belong to another one. Despite this, there are some people who are happy and accepting of their class just as in Brave New World.

Conditioning plays a very big part in the running of society in Brave New World. People are conditioned just after decanting, and are conditioned through hypnosis sleep teaching. The sleep teaching teaches them how to live and what rules to live by and ensures that the whole world will run smoothly. In today’s society we are not conditioned in the same way but we are still conditioned through education and upbringing and this can affect the way we live our lives. For example, if you are taught that lying is bad and you are punished every time you lie, eventually you will (hopefully) learn that lying is wrong; you’ve been conditioned. We are not conditioned as strongly as the citizens of Brave New World are and are able to retaliate, but nonetheless it is a similar kind of idea and in the future it could play a key role in how people behave.
There is only one religion in Brave New World, the religion of Ford, and everyone believes in it, unlike today’s world, in which there are many different religions, from Christianity to Islam and Hinduism, and people can choose what they wish or do not wish to believe. Services in Brave New World take place at “Singerys” and consist of singing lots of hymns to the heavens and exchanging a sort of Eucharist, where they drink from the “loving cup” and take a drug called “soma”. The service finishes with an “orgy porgy”. These services are partially like Christian church services today, where hymns are sung to praise the Lord, but instead of drinking from the ‘loving cup’ and taking drugs they drink wine and eat bread. Also, the services do not end in an “orgy porgy” as these services are formal and respectful.  It is apparent that religion has not really followed along the lines that Huxley suggested.

Relationships in today’s world have most definitely not followed how Huxley suggested. Whereas today you are only expected to have one partner, this is actually frowned upon in Brave New World. There they are encouraged to have lots of casual relationships rather than one long term one. Nobody ever gets married; this is just too permanent. They also encourage erotic play from a very young age something most definitely not encouraged today.

Entertainment is fairly similar in both worlds, both having restaurants and clubs. However you could say it is further developed in Brave New World. For example, instead of going to the cinema they attend the “feelies”, which are like movies but with added special effects to make you feel as if you are in the film. It makes use of the five senses. Today’s world could be developing along those lines as we are beginning to have 4D films which combines a 3D film with physical effects, like the “feelies”. Another form of entertainment in Brave New World is scent organs which are organs that produce smells. Unfortunately, our world so far has not been able to produce anything combining smells and sounds. Sport is also a lot more developed in Brave New World. Sports games are based on games played today, for example golf, but more updated versions. Instead of just golf they play electro-magnetic golf and instead of just squash they play escalator squash. Huxley obviously thought sport would evolve a lot more than it has done but, you never know, in the future electro-magnetic golf could exist!

The way of living in Brave New World are very different from today. The  people do not suffer solitude and are always happy. Also, they do not suffer from illnesses, because cures have been found, and the hospital is only a place for the dying. In addition, the citizens do not age and whenever they want a break from reality they can swallow a gram of soma. Soma is a type of drug but minus all the side effects. The person merely swallows the soma and is whisked off to a fantasy holiday. None of these things are possible in this present day.

Transport in Brave New World is again a bit more developed than in today’s world. Although the citizens use modes of transport that are available in today’s world, instead of driving a car they use helicopters. They do not even have cars. The citizens of Brave New World also use the monorail. Transport is sort of developing along the lines that Huxley suggested, especially in countries such as Japan and China, and it is very possible that in the future we will be using his suggestions.

Overall, I do believe that our present civilisation has developed partially along the lines that Huxley suggested. However, I do think that it could develop even more along the lines that he suggested in the future, as more scientific discoveries are made.  However, there are many things that Huxley missed out in his novel that have developed, such as mobile phones and computers. Looking back at when this book was written in 1931, the world has definitely developed, and will develop even more as we head on into the future.

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