I find a certain kind of enchantment in reading books that have been banned in the past because of the controversies they arouse. Perhaps this is because I feel like a 20th-century recidivist, compulsively devouring illegal literature and breaking the law, or it is simply due to my penchant to challenge the foundations of the world as we know it. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley gave me the opportunity to do both simultaneously. As any other dystopian novel, it questions the worthiness of our moral values and the obstinate fixity of our lives. It helps us break out of the rigidity of our mindsets and see what was, what is and what could be from an alternative perspective.
“O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world. That has such people in’t!”
The brave new world Aldous Huxley depicts is not an alluring angelic place. It is a world where children are not conceived and born, but manufactured and decanted; where moral lessons are not inferred from fairy tales and hidings, but are subliminally memorized during sleep; where rhymes connote not poems and lyrics, but government hypnopaedic slogans. Religion, love, bliss, free will, family and sorrow are outlandish terms for in a society conditioned to like its inescapable social destiny, there are no dreams, tears and need for support.
As newborns the future citizens of the World Stare are shaped accordingly to their future roll in the mechanism of their reality. They are divided into classes, degrading in the following orders: Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gammas and Epsilons. They are impelled subconsciously to adhere to the customs of the ‘Utopia’ and the rules set forth by His Fordship. What is instilled in them – rewarded promiscuity, death as a cause for celebration, addiction to somma (an amalgam of the paramount narcotics), humility and thoughtless submissions, renders all unaware of the ethereal existence of the concepts truth and beauty.
In such a prosaic environment only the ultimate consumerist society can plod on for centuries. Its people could never experience depression or withdrawal for people are only solemn in their pursuit of absolutes. When one has had solely material desires inculcated into one’s being, one can only desire to acquire them, thus enhancing the World State’s economy. “You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art.”
Henry Ford’s name – the industrialist who introduced the conveyor belt assembly line in the 20th century, is chanted and adulated in “Brave New World” instead of the name of Jesus Lord who purportedly died to expiate our sins. The former is the man who gave rise to the ‘Utopia’, restored order and spread away bliss. With his first mass-production he begot consumerism – materialistic suppression of the absolute truth, cloaked behind the meaningless of our lives. Depriving people of the nitty-gritty of science, he urged them to bath in its practical applications and forget its glorifying beauty.
“It isn’t only art that is incompatible with happiness; it’s also science.”
The novel juxtaposes the attitudes and beliefs of the citizens of the World State and John – a savage from a reservation in America who bears the same morals as contemporary people. His respect for women, his admiration of Shakespeare, his attachment to his mother and his sense of beauty make him incongruous in the world he has always dreamed of. A misfit among the indigenous tribes and among the sophisticated erudite consumerists, he resists again the mindless, narrow existence of Alphas and Epsilons equally. However, in the struggle of principles that follows there could be no winner because we are “completely part of something else… just a cell in the social body” and even as individualists we are dependent and easily influenced by the society we live it. It either turns us into abhorred pariahs, or a copycat of our neighbour whose happiness is measured by his number of acquisitions.
In a magnificent dialog between His Fordship and Mr. Savage the nuts and bolts of the World State and our own world are divulged. Philosophy, religion and science intertwine to expound the appeal of consumerism, the possibility of a reality, deprived of Shakespeare, Beethoven and Van Gogh, and the indefatigable firmness of instilled values. “Brave New World” is a novel that would quake the foundations of your existence and call into question all that you have ever perceived as rational and undoubtedly true.