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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Extended Comments on Brave New World

I found Brave New World to be quite interesting. Consequently, I finished it over the course of two days. It probably helped that it's one of the shorter books I've read in the course of my re-education. While writing up comments to post in our weekly self-education reports, I found that I had many points I wanted to mention, and so decided to make the comments about BNW a stand-alone post.

Because this is the internet, and because you probably are reading this through a blog feed reader, and because you probably have many other interesting blog posts (by other people) that have caught your eye, here are some quick bullet points about the book itself, to provide some context:

  • Freedom has been sacrificed for an ultimately stable society. There is no more war, pain, or poverty. Nor is there love. Raises an interesting question: do you want stability at the price of freedom and expression?

  • "Family" is a thing of the past; humans are grown in factories and raised in strict castes.

  • Via Pavlovian conditioning (both embryonic and post-embryonic) and sleep learning, among other things, people are conditioned to act and think in certain ways. People are conditioned to consume and consume.

  • Society in BNW is extremely hedonistic and consumerist. People are discouraged from spending time alone and spending too much time with one person (promiscuity is the norm) for too long. Instead, there is a myriad of activities in which one finds satisfaction and happiness. There's always something to do or something to spend money on.

  • If all the activities are not enough, there's always the wonder drug referred to as soma, which is an all-purpose happy drug that citizens take whenever they are feeling negative in any way.

If you belong to the typical demographic that finds our blog interesting (and not among those who come here to gawk and see what those weird Christians are up to...you know who you are), you should read this book. Then again, even if you do read this blog just to annoy yourself and gawk, you should read this book too. In fact, I think most high school/college age people and older should read this book.

Huxley was not divine in any way (in fact, he was an atheist), but his social commentary in BNW is unsettlingly accurate. As the world becomes more interconnected and internetified, it becomes more like BNW's society. Feeling down or bored? Go shopping. Have two minutes while waiting for a traffic light? Watch video on your cell phone. Want to listen to a song, but don't have the CD? Find it on YouTube.

Is this all a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know. Personally, I think it's just...a thing. Or maybe it is a bad thing and I'm just trying to rationalize because I like to get things NOW ;) Although today's interconnectivity can certainly be used in a hedonistic manner, it's up to you to temper that.

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  • Ewokgirl

    I definitely have to read that one!

    Brave New World sounds similar to some of the stuff I've read recently. I read a lot of teen fiction because I like to know what the kids in our youth group are reading. I'm currently reading the Uglies trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, and Specials) by Scott Westerfeld. It's a similar concept, except in this case, everyone has massive operations at the age of 16 to turn pretty (and ultimately vapid). It keeps society in check when everyone looks perfect and only seeks pleasure. No wars or anything because everyone is too busy partying and looking pretty to think about anything. Those who try to fight against becoming pretty wind up being outlaws.

    Another teen book that's similar is Feed by M.T. Anderson. People all have a feed implanted in their brains that feeds them constant ads and trends. The people become very stupid as they are brought up just to consume the latest products. The language in it is pretty bad, but even that seems to have a purpose in the story, as the people have very small vocabularies because they only learning they seem to do is associated with the next sale or trend to follow.

    What scares me is just how on-target some of these dystopian stories seem to be with the direction of our society. While the future will likely not be so extreme, I suspect that there is some semblance of truth to most of these stories. When the people cease to think for themselves or care about things that actually matter, they become far more controlled by government or whatever reigning body of thought happens to be in power.

  • JunkMale

    Those books definitely sound like they were influenced by Brave New World.

    I agree that portions of these books are very descriptive of today's society. Here's to those who think for themselves and actually care about things that matter! *clink*

    (what is it about dystopian books and sex? But I suppose if it's important to humans, people are going to write about it.)