Jan 13, 2008

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

Back to straight up, state control dystopia.

People USED to imagine that knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value. ...People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were sovereign goods. Right up to the time of the Nine Years' War. That made them change their tune all right. What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you? That was when science first began to be controlled -- after the Nine Years' War. People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been very good for happiness.

Anthrax bombs as an excuse for state control. You know, what makes classic dystopian fiction powerful is the ability to apply it to any generation's reality and still come up worried.

I'd honestly never read Brave New World before now. It's one of those classics I just never got around to. I read it right after First Men in the Moon by, more or less, accident, but it worked out well. Both concern societies in which the citizens are made, body and mind, for their alloted tasks in life. This prevents the longing and hustling that creates societal tension and individual angst. Of course, it also robs us of free will, creates a slave class, and prevents the striving and work that can carry us to the loftier heights.

You know, I'm going to look around for written defenses of the World State as outlined in BNW. It's no good for me simply to say, "This is obviously a horrible and frightening vision of the future," with no one offering any of the other side's arguments. I suspect such defense will just make me either disgusted or angry, but at least it would help solidify why it's such a disturbing image of society to me.

final thoughts: Beats the hell out of Rand any day.


A V I C E N N A said...

You can hardly be attacked...
I'd replace the word with something less rough.
"Opinions" would do...

downtown guy said...

I chose the word specifically to reflect the paranoia and fear that's part of most dystopias. Take it with a grain of salt.

A V I C E N N A said...

I just meant that, unfortutately enough, nowadays those who most deserve attacks are the ones who attack others.
At least, in the garbage country where I belong this is just the way I feel.
About pystopias, I've been reading and watching such works for many years, but the real world seems to me well beyond any imaginable dystopian creation: in 1984 or in BNW at least you find logic, no matter how questionable or distorted it may be.
What logic can you see in today's world?
If you can, please tell me...

downtown guy said...

Well, there's no overarching logic, at least in the US and other countries not ruled by one person, because there are so many people with a little bit of power, each with their own logic and ideals and way to scheme out what's best for them.

The less I can see a single logic to large events, the more comfortable I am with the situation. Complete consensus is a hive mind.

Doc Holaday said...

Brave New World is great, especially the first chapters. Huxley's vision of the future is chilling, because it strikes me as being more 'possible' (from the viewpoint of an American) than, say, the vision of 1984. Though the last five years or so has swung the pendulum a bit back toward Orwell's take on the potentially dystopian future.

BNW certainly doesn't read like it was written in '31. (I think that's the right date.) Amazing!

downtown guy said...

You're right, it is definitely one of the least dated of that era's dystopias. One of the few things that stood out to me in terms of the age was that, through all the discussion of how to create the different classes of people, no mention was made of genetic manipulation.

And yeah, I always find the ones where a corporation or simply entertainment media are the controlling forces, instead of a dictator or fascist regime, a little more plausible in terms of today's American society. Although, these days, organized religion is looking a little scary, too.