Recently I was talking about how I needed to read Brave New World (BNW) with my wife and found that we had the book at the house! My wife had read it in high school and was likening some of the themes to current events and culture. Needless to say, I immediately dug in. (The only problem was when I began reading my beautiful bride kept stealing the book away from me!)
I found Brave New World mildly interesting from a technical point of view. I saw the whole assembly line making babies as a little different, but I got the feeling that Huxley saw this as a device to move the plot along and to show the inhumanity of making the humans.
I found 1984 to be a much more compelling novel overall. The contrast between BNW and 1984 is in the nature of the oppression that is being placed on the people. In 1984 the oppression is much more overt. People are aware of the harm being done to them, but are helpless to escape it and most all of them embrace the master’s agenda. The power of the 1984 state is overwhelming. Huxley’s BNW crafts a much more gradual, nuanced approach to control. People are manipulated from conception and conditioned from birth for their pre-defined role. The BNW individual never knows to think for themselves outside the programming. This same effect is achieved in 1984 through the Newspeak dictionary – a person may have a vague feeling of what they want to say, but lack the language to express it effectively to others.
The other fascinating part of BNW was the continual use of soma. Huxley’s soma was a type of non-addicting hallucinogenic that was manufactured for general use. BNW subjects were encouraged through the hypnotic training to use soma whenever they were displeased, disappointed, or just wanted to check out from the world, but had to be programmed not to use to excess. I found the use of the drug to help everyone maintain an even keel emotionally a fascinating way to view the world presently. What are the modern day somas that you know of? Professional sports, alcohol, sex/pornography, movies, TV, gaming, texting, facebook – those are the things that come to mind when I think of things that have a soma-like effect on people. Which ones are actively encouraged today as “responsible” ways to disconnect from the realities of life? What is your personal soma and what encourages you to use it?
Mixing metaphors, do you need to take the red pill and wake up?