Book Review, Classics, Dystopia, Fiction

Brave New World

…When you’re in the mood for a dystopian novel filled with fascinating discussion topics.

On December 1st, 1913, Henry Ford installs the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes.

Well, we are so accustomed to things now, but imagine the impact he had on his contemporaries, how it influenced their lives, witnessing his impact on society. Aldous Huxley lived it and imagined the future it may lead to. How far are we from that future now?

This is an article about “Brave new world” – a spoiler free, short reading inspiration.

The action takes place in the year 2540, or 632 AF meaning After Ford. Ford is revered as a God! The World State is a futuristic society, extra efficient, which conditions emotions and suppresses individuality.

Relationships are very open – “every one belongs to every one else”. Sex is treated like a commodity and no emotions are involved. Children are created outside the womb and cloned in order to increase the population in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center. Citizens are sorted and then provided with different amounts of chemicals and hormones according to their future role. All classes are important and every citizen is the happiest when he does what his class is supposed to do. Alphas, the highest class, are bred to be leaders, while Epsilon (with Beta, Gamma, Delta in between) are bred to be menial laborers. They are all conditioned during their sleep while growing up by hypnotic repetition of the class values and morals.

The story then takes Bernard Marx, an Alpha, to explore a reservation of savages that still maintains the old way of life – natural procreation, belief in God, no technology for every day living. We explore alongside him the amazement of his observations. When he takes John, one of the savages, back with him, he becomes very popular because John is viewed as entertainment that everyone wants to see.

The book is so powerful not so much for the way of writing, but for the ideas it proposes.

Every one is perfectly happy! So…In a perfect world with no poverty, sickness, or sadness, what is the purpose of an individual?

What matters?

Technology for Entertainment

The new world used entertainment as a way of occupying its citizens time, increasing consumption and maintaining order. Basically people stopped caring about important issues as long as they could watch movies, play sports, have sex with whomever, whenever. It’s hard to think about anything else when you’re used to immediate gratification.

With the time spent on social media today or on Netflix… are we really that far? Does anyone have time for anything else? Is there anything else we should be doing that is more important? I feel Huxley is spot on with this prediction.

Censorship for Happiness

What I also liked is how it described authoritative governments and the way they use censorship to manipulate public opinion.

We see that so much in the current events. People in Russia today feel they’ll save Ukraine, bring it to the Motherland, and soldiers are shocked that citizens of Ukraine don’t receive them with open arms. People in Russia live in complete ignorance because media is restricted to inform about “special operations” instead of “invading another country”. And the disinformation is spread in neighboring countries as well. Pro – Russia propaganda was thriving in Romania and Moldova before this invasion. And the fact that publications such as Sputnik or Russia Today are forbidden now in the EU territory is a major win over fake news.

But it makes you wonder, though… we should have known about these strategies already. This book was published in 1932, 90 years ago.. and we are still affected by the same problems. When will we learn?

Eugenics for Perfection

Of course, the book deals with eugenics. Children are created by cloning and are designed to fit perfectly a role in society. I think with this one, we are still far away. However, maybe not really that far.

“Pre-natal screening has created the ability for many parents to decide if they wish to carry a disabled fetus to term or not. In Iceland, this has resulted in the near eradication of new cases of Down Syndrome in the country. Almost 100% of detected cases lead to an abortion shortly after.

Similarly, testing for a child’s sex before birth is a well-known procedure that leads to a wide gender gap in many countries. Less well known is the process of sperm sorting, which allows for a couple to choose the gender of their child as part of the process of in-vitro fertilization.”

In reality, I feel it’s just a matter of time… The progress is slow due to ethic concerns, but, as we grow more and more accustomed to these kinds of prenatal options, who will not want to give their baby the best possible chances to succeed? I found a similar idea in the book “Klara and the Sun” I read recently and it seems natural that if anyone will be doing it, later, in a distant future, we all will.

I loved this book and I found it creates so many topics of discussion, from eugenics to media, to governments, to finally what matters in life, what will you stand up for, what is happiness even… and so much more! It’s perfect for a book club and it’s such a short read, you can reasonably manage it through a weekend.

Instead of a Conclusion – More Questions (perfect for book club discussions)

Here is a list of great discussion ideas for your book club, all starting from “Brave New World”(some may spark controversy, but I find that healthy):

  1. Will religion be replaced by technology?
  2. Is religion used to control society today?
  3. Do we only believe in God because this is the way we’ve been condition to?
  4. Can we only be happy within a group, never on our own? (Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John seem to make the case that we need to find a group to belong to or be forever unhappy while the motto of the World State ties together “community, identity, and stability.”)
  5. Will we get to a social system like in the book, that rewards promiscuity and lack of commitment? Are we there already?
  6. Soma is a drug used in the World State to induce a semi-permanent state of euphoria. Everyone took it regularly. Is technology our drug?
  7. Is happiness incompatible with truth?
  8. Do you think “Brave New World” is a good indication of where our world is evolving? What do you see more or less of in our future?

P.S. If you prefer a video-format, watch on youtube:

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