Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
October 18, 2009 § 4 Comments
I had initially intended for this to be one of the books I’d read during “Banned Books Week”, but time constraints just wouldn’t allow me to go anywhere near this book during that time. Having read the book now, I can see why *some* people would find the book offensive and try to get it banned. I can even push so much as to say I can also see why *some* people find the book controversial.
But the book is definitely one very worth reading. (Possible spoiler alert, as there are some parts of the book that might come as an added element of surprise, which I cannot not mention here.)
It is now many many years in the future. We are introduced to this time and era by the way people are ‘born’, that is, they are produced by way of joining sperms and eggs together, then multiplying them so as to produce a group of individuals who are exactly the same. There are no mothers or fathers in this era. In fact, “mother” is a foul word and should never be mentioned. People are no longer brought into the world through childbirth – they are ‘unbottled’.
Social norm is not as we know it today. There is no such thing as monogamy. It is in fact considered the worst possible manners to want to stick to one individual man or woman as a partner. Sex is talked about freely. Orgies are arranged as part of building a healthy society. And so on and so forth.
The climax of the story is probably when a “savage” is brought into this “civilisation”. Someone who still believes in a religion and a god, someone who finds it filthy to talk about sex in the open, and someone who still believes in parents and still knows of childbirth – a complete stranger is brought into this sterile world where everyone and everything has their own place in society, never questioning anything. Some chaos obviously results from this. And so the story goes.
As I’ve mentioned, I can probably see why *some* people find this book controversial and disturbing. After all, it depicts a life quite different from the social norms of today.
But looking at it critically, it’s also not that difficult to imagine a life similar to that in the story, possibly some time in the future. We are currently in a world that is constantly trying to affix a specific role to a specific class of people in society. We are constantly finding new ways and means for machines to do all our work. We are constantly trying to control the thoughts and actions of others through different mediums and ways of manipulation.
We may think we are, but we’re not really that moral of a society. Not all of us have a moral conscience that we can be proud of.
With the development of newer technologies, thoughts are being numbed; feelings are being suppressed and forgotten about. Society is brought so much closer through things like the Internet, and yet we live so much more apart from our daily lives. We talk on the phone so much, we forget to have conversations with the people around us. We send emails and use online network services like FaceBook, but never bother to hold a pen on paper to send out personalised letters.
It’s so many of these little things that we forget about. These little things that make us who we are, that set us apart from unthinking and unfeeling robots that do only what they were invented to do. Robots that have a specific role to play in society.
It may seem very unlikely that society as we know it today will turn out to be anything like the society they call ‘civilised’ in Brave New World. But as unlikely as it may seem, we mustn’t ignore the possibility that perhaps we are headed that way.
It’s a disturbing thought to have. But books that provoke and encourage difficult and critical thinking are books that should be read even more widely. Not kept in a dark corner of the bookshelf.