Engineered to perfection
I finally got around to finishing my listen through of Brave New World. It’s certainly deserving of its place on numerous ‘must read’ lists, a fact which was increasingly evident the more and more engrossed I became. I first discovered the book upon researching the beautifully evocative song of the same name and quickly became aware of the novel’s status as a classic. Having already discovered my fascination with the dystopian genre in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, it was the next logical progression.
Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future takes place several hundred years on and is certainly a terrifying one. Although, its underlying problems are not all together evident immediately. The opening few chapters of the book deal with the new age process of reproduction, how the need for mothers has been completely eradicated by biological science and technology. Parents no longer exist. Humans are born outside the womb, in perfectly controlled conditions. Disease is no longer an issue. An unorthodox situation for a culture so rooted in family values like us to consider but perhaps not altogether awful. Imagine if we could breed ‘perfect’ humans, immune to all known diseases? Not such a bad thing. Of course, truths begin to emerge that ‘perfect’ humans are not created, despite having the ability to do so. “Community, identity, stability”. The three words which the govern the creation of humans of varying mental capacity, those made for express purposes. Those who will be born laborers and those who will die laborers. Conditioned from birth to accept whatever values are required of them. And so the framework for a fascinating tale is laid.
While Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Brave New World are similar in many ways, their differences are much more striking. As a pair of dystopian books, they complement each other extremely well. Both describe a suppressed society, but the manner in which this ultimate goal is accomplished differs wildly. In Orwell’s vision, the people’s freedom is forcibly taken from them. In Huxley’s, the desire for such freedom simply does not exist. Orwell controls the population with fear, while Huxley does it with kindness. I suppose it begs the question, does being directly controlled and manipulated even matter when one is happy? I would argue yes, it does matter. Manufactured happiness isn’t really happiness at all.
This was supposed to be a ‘review’ of sorts, although it quickly degenerated into something else entirely. Suffice to say, Huxley’s imagination of the future is one worth indulging, almost essentially so.