Sunday, 28 August 2016

Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'that is the secret of happiness and virtue - liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that. Making people like their inescapable social destiny.'

This entire novel is an argument between two conflicting ideologies, moral codes, and standards of behaviour.

The World State is a "utopian" society in which no one must wait in want of something. Gratification of appetite is instant, emotional extremes are never reached, desire for intense relationships are conditioned out with neo-Pavlovian methods while they are children. The individual is sacrificed for the stability of society: "Everybody belongs to everybody".

On the other hand you have Bernard, who - due to a physical abnormality - feels excluded from his caste. Beneath his social mask, and despite his conditioning, he feels lonely, he wants for something more. Then there is Helmholtz, he feels as if there is a greater purpose to his life than just the daily gratification of sensual pleasure. I won't mention the name of the last character, he's so far into the novel I feel he would be a bit of a spoiler.

The novel constantly compares the ideals of the World State with the ideals of our current society. On multiple occasions the reader is forced to question and consider both standards. Stability vs. change, constant happiness vs growth, ignorant bliss vs intelligence.

I was actually going to give this a 2 stars, but the last 2-3 chapters made it so much better. The middle portion of the novel was filled with a lot of uninteresting and repetitive detail, technical jargon of how the World State functioned that just seemed unnecessary to me.

Anyways, in the end, I decided that not everything the World State stood for was completely crazy. The world controllers were just trying to keep their society in check and "happy" - whatever their version of happiness is.

However, the one big flaw with this "brave new world" is that it tosses aside the importance of finding your purpose, of giving meaning to the existence of humanity beyond sensual gratification. Their happiness is unauthentic and synthetic. The citizens are nothing but mindless sheep turning the cog of society when really it should be society supporting the citizens.
...make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true, but not, in the present circumstance, admissible.

To the idea of permanent happiness and stagnancy I say:
'Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them... But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy.' [...]
'But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.'
'In fact,' said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy.'
'All right then [...] I'm claiming the right to be unhappy.'

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