Friday, 1 March 2013

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

If H.G Wells' future is a society so divided into haves and have-nots, that the human beings have developed into two separate species at war, Huxley's future is a much more elaborate stratified society based on the shameful Caste system. If two different groups cannot survive together and are at each other throats, how will an elaborate set up with five different human groups -Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon - survive without conflict? The answer is hypnosis. All the groups are created in a fertility centre and their growth strictly controlled and monitored. The group with the highest intelligence and best genetical material becomes Alpha and is used for intelligent work and the group with lowest intelligence and mass produced with 96 identical twins is Epsilon and used for least intelligent work. When intelligence is deterred and the need to climb up the social ladder is thwarted by repeated sleep hypnosis from embryo stage there is hardly any question of struggle or conflict. Everyone is happy in their own state. Happiness is also granted by Soma, a drug that keeps one contented and happy and there are other amusement like sex. Promiscuity is encouraged and everybody is encouraged to go out with everybody.

When I first heard of test-tube babies as a kid, I always imagined babies created and grown in a test-tube. Only much much later, did I know that even test-tube babies need a mother's womb to grow, I don't know why, but for whatever reason test-tube babies can be created in a test-tube but to grow to full term they need a mother's womb. In Huxley's Brave New World, in the year of Our Ford 632, this is no longer a need. When mother and child relationship is removed from the equation there is no question of any human relationships like family. Everyone belongs to everyone also means that no one belongs to you, so you don't feel the pain of death of a beloved person. Everyone is contented, and everyone is happy.

"Ford's in his flivver," murmured the D.H.C. "All's well with the world."

So what's wrong with this world? Bernard Max, an Alpha plus, does not have the stature of an Alpha, he is stunted like a Gamma, and is not happy in this world. When he visits the savage settlement and meets a savage whose mother is from civilised society, he brings him back to civilisation and all his problems are solved. Max is famous, and everybody wants to be his friend, nobody is bothered about his stunted growth. But for the savage, the civilised world he dreamed about, his mother constantly talked about is different from what he faces. We have only two choices, live in civilisation or live like a savage.

We are more or less living in the Brave New World, isn't it? Constantly in the lookout for pleasure, amusing ourselves to death. Already we are designing our babies. Not long before the government steps in does it for us, after all we can't have all Alphas, can we? A society to function smoothly, without killing each other, there is need for people of different capabilities, some for intellectual work, some for menial work, some Alphas, some more Betas, more Gammas, much more Deltas and lots of Epsilons. Wonder why Huxley does not provide the solution of using Robots for menial work, in the hope that Robots wouldn't start protesting! Mind control is essential too! If one is free to think, one would think just about anything causing trouble. Conditioning, conditioning, conditioning is the answer. Do we want to live in this Brave New World, where freedom is not a choice? What after all is freedom? Can we ever be free?

Even in the Brave New World women seem to be doing stereotypical work like child care, after all being hatched in a hatchery means no mother, motherhood, nine-months of pregnancy and nurturing the child life-long. But our Brave New World is not about equality, is it? It is about 'Community, Identity, Stability'

This is an interesting book and there are so many thoughts about it. These are only some that surfaced while typing. Oh! What did Henry Ford feel about Brave New World?

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