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A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
It cannot be denied that there are many negative forces at work in today’s society. We have court battles, battles over land belonging to neighboring countries, gang warfare, crazy people walking into local fast food joints and randomly spraying machine gun fire, police brutality, overpopulation, starving people, AIDS, cancer, pollution , dwindling resources, abusive and neglectful families, so many people caught up in material priorities, drugged from crack to Valium, from Ritalin to Prozac. We have destructive emotions such as selfishness, fear, misery, envy, depression, jealousy, mistrust, hatred, racism and anger. Just thinking about all the negative influences that surround us is depressing. Pass the Prozac, please. It is easy to overlook the existence of positive elements in our society. We need to know both extremes in order to have something to base our standards on. There has to be a balance. Yin and Yang must coexist. That doesn’t mean the scales can’t tip one way or the other, and in a world where the scales seem to be tipping toward the bad side, who wouldn’t want to add some weight to the good?
There have been and continue to be visionaries among us. The definition of utopia is “ideal but impractical”. Utopia in A Brave New World boasted physical comfort and “happiness” provided by genetic manipulation and postnatal conditioning. The inhabitants of this new world were essentially slaves, bound not by literal chains but by mental chains.
On the subject of happiness, John tells Bernard, “Well, I’d rather be unhappy than have the kind of fake, fake happiness you had here.” The bliss of the new world was not true happiness as it was conditional. Just as someone who has been hypnotized to walk around clucking like a chicken might think he is a chicken, he is not actually a chicken. Similarly, a woman regularly abused by her partner, told that she is “worthless” and “stupid”, eventually comes to believe it, whether it is true or not. Someone who is told they are happy so often that they believe they are not really happy has simply been brainwashed into believing so.
Based on his research, Abraham Maslow, a Philosopher of Humanistic Psychology, formed the theory of “self-actualization”. He discovered that in order to gain happiness, we must first satisfy the “needs” on the lower rungs of the ladder in order to progress up the ladder to the top.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” in ascending order: 1) Physiological needs (hunger, thirst, shelter, rest) 2) Safety needs (protected from disease, the elements) 3) Love (receiving and giving love, affection, trust) , acceptance, family, friends) 4) Esteem needs (esteem, respect of others and self) 5) Cognitive needs (knowledge, understanding, curiosity) 6) Aesthetic needs (art, nature, balance, order) 7) Self-actualization ( development and successful use of personal talents and skills).
According to Maslow’s theory, Brave New Worlder’s do not have the potential to be happy. They could not advance much beyond the second rung of the ladder. They were denied love because of the “terrible dangers of family life.” Their cognitive needs were not met. They can be brainwashed, but they don’t actually learn anything. The example given was of the little boy who could remember from his sleep saying that the Nile River is the longest in Africa, but no knowing which river in africa was the longest They had no independent thought. In fact, they lacked most of Maslow’s characteristics of psychologically healthy people: “an objective perception of reality, independence, need for privacy, sensitivity, resistance to conformity, democratic characteristics, or desire to be creative.”
Today’s society is slowly but surely moving towards being more and more controlled. Big business and government are two powerful forces united, driven by money and power. We are still giving fingerprints as a form of identity; will DNA be next? Our expenses are monitored. We have credit and debit cards; even our paper money contains a metal strip, for tracking. We are constantly watched by cameras on every street corner, highway, park, work, shopping. The location of the animals is tracked by microchips that are inserted into their bodies. Are we next? What about cloning?
Like “orgy porgies”, “feelies” and “soma”, we are being distracted to divert our attention from such realities. To keep independent thought at bay, we are given Ritalin, Prozac, television “news,” soap operas, talk shows, and the Internet. Advertising is shoved down our throats. Catchy tunes that remind us how much we need this or that. The power of suggestion is strong. Mass production needs mass consumption. IN A Brave New World the sayings “The end is better than the mending”, “I love new clothes…”, “The more sewing, the less wealth” were drilled into their heads. Another form of distraction A Brave New World it was continuous groups of people, strangers. This is similar to our city life. Masses of people are lost individually, making it easier to lead them. Churches have known this throughout history.
IN A Brave New World, the Controller spoke to John of their nine-year struggle and how the masses were “ready to control their appetites then. Anything for a quiet life.” Are we moving towards a new society? A society that slowly and methodically reforms itself to better serve the needs of someone in a position of power? Will we soon be willing to give up our freedoms in exchange for physical safety as in Brave New World?
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